Before I became a teacher I worked in a daycare setting for over 10 years. I’ve worked for large chain daycares, a child care center on a navy base, and later on became an assistant director for a privately owned childcare center.
With that being said, I have somehow become the the go-to person when my friends and family begin their daycare search.
Finding childcare can be a very stressful situation. Not only do you have to feel comfortable leaving your child in someone else’s hands, but you also want a center that can meet your needs.
Top 3 Things I Look For
For me personally there are three things that I look for in a childcare center:
Cleanliness: I cannot feel comfortable if my child is in an unclean environment. If I am not happy with what I see when I walk through the door it is simply a no for me.
Safety: Having a good policy and safety protocol is a must for me. I need to know my child is in good hands.
Curriculum: I do not want my children simply being babysat, their development and learning are very important when I am searching for childcare.
Please hear me clearly: There is a huge misconception about childcare centers that offer camera viewing. Just because a child care center does not have cameras, doesn’t mean it is a low-quality daycare center.
Remember, even with cameras in place, there is always a blind spot somewhere. There are way more important factors to consider other than cameras when looking for the right daycare center.
–Here are my key tips to finding a good quality childcare center.-
1. Ask about Safety Protocol
Childcare centers should be run a lot like schools when it comes to safety protocol. If your child gets hurt, there should be a form that is filled out explaining what happened.
There should be a procedure for taking frequent head counts of children, and moving children from one place to the next.
Emergency plans such as fire drills, and food safety protocol for students with allergies should be in place.
When touring a facility, ask about their safety protocol. Typically safety protocol will be outlined in the parent handbook, if they offer you one, take one and go over it with a fine-tooth comb and call back with any questions that you still have.
2. Check Violations & Watch for Red Flags
All licensed childcare facilities must be inspected through their state licensure program.
Most states have databases where you can look up a childcare center’s most recent violations.
The inspection report should include whether the child care facility was either compliant or non-compliant in each category. Violations can range from minor to major.
Child ratio: the allowed amount of children within a certain age group in a classroom at a given time of inspection. Too many children and not enough teachers is a recipe for disaster!
Vehicle insurance: Especially if your child is being transported from their school to the facility. This ensures that the insurance is up to date on the vehicle in case of accident or injury.
Child Discipline: This includes the way the childcare facility handles discipline with students. It covers things like corporal punishment, and even how the staff speaks to the children in their care.
Child Capacity: The total amount of allowed children enrolled in the center.
Diapering Requirements: (especially if you have a child still in diapers) this ensures that the facility is following sanitation policies including cleaning and sanitizing the diaper changing station properly after each diaper change.
Crib Requirements: This policy ensures that the facility is following safe sleep practices.
3. Do a pop-up Visit
Most childcare centers schedule tours, but if you really want to get a realistic perspective of the day-to-day operations, pop in and ask for an on-the-spot tour. I recommend showing up around 10-10:30 before lunch and nap time.
Warning, you may get turned down, but if they are willing to give you an on-the-spot tour, then chances are they are not trying to hide anything.
While you are there look at everything!
Check the children’s noses, and faces, are they clean? Look around at the cubbies, the walls, and even the classroom materials.
Are there enough toys for the children to play with? Are the toys broken or missing pieces?
Are there books available for the children to access?
Peak at the diapering area, look for cleaning materials (they may be locked away). Do the cabinets have child-proof locks on them? Check the children’s storage areas do they seem neat and organized?
Take a look at the cots or cribs do you see any soiled blankets?
And my number one rule, check the carpet! If the carpet is filthy, then I’d definitely keep looking.
Children often spend most of their time playing with toys on the floor. The carpet must be clean!
4. Look for these no, no’s in an infant classrooms
- Unlabeled cribs: Infants should be sleeping in their own cribs and not sharing them with anyone else.
- Cribs with thick blankets or pillows: Infant cribs should not have very thick blankets or pillows this goes against safe sleep practices.
- Small infants sleeping on their tummy: Babies that can roll from front to back are ok to sleep on their tummies (often their cribs will be labeled with a sign that says “I can roll, however, little ones who cannot roll should no be being placed on their tummies to sleep as this can cause SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Click here to learn more about SIDS. Ask the center what are their policies regarding infant sleep time.
- Infants strapped in “containers”: This one may be surprising to you, however, infants should be on the floor the majority of the day exploring. You have to be mindful about centers where all or the majority of the infants are strapped in some kind of seat. Some time in a container is not bad, but being strapped down all day is not developmentally appropriate for infants. When are they getting tummy time? When are they learning how to roll over or crawl?
5. Ask About the Curriculum
Learning is big on my list when seeking childcare. When you tour the center they should tell you about the type of curriculum that they offer.
If you complete a tour and they do not mention their curriculum, then chances are it is not a top priority in that daycare center.
You should also be able to see the evidence of the curriculum in the classrooms you are touring.
Look for pictures or bulletin boards with children’s work displayed and an area that is designated for circle time.
Overall, It will take time, patience, and persistence to find the right daycare center. Hopefully, these tips that I have given you will help you sift through the smoke and find a good fit for you and your child.
Good luck & God Bless.
~Peace & Love
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