Finding the right daycare

Liam is at that age where we want to transition him to daycare to help him socialize, play, and learn.  It's a little stressful... okay alot stressful trying to find the "right" daycare.  We were lucky enough to have my mother in law watch him up to this point.  But how do you completely trust a stranger to take care of your little one? What happens when you're not there? I'm sure they are capable and may have qualifying credentials but with all of the reports of abuse/neglect in the news, it makes me hesitate because having credentials doesn't necessarily reflect a person's good moral character.  

There are some steps you can take to make you feel more comfortable in making a sound decision. 

Make a visit to the center.  

  • Is it clean and organized? How well do the teachers/caregivers interact with the children? What is the teacher/student ratio?  We have visited some centers that felt like a chaotic environment and unorganized.  Of course kids can be like little tornados leaving destruction of toys strewn everywhere. haha. What I'm referring to is does everything have a place and order (ie toys in the play area only and not in the kitchen with sleeping cots and shoes all thrown in together). How often do they vacuum, disinfect toys, ect?  Daycares are a breeding ground for germs.  Kids touch everything! Sometimes, if not most of the time, they touch their eyes or put things in their mouths.  Just remember, even though hand washing and clean practices can be helpful, it doesn't always mean that it will prevent your child from getting sick.  Be prepared for germs that can spread easily (ie. colds, lice, hand-foot-mouth syndrome) because you really don't know what your kids will be exposed to.     
  • What programs do they offer? What is their day like? Do they offer a structured program with sensory play and learning? Some centers follow different schools of thought and are centered on baby-led learning versus structured lesson plans so to speak .
  •  Extra things to think about: Do they have a secure facility to prevent strangers from entering? Do they serve hot lunches/snacks? Do they clean soiled laundry on site? Can your baby grow within the same center for years to come?  Do they have a safe outdoor and indoor play area? And don't forget about location. Not just for the convenience (close to home/work) but is it safe and away from busy streets and cars?

Read Reviews.
On YELP, from other parents/mom groups, or directly from their website. I understand everyone's experience may be different but getting a glimpse of how they felt may give a little better insight on how the center operates on a daily basis.   

Is it affordable to fit your budget? Daycares can be super expensive but the most expensive one may not always mean it's the "best".  Consider all alternatives including hours and full/half days and if you want a smaller independent daycare or a franchised center.  Some centers offer 2-5 day care as well as ranges from 8-11 hours a day.  Keep in mind registration fees, late tuition payment fees, and additional incurred fees for late pickups.

Are staff members FirstAid/CPR  certified? Do they hold degrees in early childcare development/education? Is the site itself accredited? Can they tailor to the needs of your child? How well do they deal with food allergies?  Some children may require more attention from caregivers due to behavioral or cognitive concerns.  Do they have experience in this area or provide what you need for your child?    

Parent involvement.  
Do they have clear ways to communicate with parents (in general and in emergency situations) calling/texting/emailing? Do they allow parent drop-ins? How frequently do they update parents on their child's progress? Is there any parent/teacher involvement with activities/fundraisers? I feel that a center that allows parents to visit at anytime and unexpectedly are more transparent in their practices. 

These are all things to consider and it is ALOT! (and for good reason too!)  I would recommend looking EARLY! We started our search mid-May/June for September enrollment (for a toddler) and we were just a little too late.  WAITLISTED!  If you know that you will be needing daycare, I would recommend reaching out to the center as soon as possible to inquire about availability and/if when to check back.  Don't forget that some centers have age requirements and depending on your baby's age, he/she may not qualify just yet.  It's a daunting task but we have yet to encounter what comes when he's actually enrolled and goes to daycare all day.  I'll let you know when I find out. =)