Choosing a good daycare can be incredibly overwhelming. Most of the time there are either too many or too few to choose from. How can you know which daycare will be right for you and your little ones? Follow these tips to help speed the process along.
Grab Referrals From Friends & Family
Does someone you know utilize a daycare provider in your area? How do they like it? Have they had positive experiences there? How do their kids seem to do with the providers?
Always be sure to ask your friends or family if they know of a reputable daycare center or provider in the local area. You might be surprised with the information that they provide. A friend or family member’s recommendation can often be trusted more highly than an online review.
Licensed & Certified?
Does the provider possess a valid license from the State that allows them to provide childcare? This license is to protect you and your children from individuals who are unfit to perform the duties associated with caring for children. The license should be on display where all patrons can view it.
What about early childhood education certifications? While these certifications are not necessarily a “make it or break it, must-have” for some parents, they are worth considering. If the daycare center regularly staffs providers with these certifications, you can feel more secure in knowing that your child is well cared for by individuals who have experience in this career field.
Children to Providers Ratio
When visiting the daycare center, take careful notice of the ratio of children to providers. Do the providers seem overrun or frazzled? Are the children in control, or do the providers have a handle on the activities? This is an important aspect to consider when choosing a good daycare provider.
In a perfect world, there would be a 1:1 ratio of children to providers, but unfortunately that is simply not possible for most daycare centers. Consider instead the ratio of 3:1, or three children for every provider. This ratio is quite manageable for most providers and is often the norm for most daycare centers. Any ratios that are higher than this can become unmanageable for providers, and can become unsafe for your little ones.
Safety & Cleanliness
Is the center clean? It should not only look clean, but smell clean as well. Obviously, there might be an unpleasant smell here and there (there are children here, after all), but the providers should be making a point of keeping the entire center clean and organized. This means keeping the toys and surfaces clean, as well as the children.
Consider especially the kitchen/food preparation areas and the bathrooms. These areas are germ havens if not properly cleaned and disinfected. And since everyone knows that children are basically little germ soaked sponges, these areas need to be regularly cleaned after every use.
In addition to cleanliness, a good daycare center should be safe. This doesn’t just mean that the little ones are properly corralled and kept away from sharp objects (although, they should be doing this too…). It means that there are proper procedures in place for any sort of emergency. There should be first aid kits available in every room of the center, as well as fire extinguishers in the kitchen/food preparation areas, childproof locks on cabinets, outlet covers on exposed outlets, and baby gates in areas where crawlers should not be visiting.
The providers should also have emergency procedures in place for disaster type situations, such as fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, and the like.
Go With Your Gut
In visiting various daycare centers you may have better feelings about some than others. A daycare center can have all of the certifications and learning opportunities available in the universe, but if your gut says no, listen to your gut. You should feel comfortable leaving your kiddos with your daycare provider, and ultimately your childcare provider should be keeping your little ones safe and loved. If your gut is set on a specific daycare provider, be sure that they meet the following requirements:
- Must have a valid license to practice childcare in your state.
- The environment must be safe and clean.
- The ratio of children to providers should be low.
- You trust the providers.
- The providers are passionate about providing childcare that meets or exceeds your expectations.