Daycare Must Haves

By Maria T. Pepin

Most parents eventually need to go back to work after having a baby. Leaving your child in the care of others can be a little nerve racking, but if you take the time to pick a good daycare center, it will make the whole process less worrisome. Here is a checklist to help you choose a daycare that is right for your child. 


The first thing you should do is a make a list of your daycare must-haves to help you compare centers. Do you want your children close to your job or close to home? Is the curriculum your main concern? Are you looking for a place with flexible hours? It’s a good idea to consider cost, location and reputation. 


Find out where your friends take their kids. Or perhaps your coworker raves about the daycare center she uses for her children. It’s always ideal to consult with people that you trust to give you honest opinions. Based on their recommendations, compile a list of centers that appeal to you and check them out for yourself.


Arrange a visit to meet with your top daycare centers. Pay attention to the personnel that will have direct contact with your kids. Ask questions about the center’s educational goals and curriculum to ensure your child’s developmental needs will be met. What is the teacher to student ratio? Make sure your child will be well cared for by a sufficient number of adults. Find out what the center’s policies are on discipline and other important issues. Talk to other parents at the center and see if they have any concerns.


It is important for the facility to meet safety standards. Are there emergency numbers clearly posted? Does the center have smoke alarms throughout the building and run fire drills periodically? Take a look at the electrical outlets. Are they covered? What about outdoor safety? Look to see if children are protected from strangers at the playground area.


Research the credentials of your favorite daycare possibilities. Is the facility licensed by your state? Ask about accreditations and certifications in accordance with local laws. Does the center have a record of complaints? Check with the Better Business Bureau. Has the staff gone through criminal background checks? Make sure that the personnel dealing with your children are CPR and first aid qualified.


It’s a good idea to set up a trial period to monitor your child’s interaction with staff. Impromptu visits are best, because you can get a true feeling for what happens at the center during a typical day. Does the staff practice safe, sanitary procedures when dealing with the kids? Is the overall atmosphere pleasant and welcoming? Are there different areas for children to play actively and quietly? Does the staff treat children with respect and patience? How does the center care for sick children?


Find out if the daycare center provides meals or snacks. If so, are they nutritious? Do they allow for special needs diets? Are food allergies noted? Some centers will give parents a monthly menu. If you are dropping an infant off, do they have adequate storage for breast milk? Make sure that the kitchen and eating areas are clean. Are knives and other sharp objects kept out of reach?


A day care center can have all the necessary credentials, curriculum and personnel- but if your gut tells you something is not quite right, it’s a good idea to listen to it. You need to feel comfortable with your final decision. Talk to your child and see if they are happy with their daycare experience. If you suspect problems, your first instinct is usually the one to follow.

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