Tips for Finding Child CareSelecting a child care program for your child can seem like a difficult process. The following will hopefully help you as the consumer to find, select and secure child care that is best for your child and your family’s needs.
PLAN AHEAD: Choosing care in a short amount of time may not allow for you to fully research child care options. Child care, especially child care centers and higher star rated family child care homes tend to have long waiting list. If you know your work schedule or date you expect to need care ahead of time, don’t wait to call for a referral.
YOUR CHILD’S AGE: Finding care for an infant and/or toddler if often a lengthier process than finding care for a preschooler or school-age child. Infant and toddler classrooms have smaller teacher to child ratios than do preschool or school-age classrooms. The amount of infants or toddlers a program can enroll is limited compared to older children. Young children require more care-giving and personalized attention, therefore finding care for an infant or toddler that will truly help your child’s brain grow is very important. School-age children need an environment that encourages independence and time to complete homework. A parent should find themselves looking for different qualities in a child care program based on the child’s age.
YOUR CHILD’S TEMPERAMENT: Where will your child feel more confident? Children who are spirited and outgoing often thrive in an environment with more children and stimulation. Children who are shy and tend to withdraw may thrive better in an environment that has limited children and is quiet. Too much excitement and noise may create nervousness within a shy child. Also consider what your child needs to learn and grow. Different programs offer different ways of teaching and correcting. Make sure to ask the provider how they would handle a certain behavior or need your child exhibits.
THE PROVIDER: Observe each child care setting you see listed on your referral. If one provider sparks an interest with you, take time to interview the provider. Is the provider friendly? Does the provider mind you asking questions or do they seem to be hiding something? Close your eyes. Do you hear nice tones and conversation or is the provider loud and use mostly negative phrases like “Don’t touch that”, “No you cannot play with that toy” “Leave Emmanuel alone!” Do you see providers on the floor playing with the children or reading books with the children? Does the provider respond quickly to the children’s needs? Do the children seem happy interacting with the provider? Does the provider have a system for communicating information regarding your child? What is the provider’s education level? What is the provider’s experience? What types of training does your provider participate in?
THE PROGRAM: Much like the provider, the program (meaning schedule, philosophy and materials) must meet your child’s needs as well. If you choose a center, make sure to visit each classroom your child will move through to ensure each classroom will offer your child a variety of choices. Consider program standards such as the current Star Rating of the center or home. Ask the provider about their star rating and why they are rated that way. Consider other program standards like: is family involvement encouraged, does the program rotate toys to keep up with children’s changing interest, is there plenty of free time, is there enough room for all the children in the classroom, are the toys clean, do you see children fighting because there are not enough toys?
For more information and checklists to take with you before choosing a provider, click here.