Daycare can certainly be a blessing, but choosing the right one can be one of the most daunting experiences ever. Whether you’re looking for half-day or full-day, formal or in-home, there are some very critical points to consider when deciding where to leave your child. Here are 5 of some of the most important factors to consider before making a final decision on a daycare for your child.
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1. What meets the eye?
The easiest way to get an idea about whether or not this is a place you’d feel comfortable leaving your children is to simply look around the facility. One of the main things to consider in terms of appearances is whether or not it’s clean. Do the floors look clean, or is there food, dirt, and grime covering them? Of course, you have to take into consideration the fact that we’re dealing with kids here, so you can’t really expect perfection - but you should definitely set some standards for yourself and your children. Some other important things to consider in terms of appearance are: Are there choking hazards in reach? Are there age-appropriate toys and games to play with? Are the employees interacting with the children? How are they talking to and treating the children overall? Is there a TV in the facility? Is the staff qualified or experienced enough to provide daycare for your children?
2. What happens behind closed doors?
It’s not as bad as it sounds, but it is still important to consider. How are things run after you leave the facility following that initial visit? Is it still the same, or do things quickly go back to “normal” when nobody’s looking? Sometimes, behind closed doors, things get messy, attitudes come out, and meals get skimpy. Consider dropping by unexpectedly to try and catch the true nature of the business and the staff. You can also verify that particular policies are being followed. For example: Is the TV on at a time that it’s not supposed to be on? Are kids being yelled at or being put in timeout for no reason? Are they having a healthy, sufficient lunch? Are all of the babies crying? Are they being ignored? Don’t worry, not everything you see will be as bad as this sounds - or hopefully none of it will be! Sometimes these visits will provide validation that you made the right call on a daycare center, but other times they can be a huge red flag, giving you reason to look elsewhere.
3. What are they feeding your child?
If you leave your child anywhere, for any length of time, you want to make sure that they are well-fed, satisfied, and comfortable. You want to make sure that the meals and snacks offered are healthy, and not just whatever is quick, easy, and convenient for the staff. By law, licensed daycare centers must feed all attending children well-balanced meals and nutritious snacks. Additionally, menus for these meals must be posted in a public place or sent home to parents. Don’t be afraid to review the menu and ask any questions you might have about anything on there. Be sure to let the staff know if your child has any allergies, and learn about any policies they have on this. If they aren’t 100% willing to work with you and your child when it comes to allergies and healthy meals, keep looking.
4. What do the reviews and other people say?
With everything that’s on the Internet these days, you can probably find reviews about pretty much any facility that you’re interested in. Search around to find out what people are saying about the places you’re considering. In addition, if you know anybody who already sends their child to this place - or who has sent their child here in the past - ask them for feedback about it. If you don’t know anybody specifically, post on Facebook that you’re interested in feedback, opinions, concerns, recommendations, and the like about specific daycare centers. There must be someone out there who has some sort of useful information for you!
5. What is your gut telling you?
Lastly, trust your instincts. You can do all the research in the world, scope out the place left and right, and get loads of feedback from others, but sometimes, you just have to rely on your gut feeling. You know what your expectations and standards are - don’t let go of them. If something seems amiss, it probably is. Don’t settle on a facility when you have that “off” feeling. Keep looking until you feel 100% certain that you have found the perfect place for your child.