Parents often spend extra time researching daycare centers – especially if it’s the first time they’ve ever needed to put a child in daycare. There are many things to think about, but everything revolves around safe and rewarding experiences for children. In order to clarify the process, it helps to ask the following five questions for any daycare center you might be considering.
1. Does my child have any special needs?
Daycare is not a “one size fits all” enterprise. It may have been seen that way in the past, but these days, it’s a melting pot of different abilities and learning styles. Assistive learning technology, and staff who are experienced with special needs in a variety of ways, are important attributes to look for if you have a child with special needs. Children’s medical daycare is a new type of daycare that places extra emphasis on meeting special needs (including specific medical needs) on behalf of children and families.
2. What qualifications do the staff have?
It’s often assumed that daycare staff have relevant educational qualifications, such as a degree in child education or early child development; but it’s important to look into these matters and inquire about staff qualifications. Generally speaking, staff with higher educational credentials are more likely to provide a structured, safe, and fruitful daycare experience for everyone involved.
3. What’s the curriculum like?
Daycare has evolved, and that means daycare curricula have evolved too. All reputable daycare centers will have a blend of free time and structured activity or learning time, in order to give children a good mix of experiences throughout the day. There should be a definite rhyme and reason to the way activities and free time are scheduled at daycare centers; and getting good info on the curriculum can help you make an informed decision.
4. What about the staff-to-child ratio?
This is a very important question that we’ve explored in other blog posts, but it bears repeating. Having a higher ratio of staff per child (e.g. 1:3) effectively guarantees more personal attention, learning, and overall enrichment during your child’s daycare experience. Daycare centers with low ratios of staff per child (e.g. 1:10) are effectively trying to increase their profit margins by accepting more kids with fewer staff to look after them; and this is never an idea situation for kids.
5. Did visiting the center leave me with a good impression?
As always, making an in-person visit to a prospective daycare center, accompanied by your child, is a key step toward finding the best daycare center for you. This is a good way to gauge the overall ambiance of a daycare center, examine the facilities, observe staff members interacting with children, learn about the daily schedule, and ask any number of questions. Professional daycare staff are accustomed to parents making visits of this kind, and should be accommodating and friendly without being pushy. For best results, make sure to call ahead and schedule an appointment.
By asking the right questions, you’ll be that much closer to finding a local daycare center that checks all the right boxes for you and your family. Good luck in your search!