You want your child to have the best care possible while you are away during the day, so naturally you want the optimal daycare situation. To find the best fit for you and your child, there are some things to look for. Here is a partial checklist to help you get started.
The Unannounced Visit
Visit the prospective daycare(s) without calling first to make an appointment. Note the reaction of the caregivers – are they glad to see you? Do they welcome you in and invite your observation? It’s a positive sign if they do. Caregivers who seem uncomfortable with your visit and are generally unwelcoming may not be a good sign.
How Many Caregivers?
While you’re visiting, note the caregiver to child ratio. Most sources agree that there should be at least one caregiver for every five or six children. Ask about how often the caregivers leave or change, and ask how long the current caregivers have been there.
As you call various daycares seeking information, here are some things to consider asking and observing:
* Did your phone call get answered quickly and courteously?
* If no one answered, was there an efficient phone message system? Did you get a return call? (It might help to keep a list of daycares you’ve called and a note about their response or pending response to your call.)
* Does the person who answers the phone seem knowledgeable and helpful?
Look for or ask about certifications and accreditations of the daycare. Find out if the caregivers are certified in basic CPR and first aid. It’s also a good idea to check and see if the daycare is licensed by your local government. Research the facility and see if any complaints have been filed against it, or if they have been in violation of any health and/or safety codes.
As you research various daycares, talk to people who use them and find out what they think. Ask for references when you communicate with the caregivers and directors of the daycare.
Find out what the daycare’s plan is for an emergency. How will they get a hold of the parent(s)? What is the plan for safety in case of fire or natural disaster?
Ask what kind of schedule the daycare keeps. Naps, snacks, activities and meals should be at times that are compatible with you and your little one. Find out how late the daycare is open; things happen, and you need to know what the plan is if you end up getting there late to pick up your child. If you need to drop your child off early, find out if that’s okay, too, and the earliest drop-off time.
Note the caregivers’ flexibility regarding scheduling, too – if it’s too rigid, your child may not get his or her needs met because it’s not “time” yet.
What kinds of foods are served at the daycare? For babies who drink formula or breastmilk, this may not be such a big deal; but you probably want to make sure your older baby or toddler is not being fed unhealthy foods all day.