Maybe you’re dreading your child’s first day in someone else’s care. Or maybe you’re excited to interview nannies or check out child-care facilities. Either way, finding someone to care for your child can be stressful. Kids’ brains grow rapidly during the early childhood years, and childhood experiences set the foundation for future learning. Thus, high-quality child care is important. The majority of families must also consider affordability and ease of access.
However, child care can be expensive. And it’s not always easy to get exceptional care. But, with the right tools, you can find just the right high-quality child care that provides opportunities and exploration for your child. Read on to learn about your various options and how to evaluate them. Then, discover strategies to help make the transition to child care easier for your child — and you.
Plan and Prioritize
If you want to find affordable, high-quality child-care, it’s best to start early. Before you begin your search, decide what’s most important to you in a child care provider. Do you most value one-on-one attention? Opportunities for socialization? Outdoor play? Healthy meals? You may not find everything you want in a provider or facility, but you’re likely to find what’s most important if you’re clear on what it is.
Evaluate Your Options
Do you have a relative who’s willing to provide care? This option is favored by many families. Relatives tend to offer affordable and flexible care and provide the attachment bond and individualized interaction shown to be advantageous for very small children. However, the option is obviously not available for all families.
In-home care, such as a nanny or au pair, offers many of the same advantages, including flexible hours, individualized attention and the ease and security of having your child stay in the home. But be sure to calculate all of the expenses, including taxes and sick and vacation leave for the caregiver. And be prepared to take on the responsibility of being an employer. Depending on how you hire your nanny, you may need to do interviews and background checks and draw up a detailed contract that spells out your expectations and policies.
If a relative or in-home care provider isn’t right for you, it’s time to investigate day-care facilities and home day cares, which usually accept children from 6 weeks to 6 years of age. They offer children the opportunity to play together and socialize, and many offer educational curricula, meals, field trips and other perks. Ask around for recommendations and do your own tours, interviews and evaluations.
Child-Care Facility Checklist
Bring the following checklist along when you tour child-care facilities. Look for these common child-care dangers:
Cribs that don’t meet safety standards
Lack of child safety gates
Blind cords that may present a strangulation hazard
Unsafe playground surfacing
Inadequate playground maintenance
Check to make sure:
The home or facility is routinely cleaned
Handwashing procedures are in place
The environment is free of smoke and pollutants
Are the Providers:
Educated and skilled in early childhood development?
Attentive and positive with the children?
Friendly and good at communicating with parents?
Planning to stay long?
Does the adult-to-child ratio meet American Academy of Pediatric recommendations
for high-quality care? These recommendations include:
Children aged 6 weeks to 1.5 years: three children per staff member, up to six in a group
Children aged 1.5 years to 2 years: four children per staff member, up to eight in a group
Children aged 2 to 3: seven children per staff member, up to 14 in a group
Children aged 4 to 5: eight children per staff member,
up to 16 in a group
Questions to Ask Potential Providers:
Are you licensed by the state?
Are you accredited by any organizations?
What is the parent visitation policy?
What’s the illness policy?
What is the parenting style and approach to discipline?
Are meals provided?
What’s the daily schedule?
Do the children have time and space for unstructured play?
What is the educational curriculum?
When and where do children nap?
What are the potty-training procedures?
How do caregivers communicate with parents?
Transition to Child Care