Sunday, October 15, 2006

Which Daycare Is Right for You?

Daycare is becoming a necessity these days, with the emergence of more single parent families as well as convential families where both parents have to work to make ends meet. Picking the right daycare for you and your little ones can be difficult, but in the end it is worth it. The child gets a place to learn socialization skills as well as play in a structured and fun environment and you get peace of mind knowing that your child is in a safe place while you work. The best tool that a parent has to begin the search for the right daycare is family and friends who have children in daycares already. Be sure to ask them a lot of questions like how long has their child been in daycare, how often do they go, are they happy at that daycare, are there any concerns that the other parent may have had with the daycare, and what are the best attributes of the daycare. Family and friends are very helpful because they give a first hand account of what it is like to have their child in daycare. They are also more honest about their experiences, especially if there have been problems at the daycare.

Next, try calling the daycares themselves and set up appointments to view their facilities. This will give you a chance to look at where your child will be spending the better part of their day. Also make sure you ask plenty of questions to both the administrator and the teachers. Find out what the child/teacher ratio is, too many little ones and too few teachers often make it difficult for the teachers to give their attention each child and can create safety concerns. At the daycare my little one used to stay at there was only one teacher and ten toddlers and she couldn't keep up with all of them and it resulted in one child falling off a slide. Sometimes daycares may have too many children for the age group that you want your child in and they create waiting lists. If there is a waiting list, go ahead and put yourself on it, you never know when a child might go up in age and therefore to another room or may withdraw completely. Ask what is the meal arrangement for the children. Some daycares provide breakfast, lunch, and snacks but that isn't the case everywhere. You may end up having to send lunch with your kiddie and if so make sure you ask what foods are allowed. In the daycare my child is at now, lunches have to include two items from the fruits and vegetables category and cookies/cakes/candies are not allowed. If your child has a special diet make sure to inform the daycare about this so that they can be sure and provide what the child needs. Another good question to ask concerns communicable diseases. All kids get sick and it is unfortunate, but it is the daycare's responsibility to help you keep your child from catching what everyone else has. Ask what is their communicable disease policy, what they do when they find out a child has something communicable, and how do they inform the parents to let them know that their child has been exposed. Be sure to ask about naptimes as well. It sounds silly, but depending on how old your child is, naptime is a state mandated necessity. If you have a child that tends to stay up all night, limiting naptime is very helpful. My daughter used to have a long naptime and stay up most of the night until I talked to her teacher and shortened the naptime. Also ask what sort of activities do they have such as walks, going to the pool in the summer, and other various field trips and such.

After you have seen the daycare for yourself, it is a good idea to bring your child in to see the facility. This will give the child a chance to see for themselves where they will be during the day and you get to see if the child will like it or not. Let your child meet the teacher so that he or she can start getting used to another adult. You will also have an opportunity to see how your child will interact with other children. Your child will probably be a little shy at first, but children are very sociable little creatures and they will warm up quickly. If your child really doesn't like being at the daycare on that first visit, you may want to think about looking at a different daycare. Sometimes kids are the best judges of what they really want. When I first sent my daughter to daycare, she didn't like the first visit and immediately wanted to leave. I didn't listen to what she wanted, after all she is a toddler, but in her own way she was trying to tell me that something was seriously wrong with that particular daycare. In the end, there was constant problems between myself and the daycare teacher because the teacher was not being very nice to my daughter. I ended up switching daycares and now my little one is very happy.

Another helpful place to go is your local department of human services. Most daycares have state accreditation and everything about them should be on file. Daycares have to be inspected once a year and the results of the inspections are on file for the public. Daycares are also inspected at random if a parent has filed a complaint against the daycare and those results are on file as well. I didn't look at the state's file on my daughter's first daycare, if I had done so before I enrolled her I would have known that there were many problems with that daycare and I could have saved myself a lot of stress and heartache. Also, the department of human services may have a program that helps pay a portion of the daycare bill. Human services will base the amount of financial help you will receive on how much you earn and how many hours you are at work. Financial help is definitely a good idea because daycare can get very expensive, especially depending on the age of your child. The younger the child is, the higher the cost of daycare due to liability insurance, training the teachers, and other things.

All in all, finding the right daycare can be a lot of work but once you find it you will be so glad that you took the time out to do it. You and the daycare teacher can work together to help meet you and your child's needs. You get the satisfaction of knowing that your child is safe and happy. Your child gets the opportunity to play and learn with other children in an age appropriate environment. The right daycare for you is out there, just search carefully and don't be too hasty in your decision. In the end your child will thank you for it. Happy hunting!

No comments: