One of the toughest first decisions I had to make as a new parent-to-be was finding exceptional daycare for my newborn. I had to go back to work six weeks after giving birth so I began my daycare search long before my son was born. I was thankful I did. Many daycares were full and had waiting lists. A number were simply not in our budget. Others did not take such a young infant.
Begin your quest for a daycare as soon as you realize that you will need it. Many daycares require a deposit to hold a place for your child.
If your child has special needs that will need to be addressed, inquire if the daycare can support you in this and whether you will be comfortable. You may want to explore hiring a nanny or an in-home provider.
Ask Those Who Know
I asked daycare-seasoned parents about the daycares they used before I began exploring daycare options. Their input was helped me to decide the environment I wanted my child to be in.
Determine what your parameters are: location, cost, hours and days needed, and in-home versus a church-based or commercial daycare center. Schedule a tour of any daycare that has made it on to your final list of options. Be sure to bring your list of questions with you.
Look for a Nurturing Environment
Children require nurturing to grow healthy minds and bodies. Observe the environment as you tour the home or facility.
What is the daily schedule? How are children treated? What is the caregiver to child ratio? How does the daycare “feel”? How do the daycare employees transition children into new rooms?
Be Comfortable with the Method of Discipline
Ask how the daycare disciplines a child. If you are not comfortable with their methods, walk.
I did not think about asking about discipline until my son, and only child at that time, was kicked out of daycare at the ripe age of twelve months for biting. I found another in-home daycare for him and tearfully told the caregiver the truth. She gave me a big hug and said, “Well, that’s normal!” My son’s aggression and biting disappeared within days because he was receiving more nurturing. She also had him potty trained at fourteen months. He stayed with her until he began kindergarten.
Pay Attention to Safety and Cleanliness
What are the security procedures? Does the daycare follow them?
Check out the bathrooms. Ask to see the kitchen. Check if the caregivers and other staff embers wear gloves when cleaning up bodily fluids. How are the rooms cleaned that your child will be in? Are cots disinfected? Is bedding washed or sent home with you on a consistent basis? Are the tables and other furniture appropriately child-sized? Are the toilets and sinks? What is the outdoor play area like?
Assess the Communication Style
How proactive is the daycare with communication? Will you get a summary of your child’s day, down to the number of dirty diapers and time and length of her nap? Will you be called immediately if there is a concern? Is the caregiver approachable for questions and discussion?
Understand Expectations the Daycare Has of You and Visa-Versa
Are you expected to pay for a full-time week over a certain number of days? How do vacations and holidays work? What hours is the daycare open? Will the daycare be able to take your child early or keep her late if necessary? If so, what is the charge of doing so?
Understand the Sick Policy
Most daycares are specific about what constitutes a sick child or an infection that will not be allowed to be in daycare. A child in my son’s daycare came down with the highly contagious conjunctivitis (also known as pinkeye). I was relieved the affected child was sent home immediately and could not return to daycare until a doctor said he was no longer contagious.
As a parent you hope the daycare will follow the policies they have in place. Understand that adhering to the policy is important not only for your child, but others as well.
By Judy M. Miller, a freelance writer and a mom to four children, all of whom have spent time in daycare when young. She is a Gottman Educator and the author of What To Expect From Your Adopted Tween and .