Choosing a Quality Daycare
This comes as no surprise: Great daycare for your toddler or preschooler can be hard to find. That's why it pays to do a little research well before you actually need it. Experts recommend that you visit your daycare center options and spend some time at each to help you form opinions.
The three most prevalent types of childcare are daycare centers, family-based daycare, and co-op daycare facilities. Some daycare centers offer care for infants through 2-year-olds, others combine daycare and preschool, offering extended care for parents who work outside the home full-time. If cost is a consideration, co-ops are often less expensive but require more parent involvement.
Keep in mind, some daycare centers may require that your child be potty trained before enrolling in their program.
What Constitutes a High-Quality Daycare Center?
- It should be clean and sanitary. This means food preparation areas and diaper-changing or restroom areas are sanitary and, ideally, far apart from each other.
- Classrooms should be appropriately childproofed, and they should display disaster/emergency plans and procedures.
- Centers should have clear, consistent rules regarding sick children staying home. Ideally, centers should have an isolation room for children who develop fevers during the workday.
- Toys and equipment should be kept clean and in good repair.
Regardless of the child's age, the center should provide stimulating and developmentally appropriate activities for him to participate in throughout the day. Preschoolers should be exposed to preliteracy and numeracy activities to prepare them for kindergarten.
Beyond basic health and safety concerns, a quality daycare center will have an appropriate staff-to-child ratio. Most states -- and some national organizations -- have a recommended or required ratio for a center to receive a license. This depends on the age of the children. For example:
- The infant ratio recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics is one adult to three infants.
- For toddlers aged 2, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recommends a ratio of one adult to four children.
Find out what your state requires and then look for that ratio when visiting a center.
Most states require that day care centers be licensed and that they meet minimum state standards in areas of health and safety. National accreditation is optional -- through organizations like NAEYC -- but many parents like this extra layer of oversight.