Many working parents need to rely on child care centers. The challenge is finding one you can trust so your mind will be at ease. Finding the right child care center takes some research. Read on to see what to consider and check back here for more articles in our series about picking the best child care center. In the meantime, begin your search on DexKnows for child care centers.
The U.S. Department of Human Services suggests asking questions such as whether the director has a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field. Also, ask whether the director has worked in child care for at least two years. Human Services suggests similar questions for the lead teacher, including whether the teacher has a degree and has worked in child care for at least a year.
Is the child care center center licensed? Check to see what agency licenses child care centers in your state and whether the specific center is on its list. HealthyChildren.org, a website provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics, advises to check whether there have been any reported violations.
Inspect the child care center thoroughly, including not only the building but also the playground, if there is one.
FamilyDoctor.org lists several things to look for, including whether the playground has impact-absorbing surfaces under the swings and slides. Look for smoke alarms and make sure there are safety gates for young children. Are electric outlets covered? What about sharp corners of furniture?
A roomful of children also means the potential for a roomful of germs. Ask the staff how often they clean surfaces and whether they use a disinfectant. Washable toys should be cleaned daily. Handwashing should be stressed for both the children and the staff, especially before and after using the bathroom and changing diapers.
Another tip offered by DHS is to make sure any toxic substances, including cleaning supplies, are out of the reach of children. Check to see that the poison control number is placed near the phone.
FamilyDoctor.org adds ways to check for staff members’ qualifications, such as basic first aid.
Ask day care staff about what a regular day is like. Are there enough activities to keep children entertained? Things to look for include play time, individual activities and group activities. TheNewParentsGuide.com says to look for fun and age-appropriate toys and activities, not a day full of television and videos. If TV is part of the day, check to see how long the kids will be watching.
Read through each day care center’s policies. Their discipline policy should be written out so you know what to expect. Policies should also include areas such as whether children must pass a medical exam before enrolling and what the procedure is if a child is sick.
Staff should be available to answer questions. HealthyChildren.org asks parents to consider whether staff is available on a regular basis and whether parents would feel comfortable talking to them. You also want a center that allows parents to visit when it is open.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises that child-staff ratios should be within nationally recognized standards. These standards vary according to age. For infants through 1-year-old, the suggested ratio is one staff member for every three children, with the maximum group size set at six.
That increases to four children to each staff member for 13-30 months, five children to each staff member for 31-36 months, and up to 12 children assigned to each staff member for 9 to 12-years-old. More information is available on HealthyChildren.org’s website.
Search for providers in your area by checking out DexKnows’ child care center page.