If you need to return to work after having kids, you will need to find someone to watch them while you are gone. But finding someone to take care of your children can be a daunting task. With the wide array of daycare options available, new parents have a particularly difficult time knowing what to look for in a daycare.
Below is a list of important things you should consider when looking for a “daycares near me”. These are things that parents should discuss with each other and interview each daycare provider about.
The first thing you should decide is whether you want to utilize the services of a home daycare provider or a professional daycare facility. There are pros and cons to both options.
Home daycares offer the comfort of knowing that kids will be in a cozy home setting. They are usually less expensive, too. Because homes are smaller and generally only have one person working the daycare, you can also count on the fact that they will feel more personal.While home daycares are under the same rules and regulations as professional daycares, they are not monitored as frequently, leaving more room for possible policy violations and safety concerns. The biggest risk with a home daycare is that if the provider needs to cancel for any reason, you may be left in the lurch without childcare. There is a higher risk if the daycare provider has other children who may get sick or leave unsafe items around the house.
Professional daycares are like schools for little kids. Professional daycares generally offer more structure for kids throughout the day with planned activities and even segments of age-appropriate education. This gives children a broader exposure to other kids their age and starts to get them ready for the school atmosphere. Professional daycares tend to cost more than home daycares, and depending on the size, they may offer less personal attention.
Look at your budget and determine what you can realistically afford for daycare. Then, do your research to determine the going rate for daycare in your area. Have a reasonable number in your head before you go shopping for a daycare.
What to look for: Look for set rates and payment schedules. This is especially important if you are looking at cheap daycares that charge on income-based sliding scales. Make sure the business is consistent with fees for all families and doesn’t play favorites. If you find a daycare that is priced far under the average, look closely at what they are leaving out to cut costs. If you find a daycare that is priced far above average, then look for what they are doing to add value and make sure its worth the extra cost.
What to ask:
What forms of payment do you accept?
What happens if I am late with my payment?
Do you ever adjust your fees?
How do you compare to the going rate for daycare?
How are you different from other daycares?
Most daycares have set hours of operation although 24 hour daycares do exist for those with unusual work hours. Some charge by day and some charge by hour. It is generally a good idea to find a daycare that is open during the time you need with at least a one hour cushion on each end of the day to account for emergencies and unexpected delays.
What to look for: Look for a set of rules and policies about hours of operation. You want to make sure that there is full compliance with staff size and cleanliness for the entire time children are at a daycare facility.
What to ask:
What are your hours?
What would happen if I run late or get stuck in traffic?
Are there additional fees if I need extra time on occasion?
It is important that the age group of kids at your daycare facility lines up with your goals for social exposure and development. If your child is 4 and goes to daycare with a bunch of infants, their social opportunities will not be as vast as if they were in a daycare with other 3-4 year olds.
What to look for: Look for a daycare that has other kids within a year of your child’s age. If you only need daycare temporarily, then daycares with more limited age groups should suit your needs. If you are looking for long-term daycare, then finding a daycare with a broad age group will ensure that kids of all ages continue to come and go over time.
What to ask:
What ages do you accept?
What age groups are currently represented among the children?
How are babies separated from the big kids?
How are staff divided between the babies and the big kids?
Do big kids help take care of the babies?
In today’s day and age, it is important that your daycare is on the same page as your parenting philosophies when it comes to discipline. This is particularly important when it comes to physical punishment and deciding what constitutes bad behavior.
What to look for: Look for an established system of discipline. Daycares should have a system for how many warnings, timeouts, and other disciplinary actions kids get before parents are called. They should also have a consistent system for reporting bad behavior to parents. It is equally important for them to have a system for rewarding good behavior to make sure they are not playing favorites among the children. No matter what, daycares should not use physical punishment.
What to ask:
What do you do when a child misbehaves?
What are some examples of bad behavior?
Are parents notified of all bad behavior or only severe incidents?
Structure of Activities
Some daycares are very laid back and function as places to physically shelter your children between certain hours. Some are semi-structured with set times for naps and meals. Others are highly structured with school-like activities scheduled throughout the days and weeks. You should know what level of structure you are looking for in a daycare.
What to look for: There is no wrong answer here. If you are looking for a daycare that allows your child to let loose, relax, and make their own rules, then you will probably prefer a less structured daycare. If you want your child to use daycare as an early educational experience, then you will want to look for one that is highly structured. Pay attention to the price differentials at daycares that are structured differently.
What to ask:
What do kids do during the day?
Are they required to nap during naptime, or can they quietly read or color instead?
How frequently do the kids go on field trips or do special projects?
If I send my child with activities to do, will someone help them?
Is the daycare aimed at helping kids get into a certain type of preschool or kindergarten?
Daycares have different policies for handling medical and mental health concerns. If your child has medical needs, then you want to make sure those needs are met. If your child does not have medical needs, you still want to make sure that the daycare is handling medical issues safely.
What to look for: Daycares should have safe locations to store medications, needles, and other medical supplies out of reach. There should also be enough staff members to make sure all children are attended to in the event of a medical emergency with one of the children. This is especially important in home daycares where there may only be one adult present during the day.
What to ask:
What medical conditions does the staff have experience dealing with?
Where are medications and medical supplies stored?
Who administers medication to children?
Is everyone on staff certified in first aid and child/infant CPR?
How is the daycare facility cleaned and maintained?
Is there a nurse or doctor on staff or on call?
What happens if a child needs to leave in an ambulance?
Do you keep records of medical issues and healthcare needs?
Cooperation with Legal Matters
This one may be one of the most uncomfortable issues to address. Some parents even think it is unnecessary because they don’t want to imagine anything bad happening to their child. This is, however, one of the most important issues to ask about. Some daycares are more cooperative with the legal system than others. By making your way through this list you have already learned several ways to prevent against those issues ever coming up. Knowing how a daycare facility cooperates with the legal system, however, will tell you whether they are hiding something you haven’t caught yet.
What to look for: When you ask questions about legal compliance, the daycare facility should respond naturally and cooperatively. They should keep regular record of everything having to do with your child. If the daycare tries to make jokes about the legal system being “annoying” or “unnecessary,”, take that as a warning sign that there is something they don’t want the public to see.
What to ask:
Do you keep records of attendance, behavior, discipline, payments, etc.?
Are records available to parents?
What do you do when there is a conflict?
Searching for “daycares near me” sounds like a simple search, but it is not. It’s not like googling for a restaurant, this is your child we are talking about. If you need to return to work, give yourself plenty of time to do the research, ask the questions, and make a list of your top choices.