by Michael Bourke
One of the most difficult things parents do is leave their children in the care of others. If you are not fortunate enough to have a close relative or friend who can provide child care, you face the daunting task of choosing a daycare. In many cases, you will not know the people who run or work in the daycare, yet you will need to entrust your children with them. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to choose a daycare that will provide a safe, nurturing environment for your children and put your mind at ease.
- A Safe Neighborhood – Believe it or not, even the most stellar daycare is not the best option for your child if it is located in an unsafe neighborhood. The environment in which your children learn and grow must be a safe one in order to guide them toward making good choices and supporting their health and well-being. When choosing a daycare, drive through the neighborhood in which it is located at various times of the day. Look to see whether there are people loitering near it, if there is graffiti on the buildings nearby, and if there is litter on the streets or sidewalks.
Are there people driving past too quickly or too loudly? Are there people in apartment buildings making too much noise or using inappropriate language or gestures? These warning signs of the neighborhood show you that you need to choose a different daycare for your children because you do not want them to be influenced by these factors.
A more suitable neighborhood for your child’s daycare will contain inviting parks, family residences where people are outside playing with their children, and clean, well-maintained buildings or homes in the vicinity. In this environment, your children will be able to play outside at the daycare without being negatively influenced. Safe neighborhoods are less likely to put your children at risk of being tempted by drugs or alcohol, especially if they have to walk a distance from a bus to the daycare before or after school.
- Must-Have Factors – After you narrow your daycare search to those located in safe neighborhoods, schedule a visit at potential sites and look for a few must-have factors such as cleanliness, friendliness, and policies and procedures. Observe the caregivers with the children. Do they spend time at eye-level with the children and speak to them in warm ways? Is there an adequate adult to child ratio? Are the rooms baby-proofed, and are they stocked with toys and books that are age-appropriate?
Make a stop in the kitchen and restrooms and look for kid-friendly spaces and items, such as lower toilets, sinks, chairs, and tables. Are there specific areas for eating and playing and napping? Another must-have is a space for each age group. For example, older children’s toys have several small pieces, so they should be kept away from infants and toddlers.
- Reliable References and Reviews – When you consider making a purchase, you likely look online for reviews. You need to do the same when you choose a daycare for your children, plus make time to do some additional research into them. Check sites such as Yelp and Facebook for reviews. You also should check the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or the National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC) to see whether the daycare is accredited.
You don’t have to choose an accredited site, but you should make sure the site is licensed. You also can check with your local child protective services agency to inquire about any complaints made against the daycare or its workers or owners, and you can look into the Better Business Bureau to see whether it is in good standing.
When you think you have chosen a daycare, ask for references so you can call former and current parents and ask questions. It’s also a good idea to ask parents in your social circles about local daycares, too, because the references the daycare gives you likely won’t say anything negative. Ask your friends and family to ask about daycares to widen your circle of information.
When looking for a daycare, you need to choose one in a safe neighborhood, with must-have factors that are important to you, and that has positive reviews from reliable references.
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