How to Select a Quality Daycare Center
Selecting quality childcare for your child is an important task, but it does not need to be overwhelming. Once you understand what qualities to look for in a quality daycare center, it will be simple to make a confident and informed childcare selection.
When evaluating daycare centers, note the following:
The physical environment of a quality daycare center is safe, clean, and uncluttered. When you evaluate a daycare center, the atmosphere should be bright, colorful, and inviting. The space should be designed with children in mind, so the furniture should be child-sized and materials should be accessible with displays at the child's eye level. You also want to make sure that different areas are designated for different uses. For example, messy areas should be near a sink and quiet areas should be away from building blocks.
Interview and observe caregivers carefully. In addition to a proper educational background, staff should be able to interact one-on-one with children in a warm and responsive way. The rate of staff turnover should be low and caregivers should be consistent. Find out whether or not the staff stays current through classes or workshops. Also, pay careful attention to the ratio of children to caregivers. Caregivers should be responsible for small groups of children. The recommended ratios for adults to children are: infants-1:3, toddlers-1:5, preschool-1:8, and school age-1:12.
Licensing and Accreditation
Find out if the center is in compliance with applicable laws or licensing regulations. Licensed programs have met the minimum standards for healthy and safe care. If you are in search of an exceptional program, find one that is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This is a voluntary process where programs show they have met a higher standard of care determined by the NAEYC organization.
Safety and Health
The environment should be clean and well ventilated. Toys should be cleaned and in good working order. There should be specific policies regarding injuries, contacting parents in case of emergencies, and medical intervention. The staff should be trained in CPR, and first aid should be on-site. Children should never be left unattended.
When you are evaluating a childcare program, find out if the curriculum is varied according to age. For children aged three and under, quality programs should emphasize play activities that enhance development rather than formal educational curricula. As children develop, they can then benefit from school readiness activities that combine elements of formal education with play and free expression. All programs should include both small and large group activities, and a balance between rest and activity.
Be sure to look for a daycare facility that promotes a high level of family involvement. A quality daycare program will encourage parents to serve on the board of directors, to become involved as volunteers, and to have input into center policies. As well, a good center welcomes visits from parents. Be leery of those programs without an “open door” policy where you are welcome to drop by and visit whenever you wish. A good program will inform you of your child's progress and daycare experiences on a regular basis.