Like it is with anything these days, there are too many choices when it comes to selecting a child care centre. If you’re a new parent, leaving your child to someone else’s responsibility is going to make you feel anxious, scared, and maybe even guilty.
The best thing you can do to get rid of these feelings is to find a decent, reliable child care centre that you know is going to take great care of your child.
Not only is this important for your child’s safety and development, but it’s also necessary for you to focus and perform well at work – your performance is bound to plummet if you’re always thinking about everything that could go wrong at your child’s daycare centre.
In this article, we’ll share some helpful tips that you can use to spot a decent child care centre. However, here’s a fair warning: it’s almost impossible to be completely sure of a child care centre’s quality unless you check them out yourself, in person.
Ultimately, always be sure to diligently follow your child’s progress and activities at the child care centre. If you aren’t happy with the way in which they operate, switch to another centre as soon as possible.
Make a basic staff checklist
The staff are the most important part of a child care centre. The early learning and care that caregivers give to children leave a lasting impression on them (and may play a very important role in determining the type of adults they become).
If you’re going to leave your child with someone for as long as six hours a day, you have to ensure that they’re the right kind of person.
Things you should keep in mind while ticking off the mental staff checklist as you visit a centre include:
- Is it possible for you to drop by unannounced? If yes, it’s a great sign that the centre ensures its staff is on its best behaviour all the time, which means your child is going to receive great care round the clock. If the staff requires you to schedule your visit in advance, something may be up (but not always!).
- Does the centre employ qualified caregivers? Do educators and caregivers use proven education approaches and provide early learning and care resources?
- Does the centre employ background-checked caregivers? Can the staff produce a police reference if requested? This is important for the safety of your child.
- Do staff members communicate with each other politely? Caregivers at a centre may interact very politely with children but when it comes to coworkers, a toxic workplace environment might be in place. You don’t want this — you want a centre that’s run with courtesy, respect, and politeness between the staff members so your child is not exposed to unnecessary stress.
- Does the centre have a plan about what happens when a caregiver is absent? If not, there’s a chance your child may occasionally be left unattended, which is very risky.
- Is the staff willing to talk to you about your child at the end of the day? Because that’s the only way you’re going to know how your child spent the day. It’s also the only way to let the staff know that your child is having problems (like insufficient sleep) at home so they can treat him accordingly. If the staff refuses to communicate with you regularly, walk away.
Determine whether the centre has sufficient staff
Your job doesn’t end at ticking all the boxes on the staff checklist. A centre with great but inadequate staff is a bad child care centre.
Here’s some information on the recommended child-to-caregiver ratios according to the age group. It might not be possible for a daycare centre to provide these exact ratios and expecting this would be unrealistic.
However, most experts believe that a ratio of 4 children for 1 caregiver is a good one to target. The lower the children-to-staff ratio, the better it is.
A good child care centre not only has an optimum child-to-caregiver ratio, but also a low employee turnover. A low employee turnover tells you that the centre management and workplace environment are great.
It also means that the same caregiver will take care of your child for extended periods, which will allow the caregiver to pick behavioural changes that would go unnoticed otherwise. Sometimes, subtle behavioural changes may be manifestations of an underlying condition.
You should know that some experts believe that the same caregiver should stay with a child for at least a year.
Find out how the child care centre puts children to sleep
The way in which a child care centre puts children to sleep can provide an important insight into their broader approach to care.
Why is this even important? Well, how a centre puts your child to sleep determines his risk of SIDS, which stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In SIDS, a child dies suddenly without an explicit medical reason.
Risk factors that predispose a child to SIDS include:
- Sleeping on the tummy
- Using a shared blanket while sleeping
- Presence of stuffed toys in the crib, which can be reflexively dragged by the infant to his face, increasing the risk of suffocation
- You should find out whether children are exposed to any of these SIDS risk factors at a child care centre. If they are, walk away
Also keep an eye out for the following child safety measures:
- Clean toys
- Blocked stairs
- A safe distance between the cribs and windows
- See-through cribs — just because a child is sleeping doesn’t mean the caregiver should not be able to look at him!
Don’t listen to the cynic in you
As a new parent, you might be extremely suspicious of customer reviews, which is not exactly unfounded because fake reviews are real.
However, you should understand that customer reviews are one of the most powerful tools when it comes to choosing a service. The most reliable customer reviews come from friends and family, so make sure you ask around extensively.
It’s okay to take customer reviews with a pinch of salt but being too suspicious about them will deprive you of a very useful tool. Because as we mentioned, it’s almost impossible to judge a centre accurately without trying it out… unless you ask someone who’s tried it before!
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