Finding suitable daycare for your child is not an easy task. There are often long wait lists at daycare centers. There are also many parts of the country that either have no service or limited services available. As a result, this adds to the difficulty of locking down a childcare provider. Plus, you have to consider your budget, work schedule, and parenting style to determine what makes a perfect fit for you and your child’s needs. You could easily spend hours vetting potential providers and asking countless questions. In this article, we have whittled the process down to a few key questions where the answers should provide the insight needed to decide who will provide your child with daycare service.
Question #1 – Are You Licensed?
This question may seem obvious, but it requires asking. First, you need assurance that the provider operates legally and has all the necessary documentation. Even though established centers are licensed, it never hurts to confirm. You may also want to see paperwork related to recent site inspections and if there have been any violations recorded. If the service provider is hesitant to share any of this with you, move on to someone else.
Question #2 – What Do You Charge?
Another important question. It is a good idea to clarify rates face-to-face and to learn what policies exist regarding extra fees. For example, is there an early drop-off or late pick-up charge? You may also want to know what payment options are accepted. For instance, paying online may be easier than mailing or dropping off a check at the start/end of each month.
Question #3 – What Tools Do You Use To Communicate With Parents?
Sometimes something happens to a child, and the service provider must make contact with a parent. Plus, not all daycare services have downloadable apps that allow parents regular access, so it is essential to find the methods used and agree on one that works the best for you. For example, maybe a phone call won’t do, but texting will. Or, possibly, you are easier to reach through email. Therefore, when you want to pin down how the service provider will communicate when needing to contact you.
Question #4 – What Are The Teacher-To-Child Ratios?
Classroom size continues to be a critical metric for parents. It also has a lot to do with keeping a child feeling happy and safe. Too many kids and not enough adults can spell trouble. The preferred ratios should be close to 1:4 for infants and 1:6 for preschoolers. Anything far higher than that should be a red flag to seek another service provider.
Question #5 – Where Will My Child Nap?
Naps are a vital part of children under the age of five. The important considerations are how they sleep and when and where. They also lead to additional questions such as, will my child sleep alone or next to others? Will the designated nap time coincide with your existing at-home nap schedule? Are children permitted to fall asleep on their own, or are they put down for naps while awake? The answers to these questions will help you with your final decision.
Question #6 – Do You Have A Weekly Learning Plan?
The curriculum is the foundation of good childcare service. The main difference between in-home care and a daycare center is that the learning plan is usually a bit more relaxed in an in-home setting. Depending on the educational goals you have for your child, this may or may not fit. But you need to know what to expect. The ideal situation should include a balance between education and fun.
Question #7 – What Is Your Discipline Policy?
There are going to be times when children require a time-out. It could be because of a tantrum or some other form of disruption. You will want to know how the daycare handles such situations and that providers don’t lose their cool in the process. You will also want to know the details should your child earn a time-out so that you know what is going on when you are not at the childcare facility.
Question #8 – Do You Provide Food And Drink?
Service providers have other guidelines regarding the food and drink they will provide during the day. For example, children should arrive at the center after having a good breakfast at the very least. You can also expect daycare providers to follow the guidelines in the US government’s nutritional standards. As a result, there will likely be a lunch and a snack or two. But to be sure, clarify with the service provider you are questioning.
Question #9 – What Childcare Philosophies Do You Follow?
For many parents, this question can be a dealbreaker. It makes sense. You will have to look elsewhere if the service provider does not match your childcare philosophy expectations. For example, suppose the center does not provide a varied curriculum, opportunities for hands-on activities led by students, a consistent structure, and straightforward discipline methods. In that case, it may not be where you want your child to spend most of the day while you work.
It is challenging to locate the right kind of childcare provider. Aside from the shortage of service operators in the country, you still need to find someone you trust and offer your child the right kind of environment. It has to contain a healthy balance of education and stimulating playtime. However, there must also be a framework for all this, plus discipline, to work correctly. Then it all has to match your needs and concerns. The questions listed above will help you get the choices you have shortlisted so that you can make a wise decision on where your child will receive childcare. It is an important decision to consider thoughtfully.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.