How To Choose The Right Childcare
Written by James Kicinski-McCoy
Photography by Photographed by James Kicinski-McCoy
Whether it’s time for you to go back to work, you’re looking to socialize your child a bit more, or whatever the reason may be, there comes a time when every parent needs to think about some type of childcare for their little one. Whether it be a nanny, daycare, preschool, babysitter, or pre-k, let’s be real here—the thought is scary. One, because we know you don’t want to give up your special time with your kiddo, and two, you’re probably freaked out at the thought of a stranger helping to care for him or her. We’re hoping to help you make this important decision a little bit easier with our list of tips to help you select the right kind of formal or in-home care for your child, so that both you and your mini-me are happy.
Know Your Priorities. Decide what you want, first. Are you looking for a childcare facility near work or do you want in-home care? Are you looking for an educational center? Does your kiddo benefit more from one-on-one interactions? Are you looking for temporary or long-term care? What is your budget? Write down your needs and preferences so that you can “think out loud” and help yourself narrow down the options.
Research. We can’t stress this enough! The most important thing is finding a safe, nurturing caregiver or facility that puts kids’ needs first. Ask friends and family to find the most reputable daycares or caregivers. There are several sites like NAEYC and NAFCC that can give you names of licensed formal and in-home daycares. Lastly, read reviews on Yelp, as a license doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the perfect place for your kiddo. Real people are more likely to be honest. For nannies, ask for recommendations from friends and other moms. Or, consider using a licensed, local nanny service. Do some extensive background and history checking. Ask for references and call past employees for reviews.
Use Social Media. Now days, everything you put online is your footprint and can be traced back to you. Look up your kid’s potential teachers, nannies, or babysitters on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to find out more about them. People are more likely to show their true colors on their personal networks and online than they are in a professional building or interview setting.
Visit and Meet. Reviews are great, but an in-person interview is the absolute best way to scope a place or individual out. Pay attention to the building or home, itself. Is it clean? Are there any dangerous objects or accident-prone areas? How do the other children seem to be acting? At a facility, what is the child to teacher ratio? Do the teachers seem to have patience with the kids? Watch the interactions between kids and teacher and teacher to teacher—are they patient and professional? For a nanny or babysitter, does he or she seem to be experienced? How does she interact with your child and home?
Ask Questions. Don’t be shy—there are things you’ll want to ask before you commit. At the daycare, do the kids have activities or do they watch TV all day? What snacks are provided, if any? Is there a nap time for little ones? Are there outdoor activities? What is their policy in the event of an emergency? It’s also important to ask questions to see how the caregivers respond to discipline and rewarding. Do they use time-outs? Scolding? Spanking, even? For a babysitter or nanny, can they follow a strict routine everyday? Do they have a dependable car? Do they enjoy getting involved with crafts, projects, and games?
Baby Mamas. If you have a baby, you’re going to want to ask the nanny or babysitter for a one-year commitment (or more), as babies need a lot of nurturing and consistency to help form a trusting attachment to their caregivers. For daycares, you’re going to want to watch how caregivers interact with each baby. It’s also important to find out how long each caregiver has worked there, to make sure they are experienced with infants.
Kid Test It. If you find a childcare or school that you enjoy, bring your child with you on your second visit to see how they enjoy the center. Stay for half an hour or more to let your child explore and see their potential new daycare. If it’s a nanny or babysitter you’re interviewing, have them come to your home to see how they act with your child, while you are present.
Stay Involved. Once you’ve selected a nanny or childcare center, check in regularly to make sure your child is enjoying themselves and most of all, being cared for and well treated. Request parent-caregiver meetings regularly and ask detailed questions. Volunteer, go on field trips, be there for your child’s birthday, visit for Career Day, etc.
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