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5 Steps to Finding the Right Daycare Or Pre-School
Step 1 – What Kind of Day Care Would Work for Your Child?
Who is served?
The bottom line is who is the customer? While many nurseries or child care facilities try to please parents first and foremost, those who ignore children will always lose out in the long run. Why, because when a child is not happy, the parent is the first to know.
On the other hand, as a parent, you should be aware that the childcare facility or daycare will do everything to impress you. However, your role becomes to pay attention to the customers they already have. Are the children’s hands and faces clean? Do you smell musty diapers? Do the teachers care about the children – do they look them in the eye? What tone of voice do the teachers use?
How does your child learn?
My four-year-old, for example, has a gregarious nature—so gregarious that I have to pull her away from hugging complete strangers at the mall. Every senior is another “grandmother” for her.
Well, we decided to enroll her in an excellent Montessori preschool and it was a disaster! The freedom that is fostered in the Montessori environment was seen as permission to socialize. When asked to choose an activity, she tried to help all the younger children in the class first. The result: any work she managed to bring home seemed incomplete. As a caregiver, I knew something was wrong, especially since I knew she was doing the same types of activities for me at home without any problems.
After being there for seven months, we decided to move her to a more traditional school setting. Fast! After a settling-in period, she settled near the top of her class.
The Montessori environment did not enhance her particular learning style. How does your child learn? What personality type does your child have? Will the childcare facility or preschool of your choice be the right choice for your child? I had to think it through carefully because preschool plays a big role in building a child’s educational foundation. Click on this link to read my article titled “How Smart Is Your Child”?
Step 2 – Know what you need
There is a fine balance between your child’s needs and what is practical, but this is where I try to strike that balance.
As a parent, you have practical needs that need to be met; for example, a day care facility must be located somewhere close to home or work. Does it have a driveway to cover your vehicle when it rains? Will staff pick up children from our vehicle (often known as kiss-and-go service)?
Create a picture in your mind
The first thing I would recommend you do is to think about what would be the ideal nursery environment for your child. If money were no object and distance and time irrelevant; what kind of preschool or childcare facility would you like your child to benefit from? Yes, it’s okay to dream!
Take these thoughts and write them down. Add them to the checklist I created and take it to every establishment you visit. When you have completed your inspection of the building, note how the facility meets your requirements. Don’t let your budget limit you at this point. In economic times like this, you’d be surprised how flexible directors can be. Remember, you are the customer and they want your business.
Does the nursery or childcare facility have opening and closing hours that suit your work? Is it close enough to your home or work? Does this give you enough time to get to the next point on your journey?
When you look at the menu (it should be displayed at the entrance), does the food sound like food your child will eat? Can you bring your own food? When is the last meal served? Does your child come home with a full or empty stomach? Are you (physically and financially) able to cook or buy fast food every night to feed your child?
How much are the fees? What about registration, activities and book fees? Are you expected to purchase supplies as well? Is lunch provided or is there a charge for provided lunch? Find out about late fees. How much does it cost if you are fifteen minutes late picking up your child? If you know there’s a chance you might be late, can you afford to pay that amount?
Ask the director if there are any “special offers” or introductory prices. If you have a skill that could benefit the facility, offer to trade your skill for a regular discount. Small business owners are always looking for ways to save money. Trust me, I’ve been there!
Peace of mind
This is probably the most important indicator that this is the right place for your child. Take your child with you on trips. Watch his reaction to the teacher, the equipment and the children. If they can talk, ask them what they think if they want to come back tomorrow.
Ask yourself these questions. Do you feel calm leaving your child there every morning? Do you think that if you left your child there, there would be a nagging feeling in the back of your mind that something might be wrong? Do you think your child would be happy with your choice?
The device may look perfect on the outside, but take the time to listen and trust your inner feelings.
Step 3 – Know what to look for
Using your five senses
Smell: The most important thing to do when you enter a nursery facility is to smell the air. The smell of diapers, wet or unappetizing food is a clear sign that some kind of neglect may be taking place. Sniff when you pass by the trash cans (they should be covered) and especially be aware of odors coming from children.
Vision: Keep your eyes peeled, as they say! Look on the floor and in corners for dead bugs (or their wings). Take your time and look up. Marks on ceiling tiles or water marks inside light panels can be telltale signs of other hygiene problems. Peek into the principal’s office if you can – but remember that preschool principals are extremely busy people.
Audio: Are teachers yelling at kids? What was their tone of voice before you entered the room? Were the children controlled, restrained, or was there a balance between the two? Classroom sounds often set the mood. An unmanaged classroom is often a reflection of a teacher who does not know classroom management or a teacher who does not have an engaging lesson plan. There are always exceptions (eg a hyperactive child), but good classroom management should be a priority, as structure is said to benefit the child.
Taste: If it is around snack or lunch time, feel free to ask if you can taste the food that is being served to the children. You might think you’re a little weird, but if they’re not willing to give you some of that food, you might want to know why.
Touch: As you walk through the nursery or childcare facility, run your finger along windowsills and tables to find dust and dirt. Touch toys is possible – they should be disinfected and allowed to air dry every evening. Remember that children love to put toys in their mouths.
Step 4 – Know about the device
Most directors have been in the industry for many years and know the childcare business inside and out. However, sometimes you may come across a director who has just bought the company but has no experience in the field. This can sometimes be a difficult combination, so find out as much as you can about your director before parting with a non-refundable registration fee.
The childcare or nursery building usually speaks for itself. People are usually drawn to newer nursery buildings, but we need to look beyond the facilities and focus on the level of care that is provided within the walls of the building. While a run-down building should definitely raise alarm bells, don’t let a newer building override your instincts.
Observe the teacher as much as you can. Do you come across as caring? What is their tone of voice when things aren’t working as they should? Do they cater to children? What qualifications do they have? What does your state define as “qualified”?
Unfortunately, teaching can be a stressful job and often leads to some staff turnover. If your child’s teacher leaves and is replaced by another teacher, it can be upsetting for your child. Try to prepare them by explaining the change to the child in advance.
Training and teaching skills
A company that invests in its employees will always reap returns. Ask what type of training is offered to employees. Most states require all employees to have a certain number of hours of training. If it is current, you will see it in the online control report.
Always ask what curriculum you are using. Some of the well-known curriculum types include Abeka, Creative, High Scope, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Theme based, etc. The curriculum must be stimulating enough to keep your child interested. Keep in mind what your child already knows and what you would like them to know by certain milestones. Then assess whether the curriculum will meet those needs. Remember that different children learn in different ways, so think about what makes your child smart.
Online control reports
Most states now have them. It gives you an overview of how your chosen device stands with the regulatory body. A child care counselor typically visits the center once or twice a year to assess how well the center is meeting state regulations. These messages are records of these visits. They describe what the consultant observed while they were at the center. Note that this is usually written “bureaucratically”, but if you take the time to study it, it can save you a lot of wasted time.
Step 5 – Familiarize yourself with industry regulations
Who are responsible child care regulations in your state?
Everyone has a boss and the childcare or childcare industry is no exception! In fact, it is heavily regulated for obvious reasons – they are looking after our most valuable asset – our children! Each state has a regulatory body that oversees this role, often associated with the Department of Human Resources. Click on the link below to find out who regulates the child care industry in your state.
What are the governing body’s expectations of your child?
Many states have developed “Standards of Care” (or equivalent) that day care facilities should meet. These documents outline the levels of care that can be provided. In my research, I found that you can usually count on this – the higher the level of care, the higher the price. In other words, most of the time you get what you pay for.
Student-teacher ratios vary from state to state, but the Internet ensures that this information is just a few clicks away. For example, Georgia has the following early childhood ratios:
6 weeks to 12 months 1:6
1 year to less than 2 years 1 : 8
2 years to 3 years 1:10
3 years to less than 4 years 1 : 15
4 years to 5 years 1 : 20
Ratios vary from state to state, so check my website for your state’s staff-to-student ratio.
Your child’s class should always be within state conditions – that’s the number one rule of childcare. If you find a NAYCE (National Association for the Education of Young Children) accredited center, know that they are always below par because their standards are higher than the state’s. Understandably, NAYCE accredited nurseries or pre-schools usually have slightly higher prices to pay for the additional staff costs.
I hope this provides a starting point when looking for day care for one of the most important people in your life! All the best in your search….
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