Perhaps one of the most vital decisions a family has to make is in choosing a day care for their children. This decision-making process can be daunting for many reasons. There is so much to consider, such as convenience of location and tuition cost. More importantly there are those critical factors that are not as obvious, yet bear the greatest value. To ensure you are choosing a high quality day care, look for the following 10 essential features:
- Licensing/Regulations (Awards a plus): Make sure that the day care your child will be attending is regulated and licensed by the state in which it is located. Licensing and regulation requirements ensure that the day care is meeting at least the minimum standards of safety and learning for its children. Day cares that have been given awards and honors are a plus, but not necessary. Awards, such as Pennsylvania’s Keystone Stars program, certify that the day care is going above and beyond the minimum criteria for licensing by providing additional requirements like professional development for staff, a curriculum based on state standards and parental engagement opportunities.
- Cleanliness: It is critical that the day care your child attends has strict and consistent cleaning practices. Not only should the facility appear clean in every space (i.e. restrooms, entrance, classrooms, recess areas,etc.), but make sure the day care’s food program is following all safety measures and the toys, play areas and restrooms are sanitized and thoroughly cleaned on a daily basis. Cleanliness will help prevent, but not totally eliminate, the spread of numerous illnesses.
- Contentment of Parents & Children: While visiting a day care, take the time to observe the children in attendance. Do they appear happy? Are they being treated with care? Also, do not hesitate to speak with parents who have children going to the day care you are interested in sending your child to. Be candid and do not be shy, and remember: there is no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to concerns you have for your child’s safety and well-being!
- Qualifications of Staff: In order for your child to be receiving the highest quality of care, all employees should have the necessary degrees, certifications and training to set your mind at ease. There are some day cares that have employees with the minimum qualifications, while others pride themselves on obtaining and retaining staff with the highest childcare qualifications. As a parent, you must decide how important staff qualifications are to you.
- Cheerfulness of Staff: No one wants to send their child to a day care where the staff is unhappy and negative. These adults are going to be with your child for extended periods of time. When visiting day cares, nonchalantly examine the attitudes and demeanor of the employees. You want your child to be in the company of adults who want to be in the company of children!
- Emergency Plan: With all of the school and day care tragedies, and natural disasters, it’s imperative that the day care you choose have a solid, approved emergency plan in place. A copy of this emergency plan should be visible in the facility and available for parents.
- Daily Activity Schedule/Curriculum: A high quality day care will have a daily activity schedule and curriculum that is tailored to the developmental needs of all of the children in every age group. This is also the opportunity for you to look for a day care that has a curriculum concentrated in the area you think is best for your child. For example, a day care may have a Christian-based curriculum or one focused in the arts. Ask for a copy of the schedule and see if you can observe some of the classes, especially the class your child would be in.
- Diversity: Since our children will be living in a diverse world, enrolling your child in a day care that has diversity in its staff and children gives your child an excellent chance to be exposed to people from different ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Parental Engagement: Parental engagement at a day care puts parents at ease and offers them an opportunity to be a part of their child’s learning and overall experience. High quality day cares embrace parental involvement and find unique ways to include parents.
- Extracurricular Activities/Enrichment: For parents who work long hours, having their child in a day care that offers extracurricular activities like dance and gymnastics is very important. This presents parents with the choice of enrolling their child in classes and programs at the day care, which, in turn, can save time in travel from place to place, and possibly save money as well.
Hopefully this list provides you with a starting point when searching for attributes of a high quality day care facility. Remember to take your time and do your research. Best of luck!
For those of you who already have children in a day care facility, what are some other features you think are essential for a day care to have? Please comment below. I would love to hear from you!