Unless you or your partner plan to be a stay-at-home-parent, one of the most significant decisions you will make as a parent is who will be taking care of your child when you are at work. That’s often 40-plus hours a week of a stranger raising your child.
For most parents, that means picking the best daycare option you can.
From my experience, as we looked for daycare for two children, several factors should be considered.
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The reality is, depending on where you live, there could a waiting list longer than 10 months to get into a daycare facility. Yeah, that’s right — a wait longer than the actual pregnancy. It might seem you have to get yourself on a waiting list before your child is even conceived and, in many cases, that could be. My wife and I waited close to a year for an opening at the center our youngest goes to now.
Look down and around
When choosing the best daycare provider for your family, you should visit the center or the home of a care-taking prospect. While there, you will more than likely be focused on the conversation with the provider.
However, by looking down, you will see how the provider interacts with the children. You see the toys the kids have to play with and the amount of room they will have to run around in when they eventually start walking.
This is where a good team approach comes in handy. Before walking into a potential provider’s workplace, make sure you and your partner understand you need to look all around and see what the provider has to offer for their child. You could come away seeing things differently and that could ultimately make or break your decision.
Check on security and safety
Besides wanting a feeling that your child will be safe with the provider, you are going to want to make sure that the facility itself is secure. Be it a home or at a center, look around to see how difficult it would be for someone who doesn’t belong to get into areas where the children are.
Some places just buzz you in without knowing why you want to come inside (that is if they could not see you at the front door through a window or camera). Others make you enter a code to unlock the door. Our current center uses fingerprints to check our child in and out as well as to open the door.
While this once might have seemed a bit overboard, these days you certainly should make sure your child is safe whoever your daycare provider is.
Ask about programming, schedules
You are going to want to know what your child is doing all day. Are they just going to be playing with toys and crawling around, or will there be provider interaction to stimulate their minds? Is there a set schedule your child will follow throughout the day? Is there time set aside to help them develop and learn?
Centers and in-home providers should send you home with a copy of their daily schedule to give you an idea of what your child will be doing while you are working away to afford for their care.
Be prepare to pay
This is a big one, especially depending on your location.
We are currently spending more than our current mortgage payment to send our youngest to the center he is at. On a monthly basis, when the tuition hits our bank account, we take a hit. And it hurts.
But there is one thing to remember: this cost is short-lived relative to the life of your child.
The first few years of your child’s life is crucial to their development, and you are going to want the best for them, even if that means you have to live paycheck to paycheck until your little one hits a school age.
Get recommendations, read reviews
First, ask other parents you know for recommendations or their experiences with daycare service.
Next, hit the internet. Check Facebook, Yelp, Google and so on … but you will want to take these with a grain of salt.
While one bad review can ruin your thoughts of a center, you will have to bear in mind that whatever the reason for the bad review was, it could have been an extenuating circumstance that caused it. There could have been a misunderstanding between the provider and the parent that caused the parent to speak out.
Regardless, you will want to hear what other parents say, and if you don’t know many people in the area, the internet is an excellent resource.
Your gut may know the best daycare choice
A lot can be said for your gut. Did you feel right at home when you walked in? Did you feel comfortable with the people who would be taking care of your child? Was there something that thing that concerned you?
Picking out a center or in-home provider for daycare can be a lot like picking out a new home: when you know, you just know. While there was one thing that concerned my wife and me with the center our youngest is now in, we were able to look past it, and it has become a non-issue.
Be open to change
Sometimes even the best daycare situation you find initially could bad or not work. You or your child may have a bad experience. Or a life event, like a job change, may happen and you may need to look for something that is a better financial, geographical or education fit for your family. Providers and centers change as well, and a change in management or a center’s policy could change your thinking about your provider.
While you may love a place, it is essential to understand that things change, and sometimes you and your child are not a fit for your current daycare situation.