For new parents, the thought of handing over their infant to a total stranger for eight hours every day is downright terrifying. But, busy moms and dads are expected to do just that when they initiate daycare for their kids.
A recent study through Pew Research shows nearly half of all two-parent households include a mother and father who work full-time. With the ongoing uptick in the workforce, there’s a related need for a childcare solution during the day for children who are not quite of school age.
So how can you find the best daycare for your child?
While finding the best daycare program can be exhausting and downright frustrating, these tips should help alleviate some of that pain:
1. Start the process early
The demand for daycare is high and will likely continue to trend upward. And with high demand comes a lengthy waiting list for the programs of choice. As a result, it’s a good idea to actually begin the search for the best daycare once you are expecting and as soon as you’ve made the decision to use a daycare. Seriously, some of the most “exclusive” centers will have wait lists that can last as long as a year. So start your research as soon as possible.
2. Do your research
Google and Yelp are certainly your friends in this epic search, but nothing beats word of mouth and the honest review of fellow parents. Ask friends and coworkers for recommendations on the best daycare centers in your area. Ask that program for references. When given the opportunity to speak with a parent whose child attends a specific daycare center, ask about the positives and negatives and everything in between. If they don’t like the center, ask why; if their child is no longer attending that specific program, ask why.
3. Check your budget
The average cost of daycare in the United States is just under $12,000 per year, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies. That’s just the average! In cities like New York, monthly prices can hit the $2,000 mark. Plan accordingly and decide if this is something your household can even afford to begin with; some families find it more financially efficient for one parent to stay at home full-time rather than take on the burden of another huge monthly bill.
4. Visit, Ask Questions & Take Notes
The best daycare programs will have an open house or at least provide an opportunity to tour the facilities ahead of making the final decision. This is a great time to observe the providers in action. Ideally, you’ll want a ratio of one caregiver for every three babies in the room. Check for the cleanliness of the facilities and the routine of the caregivers: Do they wash their hands regularly? How do they interact with the children? Does the center itself have an emergency plan in case of fire, flood, tornado, etc., and are first aid kits readily available? What is the holiday schedule?
5. Make Sure There’s a Match
During the interview process, be sure the provider follows similar parenting and care-giving styles to what your child experiences at home. Find out about discipline (scoldings, timeouts, etc.) and what kinds of technologies are used throughout the day (TV, radio, tablets, etc.). The key is for your child to be as comfortable as possible while at the daycare center and for as much consistency as possible.
6. Stay Involved & Make Surprise Visits
Once you’ve found the best daycare program for your child, the job is still not done. It’s important to be involved early and often. Communicate with your child’s care provider regularly and get constant feedback on the behavior of your child, feeding habits, number of diapers per day, etc. When possible, stop in at a random time, unannounced, to see just how the day-to-day is going with your child and ensure everything is up to par.
Finding the best daycare for your child is a daunting task, but following a well-thought-out plan will ease that tension and help ensure a smooth transition for both you and your child.