Whether you are first-time parents or veteran parents, we all reach that inevitable day when we will have to leave our kid(s) to head back to work. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, more than 11 million children under the age of 5 are in some type of child-care setting every week.
Finding a proper and safe child care is vital for both the parent(s) and their children, especially during the early stages of the child’s development. There are several types of childcare to choose from, but finding the perfect one is a long process and often requires a significant amount of time. Whether you choose a day care center, family child care, neighbor or friend care, or in-home care, there are a few basic things parents should insist upon before settling down and making the call. At the end of the day, your kid’s safety is top priority.
If you having difficulties deciding which option of child care to go with, here are some tips to better help you narrow them down and weed out those deemed unfitting.
When you are visiting a potential child-care site, pay close attention to how the staff interacts with the children. Observe whether the caregiver is proactive with the kids or being attentive with toddlers. Infants require lots of attention, love, care, and an interactive relationship with adults during the prime of their social development phase. Parents should also inquire about the site’s child-to-care facility ratio if social interaction is an important factor when choosing child care. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ratio of one adult for every three babies up to 24 months of age.)
Consistency, Reliability, and Commitment
Kids need consistent care and often form an attachment to their caregivers. Parents may have a set schedule or may desire to have the same person take care of their kids. Some child-care facilities and agencies offer services in finding a child-care provider that can commit to your schedule or commit a minimum of one year. Some have reliable services, like Trusting Connections Nanny Agency, who offers 24/7 back-up care for unpredictable sick days when you sign up to be a member. If you’re considering a care center, ask about their staff’s turnover rate.
Make sure your parenting style is clearly communicated and understood. Find out whether you and the child-care provider share the same views on sensitive topics such as discipline, entertainment allowance, feeding time, etc. Ask about any uncertain policies (such as urgency fees, sick-days, etc.) facilities might have so you won’t get any unpleasant surprises later.
Unscheduled Visit and Drop-Ins
With today’s technology, everything can be done online including finding child-care providers. However, it may be more beneficial for you to look and inspect the site to see whether they meet your needs and expectations. It is a given that any child-care environment is expected to be clean, childproofed and well equipped with educational toys and books; parents should also consider other details before signing up. Do infants and babies share the same play area as older children? How are the play rooms set up? According to Parents.com “a room or separate area dedicated solely to swings and bouncers may look appealing at first glance, but keep in mind that growing babies need plenty of floor time to develop and strengthen their muscles”. If you have in-home provider, pop in unannounced from time to time to see how things are going.
If you are considering an in-home child-care provider, try creating a plan which involve consistent communication between you and your child-care provider. Let them be aware of what’s going on with the child before handing them over and seek the same level of information when you come home. Set up a schedule for caregivers to call or send text messages throughout the day to keep you updated.
Trust your Intuition
Call it mother’s intuition, parents know when something doesn’t feel quite right. Do thorough research, read reviews, and schedule a time to meet with the care provider(s) to “feel them out”. You may like what you read about a center/agency online but felt completely opposite after meeting face-to-face and that’s okay. Keep looking. Your child deserves to be placed under a provider that offers good, nurturing, and safe child care. If you have second thoughts, continue to look for other options.
Expect and Accept Change
We mentioned seeking out a child-care provider that is consistent, reliable and could commit, but we also know you’re not obligated to just one permanent caregiver. If things don’t pan out the way you anticipated, you can always make a switch.
We hope these tips help you narrow down your child-care options. Remember you are the essential source of care and love in your child’s life and with the right choice of child care, you can head off to work with one less worry.