There is much debate as to whether pre-school children are better off at home or in daycare. No matter your opinion, for those parents who choose daycare finding one that is of the utmost quality is important. With so many daycare choices, choosing one may seem overwhelming. However, there are easy ways to discern a poor center from a quality one.
Most parent’s first consideration is cost, and ironically, this should be the least important, budget permitting. The most important indicators of quality are obvious when you first approach a center. Determining quality starts during the initial phone call, if you make one, to inquire about openings. Many small daycares cannot afford a full-time receptionist to answer calls so you will be speaking directly with a teacher or director. No matter whom you speak with, they should be able to answer your questions about the center and not obviously be taking their attention off screaming children or trying to talk to them and you at the same time.
When you first walk into a center, it should be clean. Not only because you don’t want your child rolling around in filth, but because a clean appearance means staff take pride in the center. The cleanliness of the floors, counters, tabletops, toys, etc. is a good indicator that staff pays attention to detail and if they care about their image, they will be more likely to care about your child as well. It is always good to see displays of children’s work and bulletin boards so you know they are doing activities that both entertain and enrich their time at daycare.
You should see happy children and teachers, yes where there are young children there will always be temper tantrums, but overall the children should seem content and engaged. Just walking in and observing once isn’t enough to get a good idea about the quality of the center. Visit the center at different times, some unannounced, to see how the children and teachers interact during various times of the day, especially notoriously difficult times like nap time and mealtime. Allowing these open visits indicates that a center has nothing to hide from parents and is crucial in determining how teachers interact with children.
Parental communication is very important in the success of your child’s time at daycare. Centers should have a written as well as verbal communication policy used to communicate with parents on a daily basis. Teachers should let parents know what their child did that day, how much they ate if they napped etc. Parents should also be invited to participate in parties, trips, and volunteer in the classroom.
Lastly, you should consider the location of the center. For instance, there is Heights provides preschool and child care programs in the Houston that is a perfect choice for people that live in Houston and nearby region. Choosing a daycare in a nearby region has its own perk which is why it is recommended that you choose one near you.
The daycare industry is notorious for having under-trained staff that makes minimum wage with high turn over rates. Because of this, parents should make sure the staff is properly trained and qualified to care for young children. Don’t be afraid to ask for credentials. Staff should know CPR, first aid, and have medication training as well as some kind of childhood education training. Ask how long staff has worked at the center, a high turnover rate can cause confusion and make the daycare environment unstable for children when they are exposed to many different teachers. Teachers who have been with a center for a long time are probably happy there, in turn creating a warmer, happier environment for the children. Along with turnover, some centers rotate teachers or shifts and this too can cause confusion and unpredictability.
Clear routines and policies help to make children feel secure, young children thrive on routine and predictability. Ask about schedules, discipline policies, and routines to make sure your child will be able to adjust. You should receive a written copy of that information as well as how they handle payments, holidays, and sick children. When you visit, observe whether or not these policies are being used.
Almost every state has a set of the child to teacher ratios for daycare centers and following these guidelines, or having fewer children per teacher, are a key indicator of quality. Most guidelines are around 4 infants under 1 year per teacher, 7 toddlers 1-2 years per teacher, 10 children 2-3 years per teacher, and 12 children 3-5 years per teacher. While some state’s regulations allow more or less, a daycare’s ratios should never exceed the limits of your state. Find out what the requirements of your state are before you choose a daycare.
Speaking with parents is a good way to get opinions about the center; a quality center will not have many complaints and have satisfied parents. In the end, you should go with the center that makes you and your child feel the most comfortable.