Is there anything harder than finding the perfect childcare for our little ones?
It’s a question that plagues a lot of us from the second we see the positive sign on the stick. When I made the choice to go to work full-time when my first son was almost two years old, I had no idea what to look for or even what to ask. Five years later, with owning my own midsize daycare behind me, I had to go through the process all over again. I won’t downplay that it is a scary and stressful process looking for a place that will fit well with your family, but here are some questions and information that you can use to make the best decision.
- Before even going to visit centers, Google them! In Louisiana, childcare facilities fall under the Department of Education-Early Childhood. You may be able to view inspections of the centers and where they stand with state requirements. Also, you can see all of the childcare regulations and having that in your arsenal will have you super prepared for tours.
- See if they have a website or social media page. If they have negative reviews on Yelp but you still want to tour the center, bring up those reviews! Even seeing how the owner/staff handles that will give you a good indication how they handle feedback.
- Don’t forget about referrals from other parents! They may even offer a discount!
- As a daycare owner, I didn’t mind “pop-up” tours. They were a good way to see how things were ran when you weren’t expecting company. Things can be a little chaotic during transitions, but that should be the worst of it. Some centers do require appointments so it just depends.
What to Ask When Visiting Centers
- Now that it’s time to tour, one of your first questions should be what type of license does your center hold? (License should be in plain view in a common area. Type of licenses. Type I: Home center, if serving over 7 children it HAS to be licensed. Type II: Group setting, doesn’t accept ChildCare Assistance or CCAP. Type III: Group setting, accepts Childcare Assistance. These are always subject to change! Refer to the state requirements for most updated information). If the center doesn’t have a license or the license is expired, run, don’t walk away from that place!
- Staffing – What is the turnover rate? Is there any change during the day in my child’s teacher (those transitions can be difficult for little ones)? Ask about CPR and Pediatric First Aid (most if not all staff should be per state regulations). What credentials does their director and other lead teachers have? What hours does the director work? (Should be at least 8 hours of the day) Who would cover my child’s class if his/her teacher was sick?
- Sickness Policy/Medicine/Biting Policy: make sure they have one! This is super important. Even if your child is teething and running a low fever, parents still have to be notified and the child has to return with a doctor’s note saying they aren’t contagious. In group care, it’s imperative that staff and parents follow those policies. Also, biting is normal and happens with little ones, but there should be an exact procedure in place with regards to handling it.
- Ask to see a class schedule or explain a typical day. Class schedules should be in plain display in classrooms of toddlers and older.
- Here for the long haul? Ask about field trips and how those are handled. Also with the older kiddos, ask about potty training and preparation for kindergarten. All unrelated, but things to think about when your baby gets a little older.
- The school menu with all meals should be posted. If your child has allergies or is picky ask how that can be accommodated. Babies should have their own separate area for their bottles, formula, and breast milk.
- Where and how long do they nap? What do they nap on? Some centers provide cots and others require that you provide mats. All babies should sleep in cribs laying on their backs with nothing in the crib with them.
- What’s the visitor policy? What is the policy for Grandma picking up the child instead of you? You should NOT be able to just walk in. Security should be at the forefront before you even enter the building
- What age groups get daily sheets? (For infants this should be required) Daily sheets give a breakdown of what and how much your child ate, times they went potty, activities, reminders, and overall mood of the day.
- Are there cameras? Am I able to view a live feed? Some centers offer a live feed option and some do not.
- Walls should be covered in art, paintings and projects. This includes infants! If you don’t see a lot of art, sensory play, and age appropriate toys, that’s a bad sign!
And last but not least you can really pick up the “vibe” of a center right when you walk in. Employees should be excited and eager! I’ve toured A LOT of centers (hey, I had to scope out the competition when I owned one) and if they aren’t thrilled to see a possible new little one and let’s be frank, a walking dollar sign, it’s probably not the place for you. I hope this helps parents in their quest for finding the perfect fit for their family. If I forgot anything, leave it in the comments!
Great read!! I’m new to the area and searching for childcare. Any suggestions?
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