Choosing the right daycare center or preschool for your child is very important. Ask lots of questions. Run away if the child care director gets offended by questions or doesn’t want to answer you (I’ve had this happen to me!). You have every right to ask the questions. This is your child and you want the best for him/her, the child care center should understand this!
When should you start looking?
Child care for infants:
Start as soon as you know you are pregnant or as soon as you know you will be returning to work. You don’t want to wait until the last minute. Being prepared and organized is essential for surviving parenthood!
Many preschools start to take applications in January, and may hold open houses even sooner, but you should check with each individual program. Start looking at schools the September before you want your child to attend (when your child is 2 or almost 2). Check with the school to find out the details on age qualifications and other factors such as required potty training.
What questions should you ask?
Choose the questions that are important to you.
What does accreditation mean?
NAEYC stands for the National Association of the Education of Young Children and accredited members are caring for children from birth to age 8. CAIS stands for the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools and accredited members care for children age 2 and up. In order to get either accreditation, there is an application process, site visits, health and safety compliances, and standards to uphold. NAEYC and CAIS accreditation certainly gives a child care center added credibility. But there are also many great child care centers without accreditation.
Montessori schools may or may not be accredited by the American Montessori Association or the Association Montessori Internationale. Montessori is a style of education developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, in 1897, hoping to foster independence and creativity. Some basic Montessori features are: mixed age classrooms, student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options, uninterrupted blocks of work time, a “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with material, rather than by direct instruction.
Again, there are many great schools without any accreditation.
What to look for when you visit:
More to consider:
Are you nursing? Will your child take a bottle? If not, you will need to consider location a high priority. You’ll need a place you can get to quickly and easily to nurse a baby that won’t take a bottle.
Are you feeding with formula? Some places will make the formula up for you, instead of you mixing your formula every day to take with you.
Will you have help making lunches and doing laundry? If not, are you okay with making lunch for your child(ren) every day? If you just have an infant right now, it probably didn’t occur to you, but your child will be old enough to eat full meals before you know it! It gets exhausting to make lunches every day. There are places that offer to make the lunches/snacks/and sometimes even breakfast for you. And there are places out there that will do laundry too (sheets, bibs, etc.). Of course it’s an added cost, but sometimes your time is worth it.
Does your child have allergies? How receptive is the staff to this issue? Do they know how to recognize and handle an allergic reaction? Are they trained in using an EpiPen?
Does your child have any special needs? Are they willing to work with you? Do they have any experience with this? Ask for a reference; someone who has had a special needs child in their center to ask how well they think the child care center handled this. Again, this is your child, ask questions! Do not feel guilty about this!
The 3 most important things to consider are: Reputation, Location, and Cost.
Make a list of the daycares or preschools you are interested in (by using this search). Go visit the center, bring your questions and take notes.
Go with your gut instinct! :-)