1. Look down
When you visit a potential daycare, you need to pay close attention to the interaction between the staff and children. A good daycare should have the caregivers on the floor holding the kids and playing with them. During the early years of their childhood, they need to have a close, loving, and interactive relationship with adults. This is why babies need caregivers who are warm and responsive. The children are going to get one-on-one time even when in group care. (There are different laws in individual states when it comes to the ratio of staff to children, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend a one to three for babies up to 12 months.)
2. Asking for a commitment
Babies need predictable and consistent care. This is important because it is needed when forming a secure attachment between the baby and their caregivers. If you are considering an in-home caregiver, then you should try to ask the person in consideration to make a one-year commitment. If it is a center, find more about the caregivers; how long have they been there. Also, find out about the turnover of the center.
3. Doing a policy check
Learn about the parenting philosophies the caregiver uses on issues like discipline (do they scold, or use timeouts). Is the television used sparingly or is it on the entire day? What drinks and snacks are provided? When are the naps offered? How do they put fussy babies to sleep? Another important thing you need to find out is their sick-child policy; what symptoms can prevent a child from being allowed to attend? Also, ask if there is a hack-up option if the in-home caregiver or family day-care gets sick and cannot work. Try to ask as many questions as possible because it is going to help you avoid getting surprised later.
4. Dropping by and spying
While you can trust word-of-mouth from trusted resources and other parents, it is a good idea to have a closer look to determine whether it meets your needs or not. The obvious things to look at include an environment that has been childproofed, kept clean, and well stocked with toys and sturdy books. A detail that you need to keep in mind is that when children are sharing the space, toys that have smaller parts (they are a choking hazard) should always be kept far from younger babies. Infants and babies need to have their own separate areas where they can play and avoid being “loved” too much by the older kids. While having a separate room that is solely dedicated to bouncer and swings might seem like a good idea, but you need to remember that babies are growing and they need a lot of space and floor time to strengthen and develop their muscles.
Try visiting the same center at different times if possible because it will give you a rough idea of their routine and how the staff interacts with the children. It is a good idea to drop by unannounced a couple of times before you enroll your child so you can know how they do things there. These types of visits will help you know whether the place is right for your child or not. Visit more than one setting when comparing local daycares.
5. Keep talking
You will have to rely on what your child’s caregiver tells about how their day until they can talk. It is important to have good communication with the caregiver. When you bring your child to the center, it is a good idea to let the caregiver know how they slept last night, whether he ate breakfast, or if he is teething. When you pick your child, you will be interested to know how their day went. How many diapers did they use? Did he nap and for how long? Was happy during the day? The best way of speaking to the caregiver in person. If this is not possible, then find out a convenient time to call.
6. Problem-solve fast
There is one thing you have to keep in mind, there are times you are going to conflict with the caregiver, and the conflict can be large and small. You need to address any problems immediately because the worst thing to do is to ignore them and grow out of proportion. Most of the issues can be easily resolved while some will need a little more time. Whatever the issue may be, it is very important to treat the caregiver with respect, but do not be afraid of speaking up. When dealing with a difficult subject, it is a good idea to listen to the caregiver’s opinion. You are the one with the final word with an in-home caregiver, but you need to make the caregiver feel like they are heard. Let’s say you have concerns about nap time and want your child to take it earlier. Talk to the caregiver and ask for ideas on adjusting the baby’s schedule.
7. Trusting your gut
Parents usually know when something is not right. Maybe you are turned off by a center that everyone around you loves. If you feel this way, look for another option. You want your child to thrive under good nurturing care. Look for other options if your gut tells you that is not the right one.