Finding the right childcare for your baby/child and family involves much more than we realize. Much like parenting, we learn as we go and don't know what we don't know until we're in the thick of it. That's why I recommend parents taking time to do some reflecting and thinking about their parenting values and philosophy first, because that will help you know which childcare options are a good fit. You'll want your childcare to match your parenting philosophies and beliefs.
Things to consider...first, what type of childcare would you like? Do you want a family childcare provider (in someone's home), a center, a nanny?
- Think about how each option works with/impacts your family.
- Consider location, drop-off/pick-up times and routines for your family.
Once you've narrowed it down and go visit places, here are some things to look for in their published information and to observe and discuss while there:
- What is the caregiver/child ratio? The county has regulations, but you'll find some that keep ration lower than the regs, which provides higher quality care for each child.
- What does the schedule include? Is every minute of the day scheduled or are children free to make choices and decide how to spend their time?
- How do they handle a crying/fussy baby/child at rest time? (Based on your values and philosophy, you'll want to be sure this matches up) - do they respond to cries? Do they use a carrier if needed with infants?
- What is their discipline and behavior management philosophy (for toddlers/preschoolers)? If they use time-outs or any form of punishment, be wary. How do they handle hitting, kicking, biting (with both the aggressor and the impacted child)? (This is so important because oftentimes the aggressor is punished, but these behaviors are a normal part of development and need to be handled with empathy, connection and love.)
- Do staff understand child development, brain development and have appropriate expectations for the children? Do they expect two-year-olds to sit for 10 minute circle time? (Because they can't and shouldn't be expected to sit still for this long)
- Do they allow you to stop in un-announced at any time during the day to see your child?
- Do they acknowledge your child when you all arrive? Upon arrival, do they force child to join an activity or follow her lead?
- Do they follow the children's lead for most things? Activities, eating, joining in vs sitting back and waiting until she's comfortable?
- How much playtime (indoors and outdoors) do children get?
- Are infants and toddlers sharing a space or in separate spaces? (For safety reasons consider if you want toddlers in the same space as infants)
- What is staff morale like? Do staff members get along and seem happy to be there? What is turnover like? (Turnover isn't good for children because it means they lose a caregiver who they've grown to know and trust and who has grown to know them.)
- How do they communicate with you? Daily logs (with # of diaper changes, how much milk drank, when she napped, general mood), weekly updates? How interested are they in hearing from you each morning about how baby slept last night, what she ate this morning?
A huge help is referrals from people you know, especially if you know they have similar parenting philosophy to yours.
Most importantly, trust your gut. You know when something doesn't feel right or match up with your values, if something feels off to you, don't settle for a place you don't feel great about. You deserve to feel great about where you baby is when s/he's not with you!