Congratulations on the recent or soon-to-be addition to your family! This time in life is full of so many decisions – from which diaper brand is best to which pediatrician to call – and all of them can be nerve wracking. But for many parents, the decision that often causes the most angst is, “Who will take care of my child while I’m at work?”
Choosing the right care for your child – whether an in-home daycare, nanny, preschool or child care center – is a difficult and emotional task. To start, you may need to do some research and budgeting to figure out what environment will best meet your needs.
If you’ve decided that a preschool or child care center is the right choice for your family, the next step is determining which provider is the best fit. Asking yourself the right questions can help make this feel less daunting and help you determine what is most important for you and your family and help narrow your search.
Here are a few questions and tips for finding and evaluating child care providers in your area:
When should I start looking for child care?
The sooner the better! Starting the research process early helps the decision feel less rushed and less overwhelming. The arrival of a new baby brings a flood of emotions and having the facts of each option beforehand can help. Take your time visiting many different options and secure spots on different waitlists until you make your final decision.
Should the provider be closer to work or home?
This is a personal preference for you and your family. Which family member will be taking your little one to school and picking her up? If you are thinking of choosing a location near your home, will you always go straight home after work, or will you need to run errands or drive to other activities afterwards? How often do you and/or your spouse get stuck late at work and what are the traffic patterns? Also, take proximity to your pediatrician into account – if your child gets sick, it’s not ideal to be across town from the doctor’s office.
What factors are important to me and my child?
Child care providers often have varying pricing structures. Some include meals and enrichment activities in their tuition and others charge extra for these services. Ask yourself what items are important to you and your family: curriculum, enrichment activities, safety procedures, hours of operation, well-balanced meals and snacks? Make your wish list then be sure each school to clearly explain everything it provides. Having all the facts and costs up front will help you decide which option is the best fit for your family.
These three questions are important but we know they may only scratch the surface of factors you want to consider when selecting a child care provider. Here are some additional questions that might be helpful:
- What are the teachers and staff like? What training do teachers receive?
- What does the daily schedule include?
- What makes the curriculum/programming unique? Are things like outdoor time, music and foreign language included?
- How does the provider communicate with parents? Is there an app that provides real-time updates or are written reports sent home daily?
- How long is the wait list? What times of the year might my child have a better chance of getting in instead of being placed on a wait list?
- What do I need to pack for my child and what is provided? Do they provide meals/supplies?
- Are drop-off and pick-up times flexible? Is there a charge if I’m running late?
- How are rooms kept clean and germs controlled? For example, are infants assigned their own individual cribs? Are toys and equipment sanitized on a daily basis?
- What safety precautions does the provider have in place? How will the school communicate in the event of an emergency?
- What are the classroom facilities like and what is the teacher-child ratio in each class?
Check out our Quality Child Care Checklist to help you on your search!