How do you know if your child is in a good childcare center?
What is a good childcare center? A good childcare center provides for your child’s needs emotionally, physically, and educationally. Although the primary purpose of a childcare center is to care for your child when you are working, it can do much more than just baby-sit.
Steps in selecting a childcare center.
- A childcare center should be licensed by local authorities. You can check with local city or county agencies to verify whether the center is accredited.
- The director and/or teachers should have an educational background with young children.
- Talk to parents who have their children enrolled at the center and get their opinion of the school.
Physical environment. Physical safety is paramount in selecting a place for your child.
- Does the center adequately protect your child, for example, can the child run outside to the street?
- Are the toys child-proofed against injury? Are the climbing toys outside and inside safe from breaking or falling on a child?
- Are the bathrooms adequate? Does the center have children wash their hands, and is there a healthy cleanliness policy?
- Are nutrition times adequate? Are the children given foods that are limited in sugar, fat, salt, and additives?
- Is the school too clean or too dirty? If the school seems very clean, are the children allowed to play in a sandbox or with paint and clay or with toys children this age enjoy?
- Is the furniture adequate and appropriately sized for the children?
Emotional environment. Young children need a great deal of acceptance and warmth in a context that sets reasonable limits for them.
- Is discipline too lax or too severe? Children need limits appropriate to their age. If you can, observe the school in action to check teachers’ behavior.
- Are teachers there consistently? Young children bond with loving teachers and may have difficulty if the teachers continually change.
- Does the school have a plan to help both parents and children separate from each other? Are parents allowed to observe their children? Sometimes separation anxiety is a major problem that is solved easily if handled correctly.
- Do the teachers come to your home initially to allow your child to get to know them? This often avoids the problem of separation anxiety.
- Is the atmosphere tense or relaxed? The feeling tone of both children and teachers is an important indicator of how your child may do.
- After attending for a short time, is your child eager to go to the center? Often parents do not listen to young children. Children will often indicate by words or behavior whether the center is good for them.
Educational environment. A good day care center can provide a positive learning experience for your child both socially and academically.
- Does your child have a chance to develop socialization skills? This involves playing with and interacting with other children without being bullied by a stronger, more-aggressive child.
- Does the center have a plan to introduce children to or play with age-appropriate games and toys, such as clay, crayons, gross and fine motor coordination activities, paper and pencil tasks, blocks, puzzles, and other items that help children learn about their environment and about each other? Interactive toys especially help children learn about each other.
Recommendations: When you finally pick the right place for your child, learn how to interact with your child’s teacher and the center’s director. It may only take a few words when you pick up or deliver your child to check that all is going well. The happier and more confident you are with the center, the more you will communicate this feeling to your child. You can learn many things about your child by just talking with the teachers, things you might not have observed yourself.
- Be sure to check with other parents whose children attend the childcare center.
- Ask your pediatrician about the childcare center. He or she may be able to make recommendations.
- Be particularly aware of any negative behavior or changes that your child is exhibiting.