Tips for Selecting the Best Child Care Option for Your Family

Tips for Selecting the Best Child Care Option for Your Family

Selecting child care is an agonizing decision for most parents. We know from research that the experiences children have in their first five years of life are critical to their intellectual, creative, physical and social-emotional development. Add to that pressure a move across town or to an entirely new city and the decision becomes even more difficult.

Getting child care recommendations from friends and family is the natural place to begin your search. But if you’re new to an area and don’t know many people, try asking your new employer where coworkers send their children.

Once you have a list of options, go through the following steps to help narrow it down:

• Visit each provider’s website to learn more about what they offer.

• Once you’ve developed a short list of top choices, call for more information.

• If you like what you hear over the phone, schedule a tour if you’re able to visit in person.

There is no factor more important to your decision than your impression when you visit a preschool or provider. And there are a few key questions you’ll want to ask either over the phone or as you tour the provider. The whole experience of searching for child care can be overwhelming, so it’s a good idea to write down your questions ahead of time or keep a running list to ensure you don’t forget to ask something that is significant to you.

The following are five topics that are important to ask about when evaluating your child care options:

Early Learning Approach: You may be seeking an unstructured, play-based environment for your child, a more structured approach with guidance from teachers or a balance of both. Know what you’re looking for and ask the school or provider how the approach translates into the daily activities and classroom experiences.

Learning Environment: Observe the children at the preschool or provider—how they are playing and learning, how the teachers interact with them and the atmosphere of the classroom. Ask to see the daily schedule and the rooms your child will grow into so you can picture the full experience. You may also want to ask how the school helps extend what the children learn in the classroom to their home.

Parent Communication: Being away from your child is difficult. Ask about the tools and processes the provider uses to keep parents informed each day. Do they send you a daily overview of the activities your child participates in? Do they send you pictures throughout the day? Good parent communication will help give you peace of mind even on the toughest days.

Safety: Ask about the safety precautions the school or provider has in place (locks, placement of dangerous materials, etc.), as well as if it has an emergency plan for various situations. You’ll also want to know how they will communicate with you in the event of an emergency.

Accountability: Many child care providers are accredited, but not all are held accountable for meeting certain standards on a regular basis. If quality is a big must-have for you, ask how the school or provider measures continuous improvement and whether a third-party holds it accountable.

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