Are you a new mom at the end of your maternity leave? Or perhaps you are headed back into the workforce after taking a hiatus. Choosing the right daycare for your bambino can be stressful. Boss Mom talked to Grace Huxtable-Mount, president of Huxtable Education Solutions and owner of the Learning Experience ,a premier childcare center in Jacksonville, FL., find out what to look for when evaluating a daycare center.
How can I find out about the best daycare centers in my area?
In most states or counties, licensed child care centers are monitored by an
agency like the state Department of Children & Families or Department of
Health & Human Services. These agencies should have an informational listing
of each licensed facility in the area. The listings should inform parents of
each facility’s approved hours or operation, the range of ages that the
center provides care for, and the accreditation status of the center. The
licensing agency’s website should also provide parents with records of each
child care center’s inspection history. Word of mouth is also extremely
powerful. Speaking with other parents who can share what they have
experienced or have heard about a child care center is a great way to gather
information and specific details about a center that you can’t find in any
child care directory.
What criteria should I should use when evaluating a daycare?
There are so many things to pay attention to when considering a child care
center. Some of the basic criteria include cleanliness, curriculum, safety
features, classroom layout, and teacher to child interaction. When visiting
a new center, stop and watch how teachers redirect children who may be
misbehaving and ask the center management team to explain the center’s
discipline policy. Because each child is so unique, most parents have a
variety of expectations. Ultimately you should go with your gut feelings
about a center. You should never feel uncomfortable leaving your child at
the facility that you choose. The teachers and management should make you
feel that your child will be provided with just as much love, patience and
nurturing as you would provide. I believe that a child care center should
provide a good balance of care, education, and fun.
What kind of staff to child ratio should I look for?
A child care center should, at a minimum, follow the staff to child ratio
that is established by the licensing agency in your area. Child care centers
that are accredited might function using a lower staff to child ratio than
is required by licensing. Ratio sizes increase with the age of your child.
Most infant staff to child ratios are 1 to 3 or 1 to 4, while the ratio for
a three year old could be 1 to 12 or 1 to 14.
What kind of experience should I be looking for in my daycare center’s
The licensing agency in your state should have established education
requirements for child care staff. Typically, child care teachers should
have a certain number of hours of child care training or have an associates
or bachelors degree in early childhood or elementary education. When
speaking with the management of a child care center, parents should ask for
examples of the educational background and years of experience of the staff.
Asking about the turnover rate of the staff is a good idea too.
I have an infant. How can I make sure that my baby is getting the
attention she needs?
Leaving your infant with strangers can be unnerving. I believe the best way
for parents to feel confident that their baby is being cared for is to spend
as much time getting to know their child’s teachers as time permits. Try to
spend some extra time in the classroom either when you are dropping off in
the morning, picking up in the evening, or during a long lunch break once
per week or a couple of times per month. This will give you an opportunity
to observe the teachers in action with your little one as well as how they
interact with the other babies in the classroom. These visits should be
welcomed by the child care center because their goal should be for the
parents to be as comfortable as possible. Some facilities have video
monitoring in the classrooms where parents can observe their children online
or remotely by stopping by the center to watch the monitors without the
teachers or your child knowing that you are there.
How can I find out if there have been any complaints filed against the
daycare centers I’m considering?
The licensing agency will have a record of all complaints that have been
filed against the child care centers in your area. If anyone files a
complaint against a child care center, the licensing agency is expected to
investigate it and report its findings.
How can I make sure that my child is learning and being exposed to
developmentally appropriate content?
The field of early childhood education expects child care centers to work on
developing the whole child socially, emotionally, physically and
cognitively. A quality center should have a curriculum that focuses on these
areas of development, and it should also periodically conduct
developmentally appropriate assessments to help parents understand where
their child is relative to what is common among children who are the same
age. Parents should be able to see obvious evidence that their children are
learning. Some examples include increased literacy, vocabulary, use of the
imagination, and an overall excitement for learning or going to school.
Dear reader, if you have a child in daycare right now what other advice would you give to parents?