Sending a child to daycare for the first time is a big step for most parents. The idea of leaving them for a full day in the care of someone else can be a scary thought at first. However, within a week or two both you and baby will be settled in nicely and you’ll wonder why you ever worried so much. Making sure you know what to look for in a good child care centre will help ease your worries in the lead up to the big transition:
Visit the centre
When you are first looking at new centres, you will need to set up appointment times with the director. This is so that when you turn up a staff member will be available to take you around for a tour and answer all of your questions. This is great, as you will no doubt have many things you’d like to ask and you don’t want to be rushed around a centre if you are seriously considering sending your child there.
However, once your child has started it is highly recommended that you do the occasional unannounced pop in. You can tell a lot about how a centre is run from a surprise visit.
Child / Adult interaction
Learning through play is a big part of the daycare / pre school experience, so when you turn up to a centre you will likely see a lot of playtime and activity happening around you.
What you should take notice of is what the adults are doing. Are they down on the ground with the children? Are they interacting with the kids as they play? Fantastic!
Or are they standing back and not getting involved at all? This is not so great. While they are probably doing a perfect job of watching the kids and keeping them safe, what you also want is people who get involved as this has been proven to helps kids learn more effectively than just playing on their own. But before you make any snap judgements, make sure you haven’t arrived during free play time, when the kids are supposed to be entertaining themselves.
When your child first starts at daycare, your number one concern is probably based around their comfort and safety, without much thought to education. After all, that’s what school is for later on, isn’t it? Actually, these days even the youngest rooms at a child care centre should have some kind of set curriculum. We don’t mean sitting still and listening to a teacher give a lecture, but even play time should have some kind of learning process included as it has shown that children enjoy and learn from play, even from a very early age. Simply being allowed to play all day long without any set structure will fast becoming boring for a child, no matter their age. Ask the teachers what the typical daily routine is.
A clean and hygienic environment is extremely important in child care centres. Unfortunately, you can’t prevent your child from being exposed to other sick kids occasionally, but you can make sure there are no extra germs by ensuring you choose a place that has a great cleaning service. A professional cleaning service will get rid of all germs and nasties from surfaces and eating areas, as well as make sure the toys and equipment are clean.
As surprising as this may sound, when you are looking at what a centre provides it’s not just all about how many toys they have on offer. It is actually more about the quality of toys rather than the quantity. Too much equipment and too many games can be overstimulating and overwhelming for the kids. They will spend their day moving from toy to toy without much thought for what they are doing. So just a few toys, carefully selected for their stimulating and educational purposes is better.
When you have your initial discussions with centre staff, ask them about their policies and routines. Make sure their ideas are in line with yours regarding discipline, television usage, food and sleep. Not agreeing on major points such as these should be a red flag, because no matter how good a centre is, if you have conflicting parenting values you will find yourself constantly coming up against the centre.
Once you have chosen a place and have been attending for a while, don’t feel locked in forever. Just because you have started at one centre it doesn’t mean you have to stay there if you end up feeling like it just isn’t for you. Of course it is a good idea first to raise any issues or concerns before pulling your child out, but if you feel like the match isn’t a good one after a while there is no problem with leaving and finding a new centre.