Finding the right daycare may be one of the most important decisions you make for your young child. Attending daycare even for a couple hours a day can help children gain a solid foundation in sharing, resolving arguments, and communication skills. Not to mention, having a reputable daycare lined up gives parents peace of mind about leaving their child for hours at a time.
As you start planning your search for a daycare, here are somethings to keep in mind:
- Start early! Daycares tend to fill up quickly and waitlists can get quite long, especially for the best ones. If you plan to return to work after your maternity leave, you will want to start the search about six months into your pregnancy. Make sure to look at enrollment deadlines to ensure that you are on schedule.
- What’s the word on the street? Read reviews. Talk to other parents. Hearing someone’s first hand experience can give great insight into how a daycare center is managed.
- Talk to the daycare center: Give them a call and ask questions over the phone or through email.
- Visit your top choices: Once you have narrowed down your search, it is a good idea to visit and tour your top choices for daycare centers. Seeing them in person and how they go through their day-to-day is crucial.
When visiting, here is just a short list of things you should look for:
- Active staff and happy children
- Interaction between staff and children
- A variety of activities (dancing, outside play, games, etc.)
- Age groups are separated
- There are security measures and the doors are locked
- Caregiver hands are washed regularly
- Health and safety standards are being followed (washing hands, wiping down common areas, diapers are changed often, etc.)
- All children are being supervised at all times and there is sufficient staffing to do so
- The space is organized for smooth transitions from one activity to another
- Limited use of passive technology (iPads, TV, etc.)
- Parents are welcomed in a warm and caring environment
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is an important foundation for both you and your child as they get their social and educational start. Be as thorough as you can so you have all the information you need to choose the right daycare for your child.
Want a more thorough checklist to print out and take with you? Download and save this Quality Checklist from the Florida Office of Early Learning.