In the end, it comes down to comfort level. But what creates that comfort when you are choosing a daycare center? There are many factors to consider, but the most popular have to do with reputation, facilities and curriculum.
When we think of reputation, we think word-of-mouth. What are people saying? It’s important to listen to the way parents, teachers and staff talk about a daycare center because what is said – and what is not said – indicates not only opinions on the daycare, but often facts as well. For example, parents might say they are comfortable with a daycare. But what makes them comfortable? It could be that the teachers have had background checks or that there are plenty of toys available for the children. Maybe it’s that the administrators and personnel are kind. There could be any number of reasons why parents feel this way. You could fill in the gaps and make assumptions, but it helps to ask.
The same goes for employees. The way staff members feel about the daycare can be telling. Are they satisfied working at the center, or are they complaining? Some questions you might ask are, “How long is the average tenure of a teacher here?” or “How do you, as a teacher, feel at the end of the day?” There is nothing wrong with asking questions.
Reputation goes hand-in-hand with licensing. A good daycare center has the appropriate state and local licenses and has not had serious citations. Good daycares may also have partnerships with community organizations that support its programs. This is important because it means these organizations are putting their own reputations on the line by collaborating, and they are willing to do so.
Facilities are also important considerations. Some indications of good facilities are spaciousness, décor and cleanliness. A daycare center is built to hold a certain number of children and staff members. If the daycare seems crowded, there could be a problem. Ask about capacity. Also note the way the facility is set up. Is there plenty of light? Are rooms open and visible? Are there cameras for remote viewing by staff and parents? Do the bathrooms have privacy for older children?
Décor can include anything from the kind of furniture the children use to wall and ceiling ornaments. Check to see that desks and cribs are appropriately sized and sturdy. Look for children’s artwork on the walls. Are there mobiles or other decorations on the ceilings? Do you think the environment might actually be over-stimulating?
Regarding cleanliness, look at the floors. Are carpets vacuumed? Are tiles polished? How about the desks, counters and kitchens? While cleaning supplies should be out of reach of the children, is it obvious disinfectants are used regularly, even on toys?
Finally, there is the curriculum to consider. A curriculum should be age appropriate and have activities that support communication, language and literacy; social skills and emotional development; exploration and different approaches to learning; development of motor skills; and activities that develop sensory organization. Remember that even infants can benefit from a curriculum that includes listening to music, movement and verbal interaction. Ask to look at the curriculum or even get copies for other parents and professionals to evaluate. And be sure that teachers have the right qualifications – backgrounds and/or degrees in childhood development – to be working in the center. There should be lead teachers as well as assistants, and there should be a low child-to-teacher ratio to make implementation of the curriculum effective.
All of this might sound like a lot to think about, but selecting a place where your children will spend many hours takes time. We recommend you tour a variety of places before you make your decision. We know Sparkles! meets all the criteria listed here, but we want to make sure parents and children are as comfortable and reassured as possible. Set up an appointment today to find out more about us!