Written by Susie Beghin
Finding the best daycare for you and your child can be a difficult task. Your child is your most precious resource, and no one knows that better than me. I am a mom of 2 kids (who are teenagers now) and I know that when it was time for me to search for daycare, I was torn between leaving my child in someone else’s care and wanting/needing to get back to work. This is actually one of the reasons why I opened a child care facility. I wanted to create a place that provides parents what they need, and give them comfort that their children are receiving the best education and care possible. As a daycare owner, I want to share some tips about how to find the best child care for you and your child.
When To Start The Search
The first question I usually get from new parents is, “When should I start the search? Should we get on waiting lists while the child is in utero?” I recommend that you start your search early, generally about 12 months in advance of needing care, in order to get into the daycare of your choice rather than settling for the one with the most availability. Many good child care centres are booked about one year in advance, especially for younger children and infants.
How To Select The Location
Now that you know when to start, the next question is location. Should you look for a centre that is located close to your work or home? You need to weigh the pros and cons of choosing a daycare close to home or close to work, or somewhere in between. Most parents choose a daycare centre location that is conveniently on the way to work but also convenient for other family members to lend a hand with pick-up whenever necessary.
3 Look-Fors When Choosing A Daycare
Now that you’ve determined the location, how do you know which daycare is the best fit for you and your child? The only way to answer that question is to visit the child care centre during the day when you can observe three things: the people, the facility and the program in action.
It is important to follow your intuition when choosing a child care centre for your family. After visiting the daycares you are considering, you will know. It will feel right. It will feel like home. The reality is that our children spend more waking hours in child care than they do with us. Parents have busy schedules and in most cases both are working full-time. You want to make sure that during this time, your child is cared for, nurtured, educated and feels like they belong. You want it to be their “home away from home”.
One of the most important things to consider when finding the best daycare is the people, or the teachers and administrators of the centre. A great teacher can make all the difference in the world! Qualities to look for include staff should who are educated in Early Childhood Education and registered with the College of ECEs; have first aid training; and are knowledgeable about child development. In addition, staff should be warm, caring and sensitive to the needs of the children. It is easy when visiting a classroom to tell if the teacher is engaged with the children. When you visit the classroom, check out the teacher-child interactions, and make a note whether the children appear happy and engaged.
The facility where your child will be spending time should be bright, spacious and inviting. It should look clean and well taken care of. Rely on your own instincts. How does the facility look and smell? The health and safety of your child is paramount and the centre should be clean and sanitary.
When it comes to safety, all licensed centres must follow the minimum safety requirements of both the Ministry of Education and local Regional Health department. When you are visiting child care centres, be sure to look for two signs that should be posted:
- Ministry of Education license
- Certificate from the local health department which shows that it passed the latest inspection
These regulatory bodies ensure that all licensed child care centres follow the minimum safety guidelines. Go to the Ministry of Education or Health Department websites for your area to find out the details of the centre’s last inspections.
The program or curriculum is an important part of the decision-making process. You should choose a daycare that follows a philosophy of learning that you agree with. There is much debate over what type of curriculum provides the best learning opportunities. There are several types of curriculum, including Emergent, Montessori and Reggio Emilia, for example. All these curriculum are great for learning and there isn’t one that is better than another. You just need to find the one that fits best with what you believe. All of these curriculums are play-based, which means they use play as the cornerstone of how children learn. All child development literature confirms that play-based learning is the best way for young children to learn, and each of these curriculum involves play at the root of their philosophy. You may be wondering, how does academic work get introduced through play? It’s important to note that play has purpose, and with all curriculum, academics are introduced through planned play activities that achieve a particular skill or objective.
At Alpha’s Discovery Kids, we follow a blend of these philosophies and have created our own curriculum called the Four Pillars of Learning. I also wrote a book called Learn to Play – The Four Pillars Learning System where you can implement our educational curriculum at home.
Remember, not every child care centre is suited for every child. You need to find the right one for you, and make sure you trust your parent instincts. Good luck with your search!
Susie Beghin wants to give children the best start in life. It’s why she founded Alpha’s Discovery Kids in 2012, a daycare and preschool dedicated to providing quality education and a positive learning environment. Within bright and cheerful classrooms and outdoor exploration spaces, little ones participate in Alpha’s Discovery Kids’ enriched curriculum, designed to develop the whole child.