As you already know, finding and choosing the right daycares near me for your baby is more than an essential step, much like any other decision concerning the development of your child at such an early stage. Of course, you can’t help but worry that your baby is going to spend so much time with people that are not you or part of your family. This is perfectly understandable and, provided that you try to keep a cool head and a clear record of things to check, it can even help you make a better decision. There are several signs you can look for in order to identify the perfect daycare center for your baby, such as its reputation, its system of ground rules, its curriculum, staff, food and the cleanliness of its facilities. But first…
Is a daycare center the right choice for you and your baby?
Before you start looking up daycares near me, you should first consider whether or not this is the right option for you and your baby. There are several advantages that plead for entrusting your child to a specialized center, rather than to a nanny or a family member. For instance, some parents opt for a daycare center because it provides a formal, structured environment. This means that the center is inspected in order to obtain a license, the caretakers are sometimes supervised and the entire operation happens under the management of a director. Furthermore, a daycare center offers more stability and it will never drop out on you because a caretaker is ill, on holiday or doesn’t want to work with you anymore. When you hire a nanny, you might be worried about how she or he will handle certain trying situations, but with a daycare center, you can rest assured that the staff is trained in early childhood education particularly to face these situations professionally and in a benefic manner for your child. They will even be able to provide a combination of entertaining and educative activities for your baby, which will give him or her the opportunity to learn skills and to interact with other children of the same age.
On the downside, you too will obviously have to abide by the regulations of the daycare center, which can mean fees for late pick-ups, having to find back-up care when the center closes for holidays and staying at home when your baby is ill. At the same time, the risk of your baby catching a disease might be higher. Finally, you might be worried that your child will not receive as much attention and love in daycare as they would if they were cared for by yourself or by a family member.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to find the best option for your baby, so make sure you consider all of these things when you decide.
What to look for when looking for a daycare center near you
Begin with a key, more personal question – what do you want from a daycare center? Try to make up a list of things that are important to you and prioritize them! This will help you keep a clear head during your search and ultimately, make the right decision. Some parents would like the daycare center to be close to their working place, while others prefer a center that is closer to home. The center’s license and credentials are also an important element to consider. A license, however, is not a guarantee of quality, as it only shows that the center meets minimum health, safety and staff training standards. If you want a clear sign of quality, you want to look for accredited daycare centers, which have undergone a more complete and demanding process of evaluation conducted by the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children). Only a small fraction of licensed daycare centers are accredited, however, and you might not find any nearby. This is not a reason to despair, as accreditation isn’t everything and firsthand experience at the center can also indicate whether or not it meets your requirements.
Of course, a great clue as to the quality of the center is its reputation. Your family, friends and acquaintances can help you with their previous experiences with daycares so feel free to ask around! Also, you can ask any center to provide you with some references and you can give them a call too. They might be somewhat biased in favor of the center, but you can still find out a lot by asking specific questions such as why do they like it, as opposed to whether they liked it or not.
When you decide to try out a daycare center, first you should make sure to pay it a visit yourself and to familiarize yourself with the staff and the director. It’s also a good idea to let your child test it, by bringing him or her in for a couple of hours and observing the interaction with a caretaker or tutor. When you do visit, you will want to ask for a copy of the daycare’s policy in order to make sure they have clearly established regulations for every situation and a strict sick-child policy that will keep your baby safe. Obviously, if the center does not have an open door policy or is against unannounced visits from parents, they most likely have something to hide, so you’ll want to keep looking.
Make sure you familiarize yourself with the curriculum of the daycare. A good center will have a structured schedule that includes a variety of fun and educative activities, physical and intellectual. You’ll also want to make sure that the daycare provides a wide range of toys appropriate for the age of your child, which will stimulate his or her development and creative thought. The staff that implements this curriculum is one of the most important elements you have to consider. Are there enough employees and are these caretakers educated for their task? Make sure that there are no more than eight infants in a group and that such a group is managed by two caretakers, because you want your baby to get the attention it deserves and needs in order to develop harmoniously! Take some time to talk to the staff and check that your philosophies on sleep, discipline, feeding and other care issues are a match. They should inspire trust, reliability, but also enthusiasm to you. For instance, a good caregiver will ask you detailed questions about your child’s care and health to help you determine whether or not this is the right center for you.
Finally, you should check that the food they serve is healthy and nutritive for your baby, as healthy eating habits develop at this time in his or her life. Most importantly, you should conduct a thorough search in the cleanliness and safety of the facilities provided by the daycare – are the floors, walks and walls clean? are the upstairs windows screened? is medicine out of reach? are smoke detectors in place and are the standard childproof techniques used? If so, make sure there is enough outdoor and indoor space for your baby to play and develop in.
If your chosen daycare meets these criteria, you may have found what you are looking for!
We know that your baby deserves nothing short of perfection, but when looking for a daycare center nearby, you should also keep a realistic perspective. Expecting everything to be ideal might get in the way of the right decision. What you can do, however, is make a thorough list of all your demands and rank the daycares you visit accordingly so that you make sure you pick out the best for your child. Speaking of which, even though your baby is very young, never forget to consult their feeling of the place before you choose. Even if they cannot talk, they can still show you whether or not they feel comfortable or happy. Ultimately, their comfort and safety are the most important things!