Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Tips to Choose the Right Childcare

childcare options, daycareI was a little crazy about choosing the right childcare for Jax.  I began researching childcare options when we first got pregnant.  I started phone interviewing childcare providers months before we would actually be joining.  I started meeting with places about 2 months before we would join.

We chose a family daycare for his first year, and chose to go to a more structured, education-driven daycare when Jax turned one.  It was the right choice for us.  We wanted a nurturing, family-centered environment to start with.  Every family will choose what is right for them.  What was important for my family might not be as important to yours.  We all have different priorities and wants.

The one thing that is every parent's priority is that whatever childcare they choose, it is caring, safe, and a good environment for their child.

Through my experience looking for amazing daycares that work for our family, I have compiled my top tips to choose the right one.

1.  Make sure they are accredited.  Let me start with a story.  This is how we learned to choose only accredited family (AKA, at-home)) day cares.  We went to interview a woman who had an at-home daycare.  I asked what activities they did each day.  She said (roughly), "All different things.  They mostly play video games, watch cartoons."  Um...okay.  One:  I don't want my kid watching TV all day,  Two:  My baby is 4 months old.  I'm pretty sure, even if I was cool with it, he wouldn't have the fine motor skills to pop a ho and steal a car.  That was pretty much the end of the interview for me, but - to not be rude - I asked a few more questions.  I don't remember what I asked her exactly, but I do remember her response was, "I just need the money."  Alright, no.  I do not want my baby spending 8+ hours a day with a woman doing it because she needs the money.  To put the cherry on the shit sundae, as we were walking out, her garage door opened and the distinct skunky smell of weed wafted out.  Wow.  She was the last interview I did with an at-home daycare that was not accredited with the state.

You can find which daycare's are accredited online.  I found a list in Evanston through a few sources, our library had a list, the city of Evanston website, and the child services website for our county.  Once I found the list, I put a flag for each one on a Google map.  That's how I prioritized who to call.  Whoever was on my or my H's route to work got a call.  We interviewed and found Ms. Anne.  A lovely woman who had been running her accredited daycare for the past 15 years.  She was a gem and we loved her.  It was just recently that we moved Jax to an institutional daycare to give him a more educational experience.

2.  Compile a list of questions that you know what you want the answers to be.  For instance, I was concerned about Jax getting enough tummy time and I wanted to make sure someone didn't just stick him in a playpen all day.  I asked, "What activities do you think are important for a 4 month old to do each day?"  I knew the answers I wanted to hear, and some surprised me by giving me answers I didn't think about, but appreciated.  Childcare providers should be able to surprise you with great ideas that you haven't thought of.  They take care of children for a living.  You have the ninos you have and you're figuring it out as you go along.

3.  Ask the childcare provider if you can observe.  If they don't allow observations, you can be sure they're doing a whole lot of nothing all day or they aren't a confident provider.  During the observation, watch how the provider engages with your child.  Watch how they encourage the children to engage with each other.

4.  Ask the childcare provider if you can drop in.  If the provider has a translucent system, and allows parents to participate in their child's day or just come for a visit, then they are confident in what they do.  They know they will be doing exactly what they should be doing.

Our children are the most important parts of our lives.  We grew them, we went through labor, we raise them - they are everything.  Making sure that your childcare provider is giving your child an experience that you are happy with is a top priority.  By following these tips, you can feel (a little) better knowing your child is in good hands.

What I listened to while writing:

Cold is the Night by The Oh Hello's

Emmylou by Vance Joy

Northern Wind by City and Colour

Sarah Smirks, documenting baby's accomplishments

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