by Dr. Michele Borba
Reality Check: Blogging About Parenting Issues and the Solutions to Solve Them
Posted on May 14, 2010
OK, you’ve read the results. You recognize know that the study says the key to reap academic and behavior gains for your child’s success is to find a QUALITY care giver. Of course you want a great day care for your child. But how do you know which facility is the best one for your child? How do you know which is a quality care facility? My strongest recommendation: Observe a few. And always observe when children are there. It will help you decide if it’s a place you want your child to spend part of his or her day.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself and the staff in making your final decision:
1. Does this seem like a place my child would like to be?
Use your instinct on this one. Can you see your child fitting in and being comfortable in this environment? Are the children enjoying themselves? Do they appear to be happy and active? Is there a variety of activities that are age-appropriate for the children? You know your child better than anyone, so rely on your instincts.
2. Are there rich, interactive language experiences?
Watch the staff interaction with the children closely. Are they talking with the children? Are the children communicating with the staff? Are there rich language experiences and if so are they “hands-on” (not just paper and pencil)? For instance, is the staff reading, speaking, listening to the children? Are there outings, art, dress up, and play type of activities in which children can communicate with peers? Is there a television and if so, is it being used as a “baby sitter”?
3. Is the staff knowledgeable about child development?
Ask the staff what their philosophy about early childhood education is (don’t worry if you don’t know their answer – make sure they have one). Ask how the staff is trained in child development and how frequently? How many of the staff are credentialed in early childhood education? How do they stay current on the latest child development research (such as this study)? What is the educational background and credentials of the supervisor?
4. What is the daily schedule?
There should be a consistent daily structure where children know what is expected. Is there a balance between physical activities and quieter ones? Watch the children. Are they doing the kinds of activities your child would enjoy doing? There must be rich language experiences and activities that stimulate cognitive growth to reap those gains. Make sure children are actively engaged in creative play, interacting with adults, and are not just sitting and doing paper and pencil tasks. Make sure the television is not used as a baby sitter! Then visualize your child in this setting: Is this a good match for your child’s needs, temperament and abilities?
5. What is the ratio between staff and children?
It’s always best to have a smaller number of staff to children. You want to make sure your child is being closely watched. You also want to make sure there is positive interaction (face-to-face!!) between that caregiver and your child.
6. Is the staff “kid friendly?”
Watch the interaction between the staff and children. Do they enjoy kids? Are they patient and kid-oriented? Are they respectful towards them? And (most importantly) do the children appear to enjoy the staff? The “kid friendly” rule has always been the one I was the pickiest about when choosing a school for my own children. A key to the study was that a “High Quality Caregiver” was warm, supportive and provided quality cognitive stimulation. Watch for those traits!
7. What is the discipline policy?
Ask what their discipline approach is for inappropriate children’s behavior – especially for hitting or biting. Ask, “How do you deal with aggressive children?” Make sure they have a thought-out plan and you agree with their plan. Watch how the children interact with one another: are they caring or aggressive? If you witness an aggressive child, how does the staff respond? The NIH report found that the longer a child was in day care the more likely he would be impulsive at age 15. Habits are formed early. Make sure the facility has a proactive approach to behavior and knows how to replace acting out, aggressive behaviors with more appropriate ones.
8. Is the Day Care within my budget?
Are there any additional costs for the program such as materials or transportation? Find out the entire budget. Is it worth the cost?
9. Will my child fit in and be safe here?
Is it well gated? Are electrical sockets covered? Are fire extinguishers available? How well are they equipped to deal with accidents? Is the staff trained in CPR? Hopefully, there will never be a safety issue, but a good day care makes sure that children’s safety is a primary focus. What do you when my child or other children are ill? Find out what the policy is when children are ill at the center. Is there a supervised location where they can be removed from the other children? Could I see my child in this facility or with this care giver? Is this a place where he would fit in, feel comfortable and thrive? (Use your instinct! Get into the shoes of your child and see the caregiver or facility from your child’s eyes!)
10. Does the staff share the same values as I do?
These people will be sharing their lives with your child, so you want them to hopefully share a few similar values. Think through what are your core beliefs about raising your child and watch to see if the staff models them. For instance: Are they respectful? Do they require children to be courteous and are they courteous to children? Are they dressed neat and appropriately?
For more parenting strategies on this and 101 other issues refer to my latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. You can also follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba and subscribe to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check on my website, MicheleBorba.