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10 Considerations When Picking A Daycare (Part 1)

     I have had quite of bit of experience working with children since I graduated college with my BA in Early Childhood Education, almost 10 years ago (OH MY!).  During this time I had mostly worked at daycares, with a few years subbing in elementary schools.  I have worked at daycares in four states and have seen firsthand what parents should be looking for when making this big decision.  Here is a list of what I feel to be 10 of the biggest things that you should be considering when doing your research.

* This is a three part series.  These are in no particular order, as they are all important in their own way.

1.  STAFF TURNOVER – This will actually tell you a lot about a daycare.  They may look great on paper, but if they are constantly going through staff, there has got to be a reason.  Whatever the reason is, parents would benefit from finding this out. Asking other parents is a great way to find out about this.

     There are two main reasons why it is important.  If there are a lot of people coming in and out, there could be something wrong with the daycare that is not visible to a prospective parent.  Another reason against change over is the effects it can have on your child.  Consistency is very important in young children.  It gives them a sense of security when they have to be left with people who are not family members.  When new teachers are coming in and out of the room it can create emotional anxiety in children.  If a child gets anxiety from going to daycare then they are losing focus on the important things, such as learning, social interactions and exploring.   Eliminating this anxiety, with having a consistent teacher, will help the child flourish and give him the opportunity to create a very special bond.

     Ask the center if they practice continuity of care.  This is when one or more teacher(s) stays with the group while they enter different age brackets.  The alternate is the child moves from teacher to teacher as they grow (similar to the elementary school system).

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2.  LOOK INTO THE ROOMS: Drop in and do an unscheduled visit. Try to avoid times between 12:30 and 3:00 due to nap.  Most likely room doors will be closed and you will not get to see anything.  If the center does not allow drop in visits at all, it could be a red flag. Here are some things to look for while watching a room.

  • What are the teachers doing?  Hopefully they are interacting with the children!  Quite often there will be more than one teacher in the room.  Look to see if they are more interested with the conversations between each other or with the children.  They should be sitting on the floor, interacting with the children, if not working with them at centers or table work.  They should NEVER just be sitting in a chair and watching them.  Also, the language they use.  You wouldn't think this would be an issue in childcare settings but I have seen it myself.  Listen to how they talk with the children.  Are they yelling at them, putting them down, swearing at them (yes, this DOES happen), or are they using gentle, encouraging language?

  • There are centers that allow, (and sometimes even encourage) the use of televisions.  There is simply no need for cable television in daycares.  You, as a potential parent, are going to be paying for the center to enrich your child’s life, not to sit them in front of the tube.  Teachers may use videos (youtube or other educational sites) to show a theme item, but it should be a very small part of the lesson plans.


  • Are the rooms clean?  I’m not referring to toys on the floor.  Look at the walls, tables, floors, sinks, toilets or anything else you feel should be cleaned daily.  You might not clean them every day at your home, but at a childcare facility, there are A LOT of germs around and it is imperative that cleanliness is a priority to them.  Along these lines, look to see where they keep their cleaning materials.  If you don’t see them, ask!  They need to be in locked cubbies, if not a separate room.  Remember, these facilities usually smell of dirty diapers regularly; use your eyes over your nose.
  • Does each child get their own cubbies? Each child needs their own space.  You will usually have to bring extra clothes, blankets, etc.  Sharing space does happen, and the center may get away with it because the children that share come on different days, but it is not ideal.
  • Is there artwork displayed on the walls?  When a child sees his artwork displayed it gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment (even if they do not know what those words mean yet)  As a potential parent, it is a quick way to check to see if activities are done with the group.  I will talk more about the TYPE of artwork that is appropriate in Part Two.
There are other things that are instantly visible when looking at the rooms as well such as size of room, age appropriate furniture, appeasing set up of centers etc.  A potential parent can learn quite a bit by just standing at a classroom’s door for 5-10 minutes.

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3.  KNOW YOUR STATES RATIOS:  Understandably, most people will not know all their state’s licensing requirements.  A potential parent should definitely look up is ratios before every looking at daycares.  How many children are allowed to be with one teacher?  You should not only ask the director their policy, but also peek into the rooms to see if they are accurately following this.  These ratios are put into place to protect the children.  Don’t be surprised if they are low either.  Currently, in the state of Indiana, an infant room ratio is one teacher to four babies, or 1:4.  In a toddler room, once they are ALL walking and up to 2.5yrs old, the ratio is 1:5.  When they are ALL age 2.5yrs old, the ratio goes to 1:7.  Lastly, preschool (ages 3 and up) is 1:10. 

Keep checking back for Parts Two and Three!

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