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10 Considerations When Picking A Daycare (Part 2)


     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.

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     This is the second part of a three part series.  You can find the first part I discussed here.

4.  Food: What kind of food do they serve?  And what are the rules regarding food?  
There are places that have fantastic meal plans, and people will bring their children for that reason alone.  I've worked at places where it is completely vegetarian (down to the fact you can not use Jello because gelatin is made from animal products), and as organic as possible.  They serve hot lunches and provide enough for all children to have seconds and thirds.  What you need to watch out for are places that try to be cheap with food.  There are places that will use canned cheese and throw it on some tortillas, put potato chips on a cheaply made casserole, serve hot dots, and count Ketchup as a vegetable!  

     When it comes to infants, most daycares differ on their rules.  It is not required to allow breast milk at the center.  Some centers do not have the correct refrigeration to accommodate this service.  On the other hand, some centers encourage it, and allow the mother to come in on her break to feed her baby.  If the baby is on formula, it may or may not be provided by the daycare.

  
5.  Required training for staff and standards for the daycare center:  Who does the daycare hire?  High school students? College students?  The best daycares will hire people with a degree in Childhood Education.  At the very least, all teachers, should have their CDA ( Childhood Development Associates).

     Along with their degrees, ALL employees need to stay up to date on CPR and First Aid certification.  This has to be updated every two years.  Some places will even have their employees update it every year instead.  According to most states licensing standards (talked about next), teachers need to continue to educate themselves, around 12 hours a year.  There are programs around that have teacher development classes. They are, usually, only 1-2 hours and keep the teachers and centers up to date on common practices.

     What about the center itself?  Is it licensed?  This means that the center has to follow a list of standards, or rules set in place by the state.  It covers teacher/child ratio, menus, discipline, health and safety rules and more.  Somebody from the state will visit at least once a year to certify that the center is complying to all of the standards.

     A center can also be Accredited.  This is optional for the center, but it holds them to a higher standard if they do it.  These are standards created by national groups such as NAEYC (National Association for the Eduction of Young Children).  Some things that are addressed with this particular accreditation are: curriculum, teaching methods, assessment of progress, community relationships, and physical environment.  There are a multitude of subcategories under these topics as well.  When interviewing a center, ask them if they are accredited through any groups.

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6.  Curriculum:  The curriculum is what help guides the child's development.  There are many different areas of child development.  They are: Cognitive, Language, Social, Emotional, Physical and Cultural.  The best caregivers will know their students and how to develop each of these areas for each individual.

   If the class is interested in blocks and building, the teacher(s) can do a whole unit on it, and still foster learning!  Hopefully, the teachers are doing activities according to the development of the children in their class.  We always hope that they are aware of the different stages of learning.  Don't be worried though if your child's teacher says we explored blocks today.  On the surface, that may just seem like playing.  Playing with blocks can foster lots of experiences for the child though.  They could be noticing the blocks weight difference, the different colors, or maybe sorting them by size.

They can see that the bigger blocks weigh more, and work better on the bottom of a tower then the little ones.  The child could be using problem solving skills to figure out why the blocks will not stack when placing them on the edge of each other. He/she may have a friend playing with him which is fostering social interactions.  There is usually more going on then "just playing" in a daycare classroom.  Ask to see a lesson plan.  These can provide you more insight into what happens in a classroom.  Also ask them how often do they send them out to parents, if at all.


     There really is a lot to curriculum but the other thing I would like to talk about is art.  Art is, and should be, abundant in daycare centers.  Art is an expression of each child.  They put their own self into it, even if it's just some scribbles on the paper.  Those scribbles show that the child is learning how to hold a crayon correctly, how to move the arm back and forth to create an image on the paper, and they are choosing where on the paper to make marks.  It is a great activity to foster fine motor development.

     Please be very cautious of uniformity in artwork.  Looking at artwork on the walls, and there SHOULD be artwork, I hope you don't find five identical pieces of art.  There should be a variety of different outcomes to show children are drawing what they want to draw.  Each child is an individual and that should be allowed to be shown in the art.  So what if it's not "pretty"?  So what if Tommy only put one line on the paper?  There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to art.  Everyone in the class should have something displayed on the wall that he/she created, and can take pride in.

Check out the third part in this series here!

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