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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

10 Questions Savvy Parents Ask Day-Care Providers

Oct 01, 2019 11:36AM
By Sandra Gordon

If you’ll be returning to part-time or full-time employment after your baby is born, you probably know that open day-care spots can go faster than ice cream melts on a hot day. Still, for your child’s well-being and your own peace of mind, it pays to get picky.

Starting about a few months before you’re ready, “visit three to five day-care programs,” says Kris Murray, author of The Ultimate Childcare Marketing Guide (Redleaf Press, 2012). To narrow your selection, here are the top questions Murray suggests asking day-care providers.

What activities will my child do? “There are all sorts of age-appropriate curriculums available now… .” Murray says. To you, it may all just look like fun and games. But that’s the idea. “Children learn best through play,” Murray says.

What’s the teacher-child ratio? Babies and toddlers 12 months old and younger need an adult-child ratio of no more than 1:4 (one adult per four infants). For toddlers 12–28 months old, the ratio should be 1:3, one instructor per three children. Small classes of 10–12 children or fewer are preferred, too.

What’s your policy about unannounced visits? The best answer is, “No problem. We have an open-door policy.” Impromptu parent visits should always be welcome, Murray says. After signing up your child, you should be able to drop by anytime.

How will I know what my child did all day? Some day-care centers will distribute a daily activity sheet detailing what each child experienced that day, such as what she or he had for a snack and how often her or his diaper was changed. Even better is paperless communication. Many day-care centers offer to e-mail or text messages throughout the day.

What are the qualifications of your caregivers? “Ask for a list of the teachers that includes the number of years of experience they’ve had in the field, their degree…or the training they’ve had,” Murray says. Lead teachers should also have five to seven years of experience.

Are drop-off and pick-up hours flexible? If you work from home sometimes or need a half-day of help here and there, look for a day-care option that works with your nontraditional schedule. Day-care that’s less than full time is a growing trend.

What’s the security situation like? When touring a day-care center, ask whether the children are monitored by a secure webcam. Is the feed distributed to the director’s office so there’s oversight of what’s happening in the classroom? (Good.) Can you have access to the feed as well? (Double good.) Not only does camera surveillance provide peace of mind because you can see what’s going on, it allows you to engage in your child’s day (“I saw you help Sam pick up his crayons. That was so nice of you.”).

How often do the kids get to go outside? Beyond extremely hot or cold weather, “there’s no excuse for children not to get outside every day,” Murray says. Your child-care center should support the full health of the child, which includes spending time in nature and being active.

What’s your disaster recovery and emergency policy? If there’s a fire or disaster at the school, you want to know that teachers have been properly trained to respond quickly and effectively. Every teacher should be trained in CPR, too.

Ask yourself: Am I comfortable with the environment? After you’ve narrowed it down to your top picks, spend an hour or two observing a classroom when the kids are awake (not at nap time). What’s the vibe? The day-care center should feel open and warm-hearted. Teachers should look like they’re happy to be there and engaged with the children. If you get a good feeling about the place, chances are your children will like it, too, because they’ll pick up on your satisfaction.

Finally, confirm your selection by finding out what others say. Review testimonials from other parents on the day-care center’s Facebook page and review sites such as Yelp. “Sometimes there are disgruntled employees or an occasional unhappy parent,” Murray says. “If you see 10 great reviews and one negative one, you’re probably fine. Look for a preponderance of positive.” 

Sandra Gordon is an award-winning freelance writer who specializes in parenting.