Finding the right daycare or preschool program for your child can be a challenge, especially if you’re a first-time parent. There are thousands of daycare programs across the country, and not all of them will fit the needs of your child. Some parents get lucky and find a daycare provider that is everything they could want, but most parents have a rather exhausting search ahead of them. Here are a few tips that should make that search a little easier.
As with most things in life, it’s better to have a reliable daycare provider before you need one. For new parents, this means beginning the search about six months ahead of time. This might mean that an expectant mother should begin the search before her baby is born or young parents should be making phone calls while they’re at home with their children, but the bottom line is that the search should start early.
Ask for Recommendations
The best way to find a good daycare provider is to ask others people who are or have been in your shoes before. Start by asking friends and family members what daycare providers they’ve used themselves or if they know of any that sound promising. Stick to people who share your values and your parenting style for the best results.
Look For Structure
When you go to visit a daycare center or preschool, look for signs of structure and routine. Young children do better when they have a predictable routine to their day. Not only is it comforting, but it helps them better understand time management and reinforces lessons that they learn. A good daycare center or preschool will have a schedule or lesson plan posted for parents to see, so look for that during your visits.
Look For Engagement from Staff Members
Young children obviously need a lot of time and attention, and a good daycare center will provide that. While there doesn’t need to be a structured activity going on all the time, staff members should be engaged with the children. Look for caregivers and teachers playing games with children or giving lessons in small learning groups. It may be okay for some children to play by themselves sometimes, but they should at least be invited to join activities with other children. This should be readily apparent with even the shortest visit.
Look Beyond Credentials
Credentials and licenses are great indicators of quality for daycare centers and schools, but they aren’t everything. It’s very likely that you will run into staff members who will simply spout a mission statement or some jargon about their daycare center’s reputation and credentials. A prepared statement is all well and good, but a good daycare center will be able to provide concrete evidence and anecdotes about why it is the best choice for your child. Ask staff members plenty of questions, and don’t be afraid to try and keep them on their toes.
Don’t Ignore Your Gut
If your gut tells you that a certain daycare center or school won’t be good for your children, listen to it. It’s far more insightful than you realize, so don’t let a stellar reputation or legitimate credentials convince you to stop looking if your gut instinct tells you otherwise.
This guest post is courtesy of Lolo’s Little Darlin’s Daycare & Preschool, a Rexberg preschool that local parents have come to trust with their children’s formative years.