As a new parent I have a very hard time exposing my children to major change. It seems that every new decision is met with a whirlwind of fears and anxiety. So you can imagine how meticulous I was when it came down to who was going to be caring for my children.
I think something that is important to recognize is that no one can be you. My innate worry was that whoever I chose to care for my kids, they wouldn’t be able to provide the same quality of care that I could for my children. But unless you have the means to be a stay at home parent that is one worry you’ll have to overcome.
Personally our family didn’t have a stay at home option so we began our search for a daycare. But where do you even begin?
First you will want to decide if you want the daycare near your home or your work. Take into consideration if you plan on moving in the near future as you don’t want your kids to make friends only to have to move them to another daycare. If you’re lucky enough that both your home and your work are close to one another then YAY for you!
Personally our home is a 45 minute drive away from our work AND we planned on moving in the next year. I also wanted to be able to drop in and check on the kids whenever during the day, so finding a daycare near my work made me the most sense for our family.
Next you will want to get recommendations from other parents whose kids currently attend daycare. Believe it or not other parents care about their kid’s well being too and wouldn’t continue to send them somewhere with subpar standards.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list to at least 3 schools I recommend whipping out the excel sheet. It’s one thing to find a conveniently located school with great care, but the most important question becomes can I afford it? Before we even wasted time falling in love with a place we couldn’t afford I called each school to ask about pricing (note they don’t usually post prices online).
Pricing Questions to Ask When Choosing a Daycare
- What is the tuition for my child’s age class?
They will most likely ask for their DOB to confirm which class they would start in. It is important to note whether the tuition is weekly, monthly or yearly so you can compare apples to apples when comparing it to the other contenders.
- What is the registration fee? Is it a one time fee or annual?
Daycares always charge a registration fee of some kind so it is important to factor that into your budget. In addition there may be an initial entry fee OR they may charge the fee at the beginning of each school year to re-enroll your child.
- Is a deposit required? If so, how much and what are the cancellation terms?
Many daycares require a deposit after you’ve accepted an open position in their school. This is to ensure that you don’t forfeit your position at the last minute and then they have no one to fill it. Most will require first month’s tuition paid up front.
- Is there a discount for enrolling multiple children?
All of the daycares we looked at provided a 10% discount on the older child’s tuition if we enrolled both kids.
- Is there a waitlist and if so how much is it to get on it?
In our city the best daycares have considerably long waitlist and require a $50-$75 fee just to even get on it. This is why choosing a daycare while you are still pregnant is VERY important. Some daycares even have a waitlist for children who aren’t even conceived yet!
Now you have all the information you need to decide which schools you plan on touring. Something you will want to consider when scheduling a tour time is when will the kids be napping? You don’t want to go look at a room full of kids sleeping, you want to see how the instructors are interacting with the kids, what kind of activities are they playing, are they being properly supervised etc.
After your tour the Director will most likely sit down with you to answer any questions you may have and you can bet I had A LOT. I’m not saying you need to ask ALL of these, but these will give you a vast amount to choose from based on what you find relevant.
Questions to Ask on a Daycare Tour
- What is your general philosophy on childcare?
- How many children attend the daycare? What is your child to caregiver ratio? *Be sure to check the standard in your state. It was very important to me to pick a school that had a ratio better than the state average
- What do you serve for meals and snacks? Is it Organic? Or do parents need to provide food? Are there any restrictions on what I can pack in my child’s lunch? *A lot of daycares have a no nut policy.
- Do you offer sippy cup/water throughout the day or only at meal times? Where are these cups stored? *You will want to know if any child can pick up your kids cup or if a caregiver is in charge of distributing
- How do meal times go? How much help do children have at meal times?
- How do you prepare/store formula? Does it need to come pre-measured?
- What activities do you do with the children? What is a typical day like?
- How do you handle discipline or behavioral problems? For instance, how do you handle biting, hitting, or bullying situations?
- Can parents drop by whenever they’d like? What are your visitation policies in general? Who else is allowed to visit during care?
- Do you send photos throughout the day? Are there cameras I can access during the day to check on my kids?
- What happens if we’re late to pick-up or need to miss a day due to vacation or illness?
- What’s your sick-child policy?
- What are your policies regarding immunizations?
- What is your potty-training procedure?
- Do you transport children in a vehicle? Where would you go? Ask to see the vehicle or bus, and inspect the seating arrangements.
- What do you sanitize besides toys? Ie. chairs, floors etc. How, and how often, do you sanitize the toys and materials used by the children? How do you sanitize them?
- What degrees or certifications does your staff have? What training do they have? Do you conduct background checks on all your employees?
- How long has the current staff been here? Do you experience high employee turnover?
- Do you have a nurse on staff for medical care? Do you administer medicine and/or emergency allergy treatments?
- How do you keep parents up to date on their kid’s daily activities or behavior? Do you offer a daily report?
- What security measures do you take for your facility?
- Are you licensed? Are you accredited? By whom?
- Do you have references I can contact?
- What supplies do I need to provide?
- Have the employees been trained in first aid (CPR)?
- What do you do if there is an emergency with my child?
- What group will my child be in?
- What are the ages of the children in the center?
- Do you have a limit on the number of children you can provide for?
- How much time do the kids get to play outside? What is the procedure for cold or rainy days?
- Are children allowed screen time?
- What is the nap policy?
- Do you have a disaster plan?
- If I specify that my child needs to be changed hourly can you accommodate that? Can I provide my own diaper cream, wipes etc.
- Do you celebrate holidays with the children?
- How do you comfort the children?
- What is the staff turnover rate?
- What are your safety procedures when a child is picked up from the daycare? *For example, some places require a list of “approved” people that are allowed to pick the children up and in addition to that they require a fingerprint scan to confirm their identity as well.
Now I know that may seem like a lot, but I’d rather be thorough considering these were the people I was considering turning my children over to! At the end of the day if something doesn’t feel right then it doesn’t matter how “good” they sound. All moms have a second sense about these things, but on the other hand if you are fortunate enough to find a place that feels warm and inviting with the best level of care then you can take comfort in knowing your kids will build great friendships with other children in a great learning environment.
Good luck mommas! I hope you find these tips helpful!
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