Written by Great Start to Quality Western Resource Center
When it comes to choosing childcare for your little one, there is a lot to take into consideration to ensure you and your family are happy with your choice. Not only do you need the right center that has an experienced staff while also fitting your budget, you’ll also need to consider factors such as distance from your home, childcare center hours, and the lessons or curriculum available. With all of this factoring in, selecting a childcare center can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are a number of tips to make the process much quicker and smoother. Read on to learn the best way to find childcare for your family.
Tips for Selecting A Childcare Center
Start Early. One of the most important things to keep in mind when selecting a childcare center is to start early. Many first-time parents underestimate the amount of time it will take to find the right center, only to find that there are many options available they need to consider. The best way to find childcare is begin your search at least a few months before care is needed for your child. Begin the process by researching the various childcare centers around you, asking friends and family members for recommendations, and contacting those that might be a good fit to find out if they have openings and schedule a visit.
Determine Your Budget. It’s no secret that childcare can be pricey. For this reason, selecting a childcare center is often highly dependent on the budget you set. While it is most important to find an option that has a highly-skilled staff to care for your child or children, be sure to also find the right center that is affordable for your family. In some cases, childcare centers will provide assistance programs to families that can help relieve some of the financial burden through the use of a voucher.
Ask for Recommendations. Parents often feel most comfortable choosing a childcare center that a close friend or family member has their children enrolled in. The best way to find childcare is to ask those close to you for recommendations, particularly friends and family members who have similar values, routines, and expectations to yours. These recommendations are a great starting point to help you determine the type of environment your child will thrive in.
Identify Your Needs. While all parents want a clean and safe childcare center for their little one, they may differ in terms of other expectations. Another important best way to find childcare is to write out a list of your specific needs and expectations. Does your child do best in larger group centers where they can easily socialize, or do they thrive in smaller, more intimate settings? Will the center be respectful and flexible when it comes to cultural holidays and customs? Does the center incorporate physical activity into each day? By identifying what you want for your childcare you can more easily narrow down the list of options to find the right one.
Visit. The only way to get a true feel for what a place is like when selecting a childcare center is to visit. What should you keep an eye out for while your there? Take notice of how the staff interacts with the children. For example, you should expect to see staff interacting, holding, and playing with the children, which indicates a much more responsive environment. Also, be sure to take note of how neat and clean the rooms are kept, whether the toys and books are age-appropriate, how conflict between children is handled, and the routine of the center. While scheduling a formal visit is recommended, another tip to find the best childcare center is to drop by unannounced to ensure consistency.
Ask Questions. When it comes to selecting a childcare center, you can never asked too many questions. Questions you might consider asking include:
- What training and qualifications has the members of your staff received?
- How many children are in your care at any given time?
- What is the typical daily routine, and can my child’s other routines be incorporated?
- How is discipline handled?
- Will I need to supply meals and snacks, or does the center provide this for the children?
Check References. After you’ve found your top choice or two, another tip for the best way to find childcare for your family is to check references. Most childcare centers will happily supply you with the names and contact information of current families that use their services, who are willing to share their experiences and answer questions. While the needs of every family differ, speaking with other parents directly can give you valuable insight into the culture and environment of a childcare center.
Make a Decision. When you feel you’ve found the right choice for your child and family, book a place for your child. You may be tempted to visit just one more childcare center, however always trust your gut. If you’ve found a program that fits your needs, is safe, clean, and nurturing, has a routine you like, and is within your budget, don’t be afraid to take the next big step. Also understand that just because you’ve enrolled your child into a childcare center, you do not need to stick with that choice if your feelings start to change in the following months.
Be Open and Resolve Conflict Early. Keep in mind that after you’ve enrolled your child into a childcare center, there will be an adjustment period. It will take a bit of time for staff to learn the specific needs of your little one, and therefore they may make small mistakes to start. If this happens, do not ignore the issues that arise. Instead, problem-solve early to prevent future problems from happening. When approaching staff, always be respectful, understanding, and kind. In most cases, a short discussion is all that’s needed to get on the same page.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change. If the childcare center you’ve chosen simply no longer feels like the right fit and attempts to problem solve have not been successful, explore other options. You are never tied to a childcare center, and remember that you have the final say in how your child is cared for.