A colleague recently confided her predicament in deciding which day care centre she should choose for her 4 year old daughter. She is worried about making a wrong decision and I identified with her because I was in the same situation a year ago.
Indeed, it is a tough decision to make when choosing the right play school or day care centre for your child because it will either make or break him/her during these early, formative years. So, I suggested the following criteria and factors she should consider:
Determine how much you can afford to pay for the services of the day care centre. Are you willing to pay more just to ensure your child’s needs are met while you are away at work? Or are you working with a small budget? Be clear about this before you begin your search.
Choose the area where the day care centre should be located. Should it be near to your work place or near your home? Whatever you decide, it should be somewhere you can easily access that will be convenient for both you and your spouse.
When you have identified the day care centres in the location that is most accessible or convenient to you, visit each one personally. Look around carefully and ask the administrator if the centre has a license or is accredited by a government agency or organization that oversees child care facilities. It would also be wise to ask how many children the centre is licensed or accredited to handle.
Try to ask other parents about the reputation of the school. If possible, conduct a background check to determine whether there had been complaints or cases of negligence against the day care centre.
You should ask the following questions: Are the child care providers in the centre trained in First Aid or CPR? Are the teachers certified? Are the administrators responsive to the needs of their staff, personnel and clients? You can also try to talk with one of the teachers.
In conducting an interview about the centre, get to know more about the centre’s method of teaching children. Gather information about the different curricula that will be suitable for your child, then find out whether he/she can benefit from the centre’s choice of curriculum.
Determine the pervading atmosphere of the play school or day care centre as you walk around. Is it a place where children are comfortable and taken care of? Do you think it would be the best place for your child to spend his/her early days? Ask what type of snack is served to the children and how much time is allotted for naps. Also try to visit the day care centre with your child to ascertain if he/she is comfortable in the environment.
If you have to leave your child in a day care centre, you need find out its approach to child safety. Does the centre have an emergency or evacuation plan in case of fire? Are cleaning materials and hazardous materials kept in appropriate places out of the reach of children? Are the classrooms child-proofed? Are there safety gates for dangerous areas such as stairs, kitchens, basements or porches? Are the materials and equipment child-friendly? Will the children have fun and not be harmed while playing in the play areas and play grounds? Are there medical supplies in case of emergency? All these and more are the questions you should ask when choosing a day care centre.