Choosing Quality Child Care
You want your child to be happy and most importantly, safe, but how will you know if the center or registered family home is a good place for children?
Plan to visit several centers. If you are ever told that you may not visit any of the classrooms, leave. A good center is accustomed to having visitors and should welcome you. While touring a center, plan to spend 30 minutes or more in the classroom your child will be in so that you can get a feel for the teacher and how she does things. Watch for the following:
- Does the teacher talk to the children in an appropriate way? Does she pay attention to them and listen to them?
- What is her method of disciplining children? Does she yell at them? Physical punishment is not allowed in a child care center; if you see a child being spanked, hit or shaken, tell the director immediately. Report the incident to the Department of Family and Protective Services at 1-800-252-5400.
- Look for a teacher who seems to enjoy what she is doing. Does she give hugs, pats on the back, and allow children to sit on her lap? A loving atmosphere in the room will help you child adjust and feel secure.
- Infant teachers should hold, cuddle, and rock babies. This will not spoil them. Babies should not be left in their cribs for long, but should be involved in activities that provide stimulation, such as playing on the floor. Playing on the floor is an important way for infants to learn about their world through exploration. Babies also need to go outside daily. Fresh air is good for them.
- Be wary of a center where children cry for a long time and no one provides comfort. Children cry for a reason and teachers should know what that reason is. Being new at a center is a very bad reason to let children cry.
- Look for teachers who understand the different developmental stages children go through and know what is "normal" for the age range they are working with.
- Count the number of children for which each teacher is responsible. There is a staff to child ratio that the center may not exceed. If you have questions about the number of children a teacher is supervising, ask to see a copy of the Minimum Standards for Child Care Centers. Each center is required to have one on hand.
Once you feel comfortable with the teacher, look at the room and outside play area. Ask yourself the following:
- Does the room seem like a fun place to be? Would you want to spend up to twelve hours a day there?
- Are there a variety of activities for the children to do? Are they stimulating and developmentally appropriate?
- Is the room safe? Are there any obvious safety hazards? Are children prevented from engaging in unsafe activities?
- The room should be neat and orderly. Children need to know where things belong and how to put them away. Neatness and order teach discipline.
- There should be a place in each room where children can get away from it all, such as a cozy corner, been bag chairs, etc.
- The room should be set up in learning centers, such as art, dramatic play, discovery/science, blocks, music, and manipulatives. There should be enough toys so that children can play without fighting.
- Toys should be stored on shelves, and all pieces and parts should be available. Broken toys should be thrown away if they are not fixable. Toy chests are not appropriate.
- Are there enough toys and equipment on the playground so that children can run, jump, climb, and play?
- Don't forget that children need to go outside daily, even during cold weather. No, they won't catch colds from this! Viruses, not cold weather, cause colds. Unlike adults who tend to stand still, children run around outside so they don't feel cold . If they are dressed appropriately, they will be fine.