How to Choose the Right Daycare for You and Baby
How to Choose the Right Daycare for You and Baby It is a heartbreaking moment when the time comes for a working parent to leave their child to another. To assign their beloved baby to another caregiver on the account of returning to work is painful. The loaded feelings of guilt, sadness, anger, anxiety and some relief plays so much on how much you want to do right by your baby. This article does not pretend to cure the tears you may shed. Instead, it attempts to list chief considerations on how to choose the best daycare for your baby. The best way I know to deal with this undesired change in our relationship is to take practical steps to address each of the feelings I have associated with this upcoming stage. Understanding why I feel guilty, sad or anxious will dictate my avowed promise (to myself and my son) to find him a comfortable and safe environment to spend his days in the care of others.
This article does not pretend to cure the tears you may shed. Instead, it attempts to list chief considerations on how to choose the best daycare for your baby.
Letting go of futile negative feelings and resistance to an event I am unable to bypass, I decided to focus on what I am capable of doing. I needed to shift my energy from being helplessly consumed by the big panic-inducing event into an empowered individual with some semblance of control. Beginning with a general to-do list, I created a series of smaller tasks in terms of research, preparing questions, writing down notes to self on what I should notice about the ideal daycare environment and discussing with my partner what is important to us regarding certain parenting policies and educational styles for our baby. These are essentially the deal-makers and deal-breakers, if you will.
Beginning with a general to-do list, I created a series of smaller tasks in terms of research, preparing questions, writing down notes to self on what I should notice about the ideal daycare environment.
Visiting the daycares, I made a point to meet with the caregivers themselves, interact with administrative staff, attend a few activities, see signs of happily engaged children with their teachers (preferably with the teacher/caregiver on the floor interacting with them), interview parents at parking lots of these daycares, ask their children if they like their daycare, what they liked most and disliked most. Questions you may ask of the daycare (without assigned ranking):
- Discipline policies: What happens when two babies want to play with the same toy? What would the caregivers do when baby refuses to eat? How do you deal with a crying baby who wants to be held all the time? What would you do if a baby kept reaching out for something you already told him/her no to? (i.e. would there be scolding, tapping, shaming, use of raised voices, time-outs, display of anger?)
- Sleeping routines: What would the caregiver putting a fussy baby to sleep do? Do they have blanket sleep schedules or do they cater to individual needs (i.e. 1 or 2 or 3 naps a day?)? Would they interrupt the baby’s sleep to change a diaper? Does each baby have their own crib? Do they have black-out curtains? Do they use any other props (i.e. white noise? Music? Dehumidifier?)
- Immunisation/Vaccination policies: Does the daycare accept children who are not vaccinated? Do they administer vaccinations?
- Medical/ Well-being: What kind of sunscreens, medicines, insect repellants do they use? Are there accommodations for special creams or prescription ointments (diaper, dry skin like eczema, etc…)? Any medical considerations the daycare should know about your baby?
How often are the baby’s diaper changed? Do the caregivers changing diapers use disposal gloves? Do the caregivers seem responsive to babies? Do they ask them questions, answer children patiently, talk to them, read books out loud, sing to them? Do caregivers write in a daily journal about what your child did today, how they reacted, what they liked, feared, discovered, learnt? Are the classrooms spacious, well-lit and have acceptable noise levels?
- Sick child policy: How do you deal with the realisation of having a sick baby in your daycare? What are the symptoms that would prevent a baby from attending your daycare?
- Staff-Child Ratio, does it change? When? (Ideally for babies under 12 months the ratio should be 1-3). Are there replacements for absent teachers?
- Staff Qualifications: Do they know first aid, CPR, have a specialised degree in teaching children?
- Playtime: How much playtime do the babies get to play outside? How does it vary by season? Is it always at the daycare centre and grounds? What toys are given to babies and often are they rotated? (it may cue you in on how up-to-date and invested the daycare is)
- What books/songs are shared with babies? In our case where it was important for our child to have equal exposure to English and French languages, plus the added bonus of learning Arabic at daycare in addition to the home settled the matter for us.
- Cleanliness/Hygiene: Check the overall cleanliness of the daycare in bathrooms, playrooms, classrooms, sleeping area, feeding area, changing station as well as in halls and corridors. Check that the kitchen area is separate from the play and changing stations. The utensils and appliances are modern, clean. How about plates and utensils and serving trays?
- Food Policy: Have you looked at their menu, if daycare serves food? Is it varied, healthy, serving sufficient helpings? How do they deal with special requests: i.e. medical or allergies or religious? Attend a lunch session so you can see for yourself. If the daycare does not provide it, ask for a monthly or weekly food plan.
- Safety/Security: Are there special spaces for babies to separate them from older children who may leave behind smaller parts of toys which can be choking hazards? Are there age-appropriate toys and mats and facilities so as to crawl, stand? How are strangers identified? Is there a video monitor on all entrances and controlled entry and exit locks to prevent children from opening the door and wandering out (and into the street, or parking lot, etc…)? What are their emergency procedures (i.e. fire, earthquake, power outages, etc…). It would be wise to furnish them with a picture and contacts of the person/s authorised to pick-up your baby (i.e. grandparent, baby-sitter), as well as your alternative emergency contacts.
- Operational Hours: What penalties, if any, for late drop-offs or pick-ups? Ask for a list of the official holidays for the year, so you may prepare in advance for alternative arrangements if you are still working on those days.
Of course, there will be other considerations that maybe important for you, such as: proximity to your home or work, personal budget, if your baby has a sibling you want them to join, etc. I have listed the main points that helped my husband and I narrow down a safe place for our 10-month old son. Being invested and taking time to ask these questions sends an important message to the daycare staff and caregivers that you are involved in your child’s learning and well-being.