CHOOSING appropriate child care for your infant or young child can seem as overwhelming as helping your teenager select a college or university. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child is safe and happy in a child care environment that is fun, educational, and nurturing. Here are some tips for making such an important decision.
About 70% of parents place their young children in some type of daily care. Whether you choose in-home or centre-based care, a preschool, or someone else’s home for your child’s daily care setting, you should follow some specific guidelines to ensure receiving quality, professional care.
Most important is to know your own child’s temperament, likes and dislikes, health, interests, and behavior. For a baby under 1 year old, give careful attention to your child’s need to be nurtured and held, any special health needs, and the type of person you want to care for your child during the first year of life. For an older child, developing play and learning styles, interaction with other kids, intellectual curiosity, and need for individualized attention should be considered.
The family’s own values and emotional needs also come into play. Some parents are overly anxious about leaving their very young child with one person, while others prefer this individual care. But by age 3 or 4, it’s good for kids to have at least some exposure to other kids and participate in a structured program like preschool or daycare.
Before choosing a care setting, you should be aware of the options available and consider cost, location, and reputation.
Make a list of qualities you’re looking for in a caregiver or day care, such as experience, discipline beliefs, and flexibility. For example, if a child hits another child or throws a tantrum over a toy someone else is playing with, what should the consequences be?
How will you provide new experiences to enhance my child’s mental and physical development? What opportunities can you offer to experience art, music, group and individual play, and indoor and outdoor play? How would you handle toilet training?
How would you handle separation anxiety? If you’re considering a day care centre or other group setting, spend some time observing the centre and talking to parents with kids there. What is your policy on caring for sick children? How do you monitor kids on the playground? How old is the equipment and has it recently been inspected? How are kids grouped? By age? Do you include kids with special needs? What are the educational backgrounds of the teachers? Finally, do you have a sense of trust in this person or creche? Do you believe that your child will be happy and have the opportunity to learn and grow in this environment?
Health, safety, and hygiene must be given priority in all settings. All kids and staff members should have current immunizations; staff should have clear criminal background checks. The facility must be childproofed and all staff members should wear disposable gloves where appropriate. Toys should be disinfected regularly and frequent hand washing should be promoted among the staff and kids to minimize the spread of infection.
You should also expect that your child will be assigned to the same caregiver to promote a sense of security and consistency. Enquire about the rate of staff resignations; low staff turnover minimizes the need for young children to repeatedly adjust to new caregivers.