Choosing a group childcare facility can be a difficult process. This blog covers my top tips on how to navigate finding one and what questions/things to consider. Every family will make the best choice with the information they know and resources they have for their family.
Steps to selecting a childcare center
- Confirm with pediatrician that this is an appropriate option given any medical history for child/any high risk family members at home given the pandemic
- Obtain vaccine and health form from child’s peds
- Ask friends, family, or peds for recommendations of reputable childcare settings in your community.
- Interview your top favorites via phone
- Check the facility out in person
- Trust your gut! If something doesn’t feel right, keep searching for another facility
What to notice when you tour the facility
- Are children and staff happy?
- Try to visit at the end of the day as well (sometimes staff can be happiest at the beginning of the day)
- Make sure sleeping arrangements allow for separate cribs/safe sleep
- Look at learning space. Does the staff interact with children on the floor and at eye level?
- Separate rooms for toddlers/younger infants
- Clean environment – toys are in good condition and facility seems clean
Factors to consider when choosing a childcare center
- Cost and payment schedule
- Waiting lists
- Accreditation of the facility
- Ratio of staff and teachers to child
- Childcare philosophy – make sure no hitting or spanking
- CPR certification of staff and other educational qualifications
- Screening process for hiring staff
- High turnover of staff? If so, might be a bad sign that workers aren’t paid well or not a good work environment
- Child sick policy
- Immunization policies
- Meals – provided or not?
- Distance from home
- Pick up and drop off times
- Extra fees for early drop off/late pick ups
COVID precautions (If applicable in your area)
- Masking for staff
- Masking policy for children
- Hand washing policies for staff
- How often toys are disinfected
- COVID and sickness policies
- Temperature screenings
- Class size
- Ventilation of rooms/outdoor play (weather permitting)
What to send with child to facility
- Pumped breastmilk/formula/milk. Make sure to ask if you can keep a supply there and clearly write your child’s name and expiration date on the containers.
- Food and snacks if not provided.
- Two to three sets of spare clothes. Reusable bag for dirty clothes.
- Diapers, wipes and diaper cream. You can drop this off on their first day and confirm with staff if they are running low.
- Pacifier and bottle if still using. Ask the facility if they provide utensils and bowls, etc.
- Any medications if the child is on them.
- Any lovey item or stuffed toy the child needs.
- LABEL everything and communicate with staff when things are running low so you have time to restock their supply.
How to handle pandemic baby/toddler separation anxiety
- Separation anxiety is very normal when starting a new childcare situation, especially for our pandemic babies who haven’t seen many people. Some children will adjust quickly and others may need more time.
- Decide with facility if you will start with doing one hour on one day and increasing the time to transition them and you. Not a requirement, just based on your comfort.
- Make drop off routine quick. Do not linger. DO NOT sneak out. The staff is trained to redirect them.
- Remember, it does get better. It may be harder for you than it is for them.
- When a child starts a group childcare setting, they may get more illnesses. This is normal. Plan with partner/loved ones a backup plan if child has to stay home.
- Child’s sleep may be affected with this new routine. They likely will be more sleepy given all the fun. Adjust sleep times how you see fit for your child’s needs. Initially, you may need to put them to sleep earlier after they tucker themselves out at childcare.
- Some children can be overwhelmed. They will be fine at school and come home and be more clingy/crying with you. This is normal as they feel more comfortable with you and let their guard down.
- If child is taking longer than 2 weeks to adjust, speak to facility to make sure nothing needs to be addressed. Some kids can take longer to adjust, however I have a two week rule and open communication to make sure nothing needs to be addressed sooner.