Choosing a Day Care That's Right for Your Child

knowing the right questions to ask is key when selecting a child care center

Krystina Schumacher

A speaker at a continuing education seminar once said to us, “At the beginning of my parent orientations, I ask the parents to hand over their house and car keys to me. Sometimes they are willing to, sometimes not, and most of the time they look shocked and flat out tell me no.  Then I tell them that if they aren’t willing to hand over their keys to me, why are they trusting me with their children, who are invaluable?” This got me thinking how overwhelming it is to find the right child care center for your family. I did some research and found that there are over 140 child care centers in the Chippewa Valley area. Where do you begin? How do you know that you are choosing the right center for your child? What do you look for? As a center director and a mother of two, I hope that I can help answer some of those questions for you. Every child care center is different and it’s important to find what works best for your family.

First, start by writing down what type of classroom you hope your child will be in. Do you want your child to have a lot of “friends” in their classroom or do you hope for smaller class sizes? What type of food do you want your child to be eating? Many centers are on the food program which is a federally funded program to ensure your child is receiving the proper food components at every meal. What are your goals for your child? Do you hope to enhance their emotional development, sharpen their cognitive ability, or master social skills?  The choices are endless, and they are yours.

After you write down your wish list, go online and plug in your address to look for daycares within your area. There are a lot of good resources available to you at no charge.  You can easily locate nearby centers at www.WesternDairyland.Force.com or at ChildcareFinder.Wisconsin.gov. Once you have narrowed the list down to your desired geographic area, look at their recent citations, look at their program capacity, the hours they are open and what ages they serve. Narrow it down to your top choices and then give them a call! While on the phone, it is always important to trust your first instinct – if the director doesn’t seem invested in your conversation and you didn’t hang up the phone feeling excited to go look at their facility, listen to your gut and don’t go there. If you like what you hear and feel excited about the possible opportunity for your kids, then schedule a time to go in and take a tour! As a director, I always welcome drop-in tours, but love when a family schedules with me because it ensures that I can give them 100% of my time.

After you have your tours scheduled, you will want to prepare a list of questions to bring with you. There is never a question too small. The following are some ideas of what you can ask:

  • What is you teacher to child ratio?
  • How do you handle rest time?
  • What their turnover rate is.
  • How do you deal with discipline?
  • What does your curriculum look like?
  • What is your payment policy?
  • What do you do for bathroom time?
    • Do you supply wipes and diapers?
    • How often do you change/take the kids to the bathroom?

After your tours, shorten your list and ask to take a second tour this time with your child.  This will allow you to see how the teachers (and director!) interact with them. Make sure there is a connection and that you feel comfortable leaving your child with the teacher. Always take at least 24 hours to make a decision. These are your kids we are talking about!

Then FINALLY after all that grueling detective work, call and ask to enroll your child. Make sure the director sets up a time to go over paper work with you, to talk about the handbook, and go over any financial contract that may be involved. At this time, bring any additional questions that you may have and make sure the director goes over the list of things you will need to bring with on their first day.

One thing I hear often is how expensive child care is – and you’re right, it is! So, make sure you are investing your money into a place worthwhile and a place you feel safe leaving your children at. Take the time, ask questions, and feel comfortable. Good luck in your search!

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