Finding affordable childcare that suits your child’s needs is a big task. There are several options to choose from, including daycare centers, home daycares, nannies, and preschools. Many parents choose daycare centers to provide a safe and nurturing environment that helps children develop social skills through relationships with teachers and other children.

When selecting a daycare center, there are several steps to take and questions you should ask to ensure a positive experience for you and your family.

Veronica Linares, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Adventist Medical Group, recommends that parents start the process by doing research on licensed daycare providers. “It can be tempting to save money on childcare by choosing a daycare with caregivers who have less experience, but it’s important for the child’s well-being to work with caregivers who are licensed and experienced.”

Seek recommendations from friends, family, coworkers or an employee assistance program. You can also search the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s database of accredited daycare facilities.  Also, look for daycares closer to home rather than work to make it easier to coordinate care on days that you are out of the office.

Next, you will need to tour the facilities and interview the caregivers. Be observant. Look for a warm, clean, and safe environment with experienced caregivers who enjoy their jobs. Ask about everything from hours, activity schedules and fees to policies on feeding, sleeping, and discipline. If you choose a home daycare, ask for details about pets to ensure the safety of your child.Also, pay close attention to the caregiver to child ratio. The ideal ratio is 1:3 for babies and 1:4 for toddlers.

“Be aware of the daycare center’s policies on controlling the spread of contagious illness,” says Dr. Linares. “Make sure they have a protocol for how they disinfect surfaces, toys, and other items.”

If you think you’ve found the daycare of your dreams, make sure to come back and visit with your child. See how he or she reacts to the environment and the caregivers.

Above all, go with your gut! Choosing a daycare is a very personal decision, but you should always feel comfortable talking openly with your daycare provider.

 

Childcare: Things to Consider

  • Planning Ahead – Start looking for daycare about 6 months before you will need it, or about halfway through your pregnancy. Daycare centers often fill up fast and have long waiting lists.
  • Budget – Be sure to confirm costs and fees with potential daycare providers, and make sure it fits within your family’s means.
  • References – Ask the daycare if they can provide you with references so that you can talk to other parents about their experience.