What to look for in a day care
Here’s a checklist for parents who are visiting a day care to decide whether it’s the best place for their child:
— How long have teachers been at the center? How long in child care?
— What training do the teachers and director have? High school degree? Child development associate degree? Bachelor’s?
— Have all the staff members who interact with children had criminal background checks? What kind (state/national, with or without fingerprint checks)?
— Does the staff seem willing to work with your needs? Are they respectful to you?
— Does the center provide parents with a policy manual?
— How do teachers interact with the children? Do they talk to them on their level?
— Are there two or more teachers in each classroom?
— How do adults interact with babies? Do they hold them and talk to them?
— Are babies left in cribs while awake? Do they get tummy time?
Activities and equipment
— Is there a daily schedule of activities, and is there a variety? Does it include outside time and rest time daily? If children don’t sleep, how long are they required to stay in their cribs or on their cots?
— What information does the center track about each child’s activities during the day? (Some of them track almost nothing once children are past infancy, while others log food intake, diapers/potty use and times, amount and time of sleep, and group activities.)
— Do the rooms and toys appear clean and in good condition?
— Is there a variety of toys, and can children reach them? Are there enough? For older children, are they organized into stations?
— Do the toys seem appropriate for the age group?
— Does the playground appear in good shape and free of hazards?
— Are children dressed appropriately for the weather when outside? If applicable, is bug spray or sunscreen used?
Health and safety
— Are children asked to wash their hands before eating and after using the bathroom? Are teachers seen to wash hands after diapering, wiping noses, etc.?
— What is the center’s policy about potty training? Where is the bathroom in relation to the classroom, and how much supervision is provided?
— Are bottles labeled? How are they heated?
— Are babies put to sleep on their backs, as they should be to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?
— Are menus posted? Is there a variety of nutritious food each week? Are snacks healthy?
— Are young children encouraged to eat independently?
— If your child is going to be transported, ask to see the vehicle. Are buckles functional and car seats securely attached? Can the director assure you that your child will be transported in a car seat if under the age of 6?
Useful web sites for parents, with quality checklists:
— 800 number for questions about how to ascertain day care quality: 877-ALL-GAKIDS