Choosing the right childcare for your child is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. There are many childcare options available to parents, so it is critical to make the selection that is best suited for your child's needs. Picking the right childcare center may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Knowing what to look for, and being willing to tour various centers, while asking lots of questions, will help you decide what is best for your child. Here are four things to consider when evaluating the best option for you.
First, strong, positive relationships are critical to a young child's development. Children thrive in environments where caregivers are attentive and warm in their interactions. When considering childcare, ask to observe your child's potential teacher in the classroom. Watch for ways in which the teacher seeks to engage with the children. Interactions should always be positive and help each child develop a strong sense of self-worth and belonging. Teachers should be intentional about creating experiences where each child feels safe to explore their surroundings. Teachers should plan learning opportunities that have a good balance between teacher directed experiences and child led experiences. For example, there should be dedicated opportunities throughout the day for children to choose the activities they are most interested in from among several options. This may look like a child choosing to play with blocks instead of creating art. Caregivers should be engaged with the children as they foster learning through positive interactions in communication, instruction and play.
Second, high quality childcare centers provide a research based curriculum for all age groups. Positive experiences in early childhood education are instrumental in helping children develop strong foundations for lifelong learning. The curriculum should be designed to strengthen the whole child. The best curriculums support growth in language, cognitive development, physical development and social and emotional development. Young children are wired to learn through hands-on, play based experiences. Check out your child's potential classroom to make sure they offer a wide variety of toys and materials to support your child's development. Be sure to ask potential child care providers about their curriculum and teaching philosophies.
Third, high quality childcare centers provide a safe environment where children are cared for by qualified caregivers who seek to support the child in all areas of development. Staff members should have credentials or degrees in early childhood education which might include a CDA or higher learning in early childhood education. Ongoing training and support should be provided to all staff members to keep them current on the latest research in early childhood education.
Additionally, high quality centers meet and/or exceed the licensing standards in health and nutrition set forth by the state. This means that there is a nutrition plan in place to provide healthy food and snacks during the day. Also, healthy routines are in place where children wash hands often and toys are washed on a regular basis.
Finally, look for a childcare center that recognizes parents as the child's first teachers. The center should provide opportunities for parents to partner with educators in the care and teaching of their children.
Communication should flow both ways. Parents should be included when setting goals for their child and caregivers should provide regular feedback on each child's progress.
The early childhood years are critical in the growth and development of the child. The experiences that children have during the early years will impact them for years to come. It is worth taking the time to do your research when selecting the right childcare center.