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Mommy Tales: The quest to find the right daycare

Mommy Tales: The quest to find the right daycare

Finding a good daycare is tough.  And when the waiting list is longer than the length of your pregnancy, it’s very frustrating.  A long wait list is common for good daycares because there are plenty of less-than-desirable ones out there.  To make sure the day care centers you are considering are wait-list worthy, here’s my 12-point list of daycare criteria to consider:

1. Does someone pick up the phone when you call?
This may seem unimportant, but when you are trying to get in touch with someone to check on your child, clearly you want someone to get on the line — and fast.

2. Do they have an open door policy?
It’s important to feel welcome when you miss your child and want to visit in the middle of the day. Sporadic visits may also help your child adjust to being away from you in the beginning.

3. How do they accommodate breast feeding (if applicable)?
If you’re a breast feeding mom, you want to make sure they have the equipment to store your extra bottles of milk properly.

4. Do they provide nutritious meals for older children?
You may already know that childhood obesity is rampant in our country. And poor eating habits learned during childhood carry over to later years. If you’re trying to raise a health-conscious child, it’s important that your values be reinforced during childcare. This is even more critical if your child has food allergies or dietary restrictions.

5. Do they provide a daily log of food, naps, diapers and activities?
Knowing what the day was like for your child can help you establish patterns and structure for your child. Plus, these logs can serve as a good keepsake to document the everyday.

6. Speaking of structure, do they have structured lesson plans?
Learning starts from birth, so it’s important that they have a stimulating curriculum. The last thing you want is to have them sit your child in front of the television all day and call it a lesson.

7. Are the equipment, toys and play areas sanitary?
Daycares are renowned for spreading sickness. Disinfecting everything daily is key to minimize the spread of germs. That includes laundering crip sheets, bibs. Some day cares do it; others require you to do it. Either way, you want to know that beforehand.

8. What are the credentials of the teachers and facility?
Properly qualified childcare givers are required to have important skills, like CPR training that can help in case of an emergency. You may also want caregivers who have training in child development.

9. Do their discipline techniques match your parenting style?
Sending mixed messages about rewards and consequences can confuse your child and possibly undermine your child’s development. Make sure you and your day care leaders are on the same page about what merits a punishment and what that punishment should be.

10. Is there any outdoor time during nice weather?
Fresh air is important. Being cooped up in a room all the time makes it easier to get sick and can be limiting to your child’s activity.

11. Is there enough room for your child to explore, and is there space that is designated for your child’s belongings?
When kids are learning to crawl and walk, they need a space wide enough to explore. Also, we visited a day care that just provided one hook for each child’s belongings. My concerned was that our son’s things would get mixed in with another child’s belongings. This might be merely a hassle with extra clothes, but it could be a serious mix up with something like medication.

12. What’s the average age of the children and the ratio of children to caregivers?
Watch the numbers. Our son is 16 months, and we think having him around children of the same age helps his social development. Plus, the caregivers tend to be tailored to meet the needs of that age group. We also wanted to make sure our son would be properly attended to. That means the daycare center needs to follow state guidelines for how many care givers can supervise a certain number of children. Imagine how hard it would be for one caregiver to attend to 10 crying infants.

This isn’t an exhaustive list. There may be other details you want to consider. I suggest first speaking to other parents who use the daycare.

Looking online may help, but keep in mind that parents are highly critical when it comes to the care of their child. When a parent is angry, there is no mercy in a review.

Trusting your most precious gift to strangers is scary.  Doing your research and knowing what to expect will ease your fears.  In the end, both you and your child will build a strong, trusting relationship with people who will play a very important role in your lives.  Some day care centers are worth the wait.

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  1. This is super helpful! It's hard to know what questions to ask especially if your first baby is on the way and you never had to research day cares before.

  2. @AdvocateAngela April 3, 2013 at 10:44 am · Reply

    Great advice, Sandy! Such an important and sometimes terrifying decision! Thank you!

  3. Very, very helpful. One thing I would ask going forward as it has become a concern of mine since putting my girls in daycare, "What is the turnover of staff? How are new staff trained? How are staff changes communicated to parents?" At times it has seemed like a revolving door at my daughters' daycare.

  4. Excellent article. As a very soon-to-be (and clueless) dad who initially thought daycares are all same – I found this piece insightful and inspirational. I will definitely be referencing this story as we continue to find a great daycare for Orion. Many thanks in advance!

  5. ahchealthenews April 4, 2013 at 7:22 am · Reply

    Great advice! I'll be using all of it soon:-) Thanks for sharing. Loved it!

  6. Linda Williger April 4, 2013 at 11:23 am · Reply

    As a mom of children who had wonderful daycare experiences, I heartily agree with vetting a center based on your 12 points. Safety and security are all important as well. I remember getting a call from daycare when my parents stopped by, for the first time, to read to my son's class. Before they would let them into the building, let alone his room, the center director called me at work to see if I could identify them and would give permission for them to see my son. I was impressed by the security measure! After that, they visited often and became the grandparents in residence. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Any comments on Penny Lane School in Oak Lawn,IL?

    • Thanks for the question! I’m not familiar with that particular school, but I checked out their website. It looks like they have several programs and cater to a wide range of ages. They also offer a night care program, which is great because I think that’s pretty rare.

      I looked at some online reviews, and they were not that great. To give them a fair chance, I would go in for a tour and talk to the director. See if you are comfortable with them, the environment and their curriculum. Keep the pointers in the blog in mind. I wish you all the best in your daycare quest! 🙂

  8. Thank you for the input. I also asked on another forum and I'm not getting good feed back at all! Too many ages mixed together and not sanitary at all.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.