There are more important things to consider when choosing a day care center than convenience for the parents. A child’s needs vary based on his or her age and level of development. Here is an article regarding some general things to consider when deciding on a pre-school or day care center.
First of all, make sure the day care is licensed. In Virginia, anyone who takes care of six or more children, not including the provider’s own children, is required to be licensed as a family day home. If a facility has more than 12 children, then it must be licensed as a Child Day Center and meet those standards as required by the Virginia Department of Social Services.
Make sure the center has enough staff. Virginia requires one caregiver for every four infants. For 2 and 3 year olds, the day care center must have one qualified adult for every 10 children. For 4 year olds, the center can have 12 for each provider. These are minimum requirements. You may want to take the time to interview the childcare givers to determine their education background, how long they have been at that center, how they feel about the facility and what his or her responsibilities are.
See if the day care center has a policy and procedures handbook. You should find out how disciplinary matters are handled and how conflicts between children are resolved. Make sure you are comfortable with the way that day care may discipline the children. Are your families needs and values respected by the center.
Health related issues may be very important. Make sure that the facility requires its children to have annual physical exams and proof of immunizations. See that the facility has a file on each child regarding emergency contacts, health information and who is allowed to pick the child up from the center. Ask about the facilities procedures for taking care of injuries. Are there accident and illness report forms.
Where is the first aid kit located. Who is the person that provides nursing care and what are that person’s qualifications. How are illnesses and medications managed.
Observe the kitchen and other areas of the facility for cleanliness. Find out what foods are served to make sure they are nutritional and prepared in a sanitary way. Observe how often children are required to wash their hands to reduce the risk of spreading illnesses and infections. How does the center handle “potty training” and other toileting issues.
Make sure the building structure is safe as well as outlets and anything else that may appear to be dangerous for your child. See if the building has fire alarms or sprinklers. The leading cause of fires in day care centers is cooking. Inspect the playground, including the fence and equipment used. Children in day cares are more likely to be hurt by falling than in any other way. Injuries are by far the leading cause of death for children under 5 years old.
Once you make sure your child will be safe, you can focus on how well the center educates your child. Get referrals from other parents who have used the same center. Visit while children are there and observe the activities. Find out what activities are scheduled, such as nap time, story time and outside play. What book, toys and music are available and used to stimulate the children.
After your child has started attending a day care, make sure your child is comfortable there. See how he or she responds by being left there. How does your child act when he or she is picked up. After the child gets past the initial adjustment issues, the child should enjoy his or her time at the center with other children. If your child is not happy and irritable every day when you arrive, you need to investigate to determine the problem.