Choosing a daycare for your little one can be overwhelming. The birth of a new baby, job expectations or the need for increased social interactions may even force you to take this decision sooner than you would like. Your little one needs a nurturing, loving environment to grow into the best version of himself. There are so many considerations in making sure the daycare you choose will meet your child’s and your needs. Cost, proximity, policies of the daycare, and caregiver-to-child ratio are but a few of the important things to keep in mind.

Cost

Educating your child is a journey of several years, so do not break the bank for your daycare. Consider carefully what percentage of your family income should go into daycare for your child. The US Department of Health and Social Services advises that no more than 7-10% of a household budget should go into daycare. Consider transport costs to and from your child’s daycare and factor this into the allotted budget.

Pick up and extra time

Be comfortable with the pick-up and drop-off times. Consider whether they allow late pick-ups, in case you are sick or unavoidably held up and cannot pick your child on time. Some centres arrange to offer extra care at a small fee. You do not want your child’s caregiver to frown and be upset with your child when you are late picking him/her up.

Proximity

Even if you have a dedicated transport arrangement, it’s advisable to have your child in a daycare that you can easily reach, so the closer it is to your workplace or home, the better. There may be times when you need to arrive there in a hurry. If you live in a busy city, you don’t want to risk the stress of vehicular traffic in an emergency.

Caregiver to Child Ratio

Children need close attention from a responsive adult. In some countries, the recommendation is to have one care-giver for up to 5 children up to 3 years of age.  Don’t leave your child in a crowded daycare if you can help it, because your child will not get adequate supervision and love.  Also, person-to-person spread of germs is faster in crowded environments.

Policies

Visit the school and ask about their policies. The policies of your child’s daycare should agree with yours. Is there a fixed time beyond which you cannot drop your child or children can be dropped throughout the day? Do they have a routine? Do they put the TV on all day or is used sparingly? Is there a lot of playtime or the day is packed with didactic teaching? Are sports part of the day?

What is their policy on food? If they serve their own food, is the menu filled with healthy nutritious food? What supplies do they provide and what are you required to bring? Are you comfortable with the staff turnover? What happens to your child if he has an accident or falls sick while at school? Watch how staff interact with the children and be sure you like it. Ask parents whose children are in the school how they find the school.

Structure

Look at the physical structure. It should be neat, child proofed and there should be spaces filled with sturdy age-appropriate toys and books. There should be enough floor area for growing tots to move around so they can develop strong muscles.  Children should not be able to leave the premises unsupervised.

Trust Your Instincts

If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Do not make a choice until you are ready. You may need to make many visits to several daycares before deciding. It is totally worth it.  When you finally decide, trust your instincts.

Aside the suggestions above, there may be other things that are important to you. Try to satisfy yourself before you make a choice. You can make a scoring sheet for the various considerations, and tally to pick the centres that score highest. Your precious little cutie deserves the best daycare under your circumstances. Do that for your child. A healthy environment is necessary for healthy child development.

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