Now you’re ready to start visiting child care programs. Before you go, make a list of what you want to know about the child care program. Some of these questions might include:
- Do the program’s philosophies reflect our family values?
- How will the child care provider involve me in the daily events of my child’s life?
- Do the hourly, holiday and vacation schedules meet my family’s needs?
Take your child with you when you visit. Visiting in the afternoon is best for talking to the director; visiting in the morning is best for observing teacher-child interactions.
- Observe all areas where the children are cared for, including outdoor areas.
- Listen to how the teachers interact with the children.
- Ask your child if s/he liked visiting and does s/he think it would be fun to go there again.
When observing the program, look for quality indicators that generally foster a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment for children, including:
- Low child/teacher ratios (video clip)
- Small group size
- Staff with higher education & on-going training (video clip)
- Prior experience and education of the director
- Low teacher turnover
- Positive teacher/child interactions (video clip)
- Accreditation or higher than minimum licensing standards
- Age appropriate activities (video clip)
- Good health & safety practices (video clip)
Unfortunately, not all programs are safe environments for children. When evaluating a program, it’s also important to look for these danger signals:
- The child care provider/director discourages parental visits or questions
- The provider seems harsh or indifferent to children
- The provider uses corporal punishment, such as spanking, shaking or rough handling
- The provider spends more time taking care of her own needs than talking and playing with the children
- There are too few teachers for the number of children in care
- When you come to get your child or drop off your child, he or she is always with a different teacher or in a different classroom
- Toys, learning materials and equipment are in short supply and often put out of the reach of children
- The facility is dirty or unsafe
- There is a pattern of recurrent accidents or illnesses that seems excessive
- Children are expected to wait for long periods of time just standing in lines or sitting at tables
- Your child is still unhappy after a reasonable adjustment period