I know choosing a daycare is probably one of the toughest decisions any parent can make. You want it to be perfect. You want to make not only the best decision for your child, but also for yourself. You want it to be convenient, clean, and overall, a good fit for your child. From experience, here are a few tips for choosing the right daycare for your child.
1. Decide if you’re seeking part time or full time care:
When Deuce first went to daycare, he was 7 months and I was not prepared for him to be gone all day with a center or even sitter, so when he first began daycare, he only went part time. Because he was going part time, I was only paying for the days he attended or maybe even hourly now that I think of it. It would not be until he was 9 months that he began attending daycare full time (up to 10 hours each day, 5 days per week). Once we changed his care from part time to full time, I paid a flat rate for each week.
2. Decide if you prefer a home or an actual daycare center:
At 7 months, Deuce was still EBF (exclusively breastfed) and had been around limited children and adults. For his first center, we were searching for a home center because I wanted the small, intimate family feel for him. I wanted him to be going to an older woman’s home who was more like a grandmother than a babysitter. Within one month of searching, I found a licensed home center not far from our own home. The center was run by an older woman and her adult daughter where they watched 4 other toddlers. When Deuce began, he was the only baby and was then renamed “Baby Deuce.” I knew that around 12-15 months though, I would move him to a formal center because I desired the curriculum some offered.
3. Decide if age is relevant to you:
I’ve talked to several other mothers who refuse to send their child to daycare until the child can talk or at least communicate some sort of harm or danger that may have occurred at their center. Others choose to wait until their child is potty trained so as to limit adult contact with their child’s genitals. My goal for sending Deuce to daycare was not age driven to me, but instead was motivated by my school/work schedule. As long as I could afford to be a full time student and then a stay at home mom, I would do it, but eventually, I needed to go back to work for financial reasons. Deuce’s age was not relevant to me. He had been home already 6 months and I found a center I trusted even during his infancy.
4. Utilize your Department of Public Welfare’s search engine that has any reports and/or complaints filed against/with any licensed center in the state:
This is self explanatory, but online, you can find the results of any pop up visits performed at any center you’re interested in as well as any sanctions that have happened. Particularly with the sanctions, you can look to see if the center corrected it in the given time allotted. This resource is extremely useful and I actually wish I had used this resource in the beginning of my daycare search. I was not aware of this for awhile.
Click Here to reach Pennsylvania’s search engine
Click Here to reach Delaware’s search engine
Click Here to reach New Jersey’s search engine
5. Ask Around:
Although I chose Deuce’s first center on my own, when I was ready to begin searching for a new center, I consulted a close family friend whom I knew had high standards for their children’s care. I also realized since we don’t have much family here, it would be beneficial to have Deuce at a center where someone who was like family frequented and he would have a “cousin” there. She told me about the center and I made an appointment to visit. Once I visited, I fell in love with the staff there and was blown away by their curriculum. Deuce was moved from his old center to his current center within 5 days and we have never looked back. But my point is to ask someone you trust where they send their child especially if your children are around the same age.
6. Find out the cost:
As I was saying before, many centers charge a different price for full time care (up to 10 hours each day, 5 days per week) and part time care. Although the cost is something you should be cognizant of, don’t let it discourage you. There are often scholarships directly from the center based upon income, and even state grant subsidy programs available if you are a student or work. Regarding cost, you should also inquire as to if there is an application fee, what meals are included in your weekly tuition, and also if diapers, wipes, juice, and snacks are to be supplied by you.
7. Finally, take a visit to the center once alone and a second time with your child:
The first visit to Deuce’s center was done alone during the children’s nap time so that I could speak with the teachers and staff without the distraction of my own child or the children at the center. The second visit was done with Deuce in tow immediately following nap time so that he could see the staff, children, and environment.
Choose a center that fits you and your child. Use the resources of the government and even family and friends. Happy hunting!
Do you love your daycare? What tips can you share to make it easier to find a great daycare?