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How to Find the Right Childcare

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    Choosing the right kind of childcare for your baby, toddler or preschooler is important for your child's safety and well being. It is also important because these early experiences affect how prepared your child is for school.

    There are many childcare options available to you and your family. While there is no one best childcare option, there may be a type that suits you and your child better. Try to take some time to think about the needs of your child, your personal preferences, and the options that are convenient to your family. By exploring your options, you will feel more confident with the childcare you choose.

    Here are some things to consider:

    Start your search early. If possible, begin considering your options at least a few months before childcare is needed. You can talk with friends or family about their experiences and begin researching childcare settings ahead of time. When you find a few options that look like good fits, you should plan a visit to each one. Ask to see the provider's license to operate, written safety and emergency procedures, and staff qualifications. After you narrow down your choices, visit your child and see if she is comfortable, how she interacts with other children, and how she responds to the caregivers.

    Think about your child's needs. Every child is unique and may be better suited to different childcare settings. For example, consider whether your child would thrive in a larger, more social setting, a place with more structured learning, or at home with an individual caregiver. Create a list of most important things for your child in a childcare setting and use that list to help inform your search.

    Consider your needs. Make sure the setting meets the needs of your schedule, is easily accessible via whatever transportation you use, and is in a convenient location to work or home. Also, consider whether you can communicate comfortably with the caregivers and feel like they listen to and respect your opinions.

    Consider your financial situation. Make sure the setting you choose provides quality child care that is affordable to you. Understand the calendar for the year, tuition schedule, and penalties in case you need to move or leave the provider. Do not necessarily let your choice be affected by your financial situation. Some programs can assist you in paying for childcare or provide you with a voucher.

    Communicate with caregivers. Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions, set rules, and demand a lot. After all, the caregiver you choose is taking care of someone very special to you. If they aren't comfortable with what you are asking for, you may consider looking for alternate childcare.

    Factors to Help Choose a Child Care Facility

    Every parent wants to make sure they are selecting the optimal child care facility for their child. After all, their child is their most precious cargo! They aren't going to send them just anywhere for the day when they aren't able to be with them, nor should they! But so many times, the price can end up being the primary factor for choosing a facility, and that should not always be the case. There is so much that child care facilities have to offer, including Precious Lambs. Make sure that you do your research when selecting your child's child care facility. Raise the standards you are willing to accept and know that price isn't always the most important thing!

    Factors, besides price, that should be considered when selecting a child care facility:

    Hours of Operation

    Depending on your circumstances, this may be a critical piece that you will need to determine. Do you have the flexibility to accommodate shorter hours of operation? Or are you committed to a fixed schedule at work where you may need longer hours for child care? Also, make sure you understand what the policies are for late pick-ups, as well. Even if you never intend to be late, there may those times where the impossible happens, and you will need a backup. Make sure you're prepared!

    Curriculum and Structure

    There are so many different philosophies and curriculums out there today in the child care world, so make sure you do your research and find a facility that matches your expectations. Are you looking for more "developmental" or "academic" needs for your child?

    Each facility will have its daily schedule, structure and activities that they promote, so make sure you know what the daily curriculum involves. Ask questions and find out specific things each facility would do to prepare your children for school. You want to make sure you're establishing a lifetime foundation and enthusiasm for learning!

    The ratio of Staff to Children

    Make sure you learn more about what the ratio is for staff to children. For example, the more staff that a facility has may mean that every child will be getting more individual attention, which could be beneficial if your child does better in small groups.

    References

    One of the best ways to find great child care facilities in your area is to ask for the recommendation of your friends, family and other parents.

    But even more than that, ask the child care facility if they can give you a list of potential parents you could contact to get more information about their particular centre. Does the facility conduct regular parent evaluations that you can see?

    Make sure current families are satisfied with the child care facility, and it will help to put your mind at ease that you are making the right decision for your child. Word of mouth is priceless!

    Cleanliness

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    While all child care centres may be a little messy with all of the little hands that are constantly in and out of everything, it's still a great idea to take a peek "behind the scenes" when you're taking a tour of the facility.

    Check out the bathrooms and kitchen and make sure they are held to standards of cleanliness that you would expect your child to be around all day long. Hygiene is important for little ones, and you want to make sure they are going to be well taken care of while they are out of your care.

    Training, Licensing and Credentials

    Do the facilities that you are looking into have well-educated and experienced staff? You want to make sure your child is exposed to high-quality interactions and activities daily. Ask each facility what the experience and education level is of the teachers and director.

    Is the facility licensed correctly? Is there a place where you can see teacher biographies to get a better feel for who your child will be spending their days with? Is there someone on staff who has CPR and first aid training? Ensure you do your homework and that the teachers your child will be with have the right credentials and experience!

    Snacks and Meals

    If your child will be attending child care all day, make sure you know what the policies are on snacks and meals. For example, will you be expected to provide food for your child every day? Is this part of the overall tuition at the child care facility?

    If it is provided, what types of things are offered? How are food allergies handles, and are the items they offer healthy and nutritious? Ensuring your child has proper nutrition throughout the day is an extremely important part of choosing a child care centre, so make sure you find one that meshes with how you want snacks and meals handled.

    Turnover of Staff

    Don't be afraid to ask about the staff turnover rates. If staff are constantly in flux at the facility, it may be best to avoid it. It may mean there are deeper rooted problems, and they cannot find and retain quality staff. High turnover can also negatively affect your child, who may work well with a teacher who suddenly is no longer there. It can greatly influence a child's daily routine and schedule.

    Having the same staff working with your child day after day builds a level of trust that helps to make a child's day go much easier and is more conducive to learning.

    Location

    Is it better to find a child care facility that is close to home or close to work? That is it easier for you to get to or your partner to get to? Figuring out the logistics of how you will get your child to and from a child care centre will be an important step in choosing one. You'll also want to consider the location of the child care facility in relation to the neighbourhood it is in. Is it safe? Is there plenty of parking?

    Is it in a well-maintained area, and is it well-lit once those early winter nights start showing up? Making sure the location of a potential child care facility is as safe as possible and easy for you to get to will help narrow down your options.

    Your Gut Reaction

    Finally, there isn't anything quite like your gut reaction after touring different child care facilities. If you get a bad feeling, it probably isn't going to be the centre for you. Instincts are important, and even if there is absolutely nothing wrong with the child care centre that you can see, you always want to make sure you and your child will be comfortable with the new facility!

    Things Parents Should Expect From a Daycare Provider

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    1. Open Communication. Parents should feel that they can talk with their provider about any issues and know that their provider will come to them with any issues that she may have. A provider should be open and honest about a child's behaviours, development, and anything else in the daycare home. It may not be a good fit if you don't feel you can talk to your provider about concerns or questions.

    2. Clean & Safe Environment. Your provider should offer a clean and organized space for your child, both indoors and out. Space should provide ample room for your child to play and learn without many non-child friendly items around. In addition, the environment needs to be safe, free of dangerous or broken furniture and toys. Homes should also be smoke-free, and everyone that has access to the home regularly should have passed a background check.

    3. Open Door Policy. Parents should be welcome in the providers home at any time during daycare hours. Most providers lock the doors during the day for safety reasons but unlock them during the usual pick up times. Parents shouldn't have to knock and wait for the provider to let them in or call first before coming to pick up their child. A provider may ask that you let them know if you are going to pick your child up early so that they can have them ready for you, but in general, they should have an open-door policy.

    4. Respect. Your provider should respect your role as the parent and the decisions you make for your child. They shouldn't offer unsolicited advice or critiques of your parenting skills, interfere or take sides in family issues, or impose religious views on a child in their care. If you and your provider don't agree on parenting practices, it's best to find another provider. Your provider should also respect your family's privacy and not share personal information with any other persons.

    5. Reliability. Parents should be able to count on their providers. They should be notified in advance of any scheduling changes, new staff, or daycare closures. There will be times when a provider gets sick and needs to close, which makes the closure notification last minute, but that shouldn't happen that often and some providers have a backup plan for this. Parents should expect their provider to stick to the hours and terms of the child care agreement you both have signed and agreed to.

    6. Knowledgeable. You want a daycare provider that is knowledgeable on the developmental stages and milestones of the children in their care. Someone who understands what children are capable of and creates an age-appropriate environment for them. If your provider is knowledgeable, you can also work with them to find solutions to any issues that you may be struggling with, and you can turn to them for advice if needed.

    7. Age Appropriate Environments. No matter what style program your provider offers (play-based, structured schedule, Montessori, or traditional preschool), there should be various age-appropriate learning tools and toys for each age group in her care. For example, if your provider has preschoolers and infants, there should be space for a variety of toys for each age group, not just toys for one age group. A provider doesn't need to have wall to wall toys, but make sure there is a good variety and that they are age-appropriate and in good condition.

    8. Supervision. Your child care provider should be aware of all things that go on with the children in her home and know where every child is at all times. She should notice when children are behaving oddly or are not feeling well. If your provider properly supervises your child, she will know things about your child, like what toys are their favourite and what interests them. While incidents and injuries happen because kids are very active, providers who properly supervise children will have fewer incidents than those who offer less supervision.

    9. Written Policies & Procedures. Parents should have a list of written policies and procedures from their providers. This assures that everyone knows what is expected from them and clearly defines your role and what your provider expects from you. It also explains what is expected of the provider and how her business is run. Having a written policy protects you both.

    10. Compassion for your child. Most importantly, you want a provider that cares for your child lovingly and compassionately. Your provider should make your child feel safe and happy. She should accept your child for who they are and find ways to encourage them to explore their interests and let their personality shine.

    Signs of a good daycare center
    • A good reputation.
    • Established ground rules.
    • A stimulating curriculum.
    • A qualified, caring staff.
    • Healthy food.
    • Clean, safe facilities.
    • A current license.
    Factors, besides price, that should be considered when selecting a child care facility:
    • Hours of Operation. ...
    • Curriculum and Structure. ...
    • Ratio of Staff to Children. ...
    • References. ...
    • Cleanliness. ...
    • Training, Licensing and Credentials. ...
    • Snacks and Meals. ...
    • Turnover of Staff.

    Overall, the average child care cost for one child in 2020 was $612/week for a nanny (up from $565/week in 2019), $340/week for a child care or day care center (up from $182/week) and $300/week for a family care center (up from $177/week).

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