choosing-the-right-childcareChoosing a daycare center for your child involves asking plenty of questions and being observant. Start your search about six months before you’ll need childcare (the best centers fill up fast), and use the following list of criteria as a guide. If you find a center that scores a perfect ten, you’ve found childcare gold. To help you make this all-important decision, we’ve talked to mothers and other experts who have been in the child-care trenches. These are the questions you should ask yourself when choosing for the best childcare center for your child.

1) Are they friendly?

A good daycare center should have a welcoming, friendly atmosphere and be known for its nurturing environment. Ask the center for names and numbers of current clients and call them for references, or stop by during afternoon pickup time and approach some other parents then. Also, be mindful of your first impression: In this case it counts a lot.

One of the most important thing to consider when choosing the best childcare centre is how the staff acts, not just towards you but also, to the children. Ideally, a caregiver should be on the floor playing with the kids or holding one on her lap. In their early years, babies need close, loving, interactive relationships with adults in order to thrive. That’s why it’s especially important that babies’ first caregivers be warm and responsive, and that even in group care, infants and older babies get a healthy dose of one-on-one time.

2) How responsible are they?

Babies need consistent, predictable care. It helps them to form a secure attachment to their caregivers. If you’re looking at an in-home caregiver, request that the person you’re considering make a one-year commitment to the job. If you’re considering a center, find out how long the current caregivers have been working there and how much turnover the center usually experiences.

3) Keep them checked

While word-of-mouth referrals from other parents or trusted resources are important, you need to look at a place for yourself to assess whether it meets your needs. Of course, any child-care environment should be kept clean, childproofed, and well stocked with sturdy books and toys that are age-appropriate. Other details to consider: When older children share the space, toys with small parts (choking hazards) should be kept away from younger babies. Ideally, infants and babies should have their own area where they won’t get “loved” too much by older toddlers. A room or separate area dedicated solely to swings and bouncers may look appealing at first glance, but keep in mind that growing babies need plenty of floor time to develop and strengthen their muscles. If possible, try to visit the same centers at different times of the day to get a sense of how the staff interacts with the children and what the routine is. You may want to consider popping in unannounced a few times after you’ve enrolled your child, just to see how things are going. Sometimes your visits will confirm that the place is right for you, but sometimes they’ll be a real eye-opener.

4) Keep talking

Make sure you can communicate comfortably with each other. When you first hand off your child in the morning, you should tell the caregiver how your little one slept the night before, if he is teething, and whether he ate breakfast. At the end of the day you’ll want to know similar information, such as the number of diapers he went through, when he napped, and if he seemed happy overall. It’s always preferable to speak to the caregiver in person. If that’s not possible, ask if there’s a convenient time to phone, perhaps at nap time.

5) Address any problems with caregiver

It’s inevitable that you’ll experience conflicts with your caregiver, both large and small. Address problems right away rather than ignoring them until they grow out of proportion. Some issues can be resolved quickly; others may require more discussion. Whatever the conflict, treat the caregiver in a respectful manner, but don’t be afraid to speak up, says Deborah Borchers, MD, a pediatrician in private practice in Cincinnati. When broaching a difficult subject, ask the caregiver’s opinion, and hear her out. As the parent, you have the final word with an in-home caregiver, but you’re more likely to elicit cooperation if the caregiver knows she has been heard. For example, instead of demanding an earlier nap time to make bedtime easier, ask the caregiver if she has ideas about how to adjust your baby’s schedule so he won’t grow so overtired in the evening.

6) Trust your parental instincts

Every parent knows when something doesn’t feel quite right. You may be turned off by a center everyone in town raves about or clash with a highly recommended sitter. If that happens, keep searching. Babies deserve, and thrive under, good, nurturing care. If something just doesn’t feel right about your situation, investigate other options. You’re not married to a particular person or situation, and if things don’t work out, you can always make a switch. Yes, you want consistency for your baby, but that doesn’t mean you can’t alter arrangements.

No matter what your work hours are, you are still your child’s essential caregiver — the most consistent source of love and support in her life. Under your care and guidance, along with the help of your well-chosen caregivers, your baby will flourish and grow into a happy, healthy child. Here at Kidz Childcare we take every  opportunity to help you make the right choice.