Tips for Choosing a Day Care for Your Child

Experts offer advice on what to consider when choosing a day care for your child.

When it comes to choosing a day care for your child, there’s a lot to consider – from school and learning environment to health and safety. And with so many day care options in metro Detroit and beyond, you might not know how to narrow things down.

But, we’re here to help. Metro Parent asked two local early childhood experts for advice on choosing a day care for your child. Read on for information on what to consider when making your decision.

“Often word of mouth from another family is really powerful,” says Kellye Wood, the director of early childhood with Oakland Schools. If you’ve received a referral from a friend or family member – or even an online mommy group – that could set you off in the right direction, but it’s just the beginning.

“You really want to look for child care providers who are sensitive to your child’s needs and your child’s interests,” Wood adds.

One way to get a feel for the facility is to take a tour. During your tour, there are five areas to consider when it comes to making your child’s day care choice, says Gena Sayej, the director of organic operations at Rainbow Child Care Centers.

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1. School environment. Is the atmosphere warm and inviting? Did the person conducting your tour spend time learning about what is most important to you when it comes to your child’s experience at day care? Is the staff patient, loving, responsive and engaged?

2. Health and safety. Is there adult supervision at all times? Are there age-appropriate learning materials? Are caregivers following hand-washing techniques? Is there a designated diaper-changing area? Are dangerous products – such as medicals and chemicals – out of reach of children? Are teachers First-Aid and CPR-certified?

3. Security. Are there locked entrances to prevent unauthorized access to the building and outdoor play areas? Is there a formal check-in and check-out process? Is the staff wearing uniforms and name badges to make themselves easily identifiable? Are emergency weather and evacuation plans in place? Is there an established process for verbal and written communication between the staff and parents?

4. Learning environment. Does the day care offer a fun learning environment? Is skill development through small and large individual and/or group activities offered daily? Do teachers encourage exploration and discovery a child’s own pace? Do teachers follow age-appropriate practices and guidelines? Are class sizes based on the individual needs of children instead of minimum state ratios? Do learning environments offer opportunities to play, explore, experiment and create?

5. Facility. Are all gates and door closures functional? Are playgrounds well maintained? Is the parking lot in good shape?

Be sure to inquire about staff credentials, Wood adds. Find out how many children will be in the same room with your child, and ask about the cost of care. “Particularly infant care and toddler care is extremely expensive in our country,” Wood adds.

Cost is a huge factor for families. In fact, according to data from the Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan, center-based infant care in Michigan costs $10,281 each year, which is nearly as much as in-state tuition at a four-year public university – which is about $12,935.

No matter what day care option you choose, it’s ultimately about giving your child the best care possible – and that’s something only you can decide.

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