Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Choosing a Child Care Center
Being part of a child care center can be a wonderful experience for both you and your child. Research shows that attending a high quality child care center can benefit a child’s social, language, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development. Choosing a child care center is exciting, but can also be confusing. When considering a specific child care center, be sure to arrange to have a tour of the center. During this tour, do not hesitate to ask questions about the center and their practices. Here are some specific things that you can look for in a child care center and some specific questions you can ask to get this information:
Caregivers and teachers should be trained or educated in early childhood education or development and should be provided with adequate compensation.
Staff turnover should be minimal. It should be expected that in a twelve month period the child remains with at least one of the same caregivers she began with. Do not hesitate to ask the child care center administration about turnover and expect a concrete answer. Lower turnover (the number of teachers who have left in a year divided by the total number of teachers) is better. A turnover rate of 50% or more is extremely high.
Your children will fare the best if they are able to interact with a consistent set
of caregivers throughout the day. In most child care centers, two teachers work in a
classroom at any given time. It is important, then, to find out how the center handles
teacher breaks or absences. The more teachers who are assigned to a specific classroom, the more likely it is your child will interact with the same set of teachers throughout the day.
Smaller teacher-child ratios (how many teachers per children in the classroom) and
appropriate group sizes (how many total children in the classroom) should be maintained in order to ensure that each child gets the individual attention he needs and that the classroom is not too chaotic and noisy.
A clean, fun and safe environment where children can be easily supervised, but still
have the freedom to explore is important. Make sure to look for activity areas which
incorporate various interests and encourage creative learning, such as areas for building blocks, arts and crafts, music, dress up, and books. Space for physical activities, either indoor or outdoor, is important as well.
The teachers should be warm, friendly, and should care about the child and the parents. Ask to visit some classrooms and stay long enough to observe how the teachers act around the children, and with you.
Touring a center and asking questions such as these should give you a good sense of the quality of care that the center provides. While no center may be able to meet all of these standards, knowing what the key indicators of quality care are will help you choose a center that can benefit your family for the long-term. The most important factor is your own personal feeling about the center and whether it meets your child’s individual needs. While choosing a child care center can be daunting, it is an exciting process as well. Your child’s experience in care can be enriching and lay the foundation for a lifetime of wonderful experiences, not only for the child but for your entire family.