Child Care Programs
How to choose the right day care center
Child care is essential for the working parent, but for many finding the right place for your child can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. Simplify the process with a few of our tips that will not only make your search easier by providing a well-planned and researched strategy, but will help you feel more comfortable with the decision you've made.
How to find the day care that's right for you and your child:
- Decide on your child care needs: Stop and think about what services you will need. Do you travel? Do you need full-time or part-time care?
- Check availability: Space is hard to find no matter where you look, so find a daycare as soon as possible. Waiting lists can be years long. If you are on a waiting list make sure you have a contingency plan in case you don't have a spot by the time you need it.
- Find out specific supply lists, fees or other expenses: Many child care services and caregivers have supply lists, specified clothing, backpack and shoe requirements, and fees. Fall is considered a new year for many child care service providers, so find out now what requirements may be in store and then plan early. Many centers also offer optional enrichment activities, such as dance, tumbling or karate, and often those classes fill up fast. Be sure you know what your options are if your hours for care end at 5 p.m. and you are running late or can't make it to pick up your child. Many daycares have additional late fees.
- Inquire about credentials: Find out the requirements the daycare has for hiring. Even if the people you interview with are all ECE (Early Childhood Education) trained, the facility may hire staff that are not. Will those staff members be caring for your child?
- Inquire about ratios: Provincial laws stipulate the maximum number of children allowable per staff member in Ontario is three staffers for every 10 babies under 18 months; one for every five toddlers 18 to 30 months; and one for every eight children aged 30 months to five years. Ask if this policy is enforced.
- Ask about nutrition: It's important to know what your child will be served, how it's made and whether there will be plenty of variety. You may want to ask if it is a peanut-free environment. What happens when your child is served something that they will not eat?
- Gather details on activities and environment: What will your child do all day? Is there a lot of outdoor play, arts and crafts or television watched? What toys are offered? While you are visiting make sure the environment (including building structure and cleanliness) meets your standards.
- Don't forget discipline: Ask the daycare provider to share the institution's philosophy on discipline. You may want to ask how the provider would handle specific incidents that your child may participate in such as biting, tantrums, etc.
- Review immunizations and other requirements: Are your child's immunizations up-to-date? Some caregivers will not allow child care services to begin until all immunizations are current, forms are completed and a physical has been completed within the last year.
- Evaluate and listen to your child: Once your child is in the day care setting, you'll want to pay close attention - even toddlers can communicate content or distress. As a parent, ask about your child's likes and dislikes and what he or she does each day. Talk with your child care provider, ask for feedback and listen…listen…listen!