I want only the very best for my beautiful nine-month-old baby girl.
For many parents of young children, providing the very best includes deciding on childcare.
My husband and I were lucky enough to have each had a period of time caring for our baby at home over these first nine months. We love being parents, but being at home was difficult in ways that neither of us had anticipated. Being our child’s constant caregiver, companion, educator and parent at home all day was not right for either of us. We enjoyed this time, of course, but we longed for our professional lives and the intellectual stimulation of the workplace.
Even on a part-time basis, we felt we could not give our full attention and commitment to either our daughter or to our professional lives. We soon realized that we were happier and healthier dedicating the weekdays to our professional responsibilities. As a result, we feel we are now better parents.
Do What Works
“Do what works for your family” may sound cliché but — really — do what works. For some families, one parent is able to stay home and the family thrives because of it. For others, the extended family can step in to help on a regular basis. For families like ours, both parents work outside the home. We need to know that our daughter is in an environment where she can play and learn with other kids and reach her developmental milestones. We realized that we were not providing this type of environment when we stayed at home with her.
We chose a daycare center for our daughter that combines a home environment and classroom structure. It has trained teachers and provides lesson plans, even for very young babies. It was important to us that our child has as much outside playtime as possible, and that she would be challenged both developmentally and intellectually during the day.
Choosing childcare can be a long, difficult process for many parents. Tips on getting through it follow.
Do Your Research
When seeking a daycare center in your community, ask other parents for their recommendations, as they will have information on the quality of the staff, the environment, affordability and day-to-day interaction between the daycare center and the parents.
Also search for daycare centers online, view their websites and drive by the locations to get a sense of the environment. Consider the following:
• Does the website explain the daycare center’s philosophy on education and play?
• Is a sample schedule offered?
• Is part-time daycare available?
• Is the location convenient?
• Would it be easy to get there in an emergency?
• Is the daycare center located on a busy road, or is it in a neighborhood?
• Does the daycare center have an inviting entrance, and does the playground have real grass?
Schedule a Tour
Contact your favorites to schedule a tour. Tours last about 15 minutes, so schedule as many as you can so that when you finally sit down to make a decision, you feel confident that you have the information you need.
During the tour, you will want to ask questions, such as:
• Will the daycare center warm up and give bottles of your breast milk to your child after 12 months?
• Will your child be able to move to the toddler room at 12 months’ old, based on development or based on daycare center capacity?
• If based on capacity, are older babies included in some older kids’ activities if they are ready developmentally?
• Is there a daily curriculum or planned activities for babies?
• Is the daycare center accredited?
• Does the daycare center value education and training for the teachers?
• How does the daycare center handle a baby unable to sleep in the crib?
• How often are diapers changed, and how does the daycare center deal with diaper rash?
• What is the ratio of babies to teachers, and does each baby spend the most time with one teacher?
• What is the cost to parents, and which items does the daycare center provide?
• How does the daycare center handle a child needing to be picked up during the day?
Take the opportunity to make observations, such as:
• Does the daycare center feel like a home?
• Do the teachers appear to enjoy taking care of the kids?
• Do the babies seem comfortable?
• Is the environment safe, especially for babies and kids who will be moving around?
• Does the play area look suitable for your baby to learn to crawl and walk?
• would you feel good about leaving your child at the daycare center?
If a daycare center doesn’t feel right, cross it off your list. You need to be completely comfortable and happy with the place your child will spend her days. I am excited to drop our daughter off at her baby school, and I have absolute confidence that she will have a wonderful day. With the right resources and information, you can find what works for your family, too.
Lisa Eilertsen is an attorney living in Ann Arbor, MI, with her husband and daughter.