By Ruth Ninajanty. Published in Bambini, 2012.
Every parent wants the best for their children. The problem for working parents nowadays is finding the most suitable day care, not only for the children but also for the parents’ needs.
When you are set to trust a couple hours in your child’s day to a third party, you are entitled to be extra careful. Research shows that early childhood experiences, especially during the first five years, will affect the brain’s organizational development and functioning, including social and emotional skills, all the way to their adult years.
More often than not, non-family members are involved shaping the children. This includes day care centres, which are in high demand due to the increasing number of working mothers. Some children start day care as early as 3 months old when their mothers return from maternity leave. Hence, choosing the best care possible has become parents’ top priority.
Starting with A List
Before deciding on one, make a list of priorities based on what you and your child’s need. Location is one significant factor, but not necessarily the determining factor on choosing day care centre. Instead of limiting yourself from the centres available around your home, you may also want to explore the one near your office, your spouse’s office or your parents’ home. Once you have the list of day care centre you’re likely to visit, check the available facilities and services before signing in for trials. For example, you’d want to know what kind of outdoor activities the centre offers. These kinds of information can easily be obtained through the centre’s website or by a simple phone call.
Listening to Others
Never decide in the dark. Talk to your friends, your spouse’s friends, your neighbours, your parents, even the fellow parents you meet while dropping your child for a trial day. They will provide a good insight, especially when they have older children who have ‘graduated’ from day care. Even better if they have experiences with the one centre you’re choosing. Taking trial days usually observes everyone’s interaction. Just remember, in the end, it’s you and your child’s need that matters. So no matter how perfect a day care could be for your nieces and nephews, it can go all wrong on you.
So, your baby is starting his day care days. Making friends and starting a whole new adventure while you’re resuming your regular routine. Don’t think you’re done with the hunt. A whole new phase is just begun.
Communicating with the Caregivers
Letting go of your child on the care of someone else won’t be easy, especially when you’re entrusting the child to strangers without your direct supervision. Make time to get to know the caregivers better. Find out about their family and education background, whether they have special skills such as providing CPR (Child Protection Register) to infants and children, and how passionate they are about children. The last part can be tricky. If they are good and actually involved, they can easily answer questions such as “is my child sharing?”or “Is he having a tantrum today? How did you manage it?” Treat them like a “partner” and ask simple questions like what they think his strengths and weaknesses are.
If your child is less than a year old, this can be harder. But try asking questions about your child’s day to his or her caregivers. The dedicated one will cheerfully narrate what the day was like, even though it’s mainly sleeping and drinking his milk. You can also drop by without announcement and see what the caregivers’ reactions are.
One of the most important feedbacks comes from your child. The first three months are an important transition time for your child to adapt to a new environment. If he’s of talking age, ask him to recite his day and pay attention to what he says. With younger kids, you can easily ask simple questions about whether he found friends there or how good his caregivers are. Before dropping him off in the morning, observe whether he’s looking forward to meeting his caregivers and other children at the centre. Of course, anxiety separation always haunts every parent-child relationship, but you can always trust your instinct and decide from there.
SMALL EXTRA ATTENTION
These matters may seem small but they can bring big impact to your child day care days.
- Child-Staff Ratio
According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, the best staff-to-child ratio for children age newborn to 24 months is 1-to-3. For 2-3 years old, it’s 1-to-4 and for 3 – 4 years old, it’s 1-to-7. “It’s easier to give one-on-one attention and be responsive when there are fewer kids in a room,” says Stephanie Glowacki, director of accreditation services at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
- Day Care Policy
Good day care will have established rules that are enforced equally to every child. The policy covers immunization requirement, regulation on sick child, safety and cleanliness of the centre, clear daily schedule for the children which includes meals, snacks, and age-appropriate activities. The centre should also open for any unannounced visit by parents.
- Consistency in Philosophy
One thing parents often forget is to check the discipline, sleeping and feeding policy enforced in the centre. A good centre will ask questions about the parents’ child care philosophy and try their best to match what’s being taught at home. Inconsistency in these subjects will be frustrating because it “makes children feel unsure, insecure and confused,” says Sal Severe, author of How to Behave So Your Child Will Too!
- What’s included in the cost
Some day care centres present you with the all-included cost right in the beginning. Others may just charge with the basic price and ask you to pay later for any extra activities you’d like your child to participate in. For newborn care, most of the time you are required to supply your own diapers and milk.