As a childcare provider, preschool teacher, Early Childhood Education specialist, and mom I am often asked by friends what to look for when searching for a new school for their child. I have a few key things to look for in a quality childcare. Now I am in no way a “child care guru” or anything but I do have many years in the business. I hope this post is able to guide you in the right direction when looking for a quality environment for your little person.
- Safety and Supervision: Make sure the environment is safe. Aside from the obvious, (i.e. chemicals left out, cords dangling from the ceiling) are doors normally kept locked? If not, do they have an alarm that rings when it is opened? Is the playground safe and free of debris, garbage etc? Are children ever left alone? Does it seem that the provider has a good handle on what children are doing?
- Cleanliness: I care for children ages 2 and 3 years old. They constantly have things in their mouths, are picking their noses and digging in places you don’t want to know about so in my opinion cleaning and sanitizing is vital! Although you can’t always prevent germs from spreading a provider can be proactive. Toys in heavy rotation should be cleaned daily. Blankets, sheets and pillows at least every week unless needed. I am big on wiping down doorknobs with Lysol, and I leave hand sanitizer on our parent area to be used as needed by adults. Students need to be washing their hands throughout the day. I realize I am one person and can’t conquer all germs alone so I have a cleaning service provide a deep cleaning once a month. Ask your potential school how often things are cleaned in the classroom.
- Educational Programming: I talk to many providers and many of them laugh at me for providing an educational program for my 2 year olds. For some reason 2 year olds are “scary” – but when you think about it this is the time they are most excited to learn new things – just about everything is new to them. Make sure your potential school takes use of this. Do they offer a variety of activities throughout the day so that the child isn’t bored? How often is the television on? Is computer time limited? Now please don’t think that if your child doesn’t bring home an art activity or physical piece of paper “autographed” just for you daily that he or she isn’t learning.
- Teachers and Staff: Make sure the staff is trained in cpr/first aid…no matter what state you are in this is an across the board requirement. Many center classrooms have multiple teachers while in home childcare and schools have between 1 – 3. No matter how many teachers make sure they have been background checked by the state and have cpr and first aid on file…not sure…just ask! Remember better to be safe than sorry. Don’t forget to ask about education background…most states are beginning to crack down on licensed providers about child development and other training courses. However, many of these requirements are bare minimums and not all states abide…remember…don’t be afraid to ask!
- Use Common Sense: Look for cues from your child, follow instinct when something doesn’t seem right…its probably not! Many parents go instantly with what a friend recommends…remember a school that fits one child may not be a good fit for your child. Look for a place that seems appealing to your child. A place where your child will feel at home, thrive and have fun.
If after reviewing your list and you are still on the fence about a school, request a free day…many schools offer at least a few hours free for a child to “try out” the new school. In addition be sure to search for your states childcare licensing website and review more information about the school. Georgia’s licensing website is http://decal.ga.gov/ You can also check with the local resource and referral office for more information about the school and perhaps others that may be a better fit for your child. Check out Georgia’s resource and referral office at http://www.qualitycareforchildren.org/
Remember – go with your gut! – No one knows your child better than YOU!
Pictures courtesy of A Step Ahead Preschool