Choosing the Best Daycare for Your Child

You should do plenty of research and legwork when choosing a daycare center for your child or children; some daycare centers are exceptional and wonderful, while others are downright bad. Your goal is to choose a daycare center which allows your child to grow and develop appropriate skills, while also having fun. The best daycare centers have a good mix of activities which teach necessary skills.

Advantages of Daycare

There are a couple of definite advantages of a daycare center over in-home childcare in the form of a nanny or babysitter. One advantage is that your children have the opportunity to socialize with other children instead of playing by themselves or with their siblings all day. A daycare center can also be more stable and consistent than a nanny because the center is open with someone to watch your child, even if the owner or teacher is sick. If your nanny is sick you may find yourself scrambling for daycare or missing a day of work you cannot afford to miss.

Disadvantages of Daycare

Depending on the worker to child ratio at your particular daycare center, it is possible that your child may not get the one-on-one attention they need like they would with a parent or nanny. Children are also much more likely to get sick when in daycare because of the germs they are exposed to from other children. Regardless of the rules in place, many parents, whether out of ignorance or necessity, send their children to daycare when they are ill. This, in turn, causes many more children to get sick, and your child could suffer many more coughs and colds while in daycare than in-home care. Should you be required to work late, or need someone to watch your child on holidays or when your child is sick, these could be issues with the typical daycare and would not be so much with in-home child care.

Decide What's Important

Once you have decided to put your child in daycare, decide what issues are most important to you. Do you need a daycare center close to your home or work? Do you want a smaller, family-owned daycare, or a larger center with more resources? Thoroughly research all your possibilities by asking friends, family, doctors or referral agencies for recommendations regarding daycare. Make sure all the daycare centers you are considering are licensed, and check to see if they are accredited by the National Association of Family Child Care. See which centers have received local awards or recognition.

Call and Visit

Once you have a list of "possibles" call them on the phone and ask preliminary questions. Take plenty of notes, and remember your initial feeling during the conversation. Ask about policies, hours, fees, activities and philosophies on teaching. How flexible are they, and can they accommodate special requests? Do they have experienced teachers and change activities frequently? Next visit your further narrowed-down list of possible daycare centers. Take a look around and see if the center offers the kind of warm, happy, clean and safe environment you would want your child in. Pay attention to the teacher to child ratio, and pay even closer attention to your gut instinct. Start checking references and call parents of children who are at the center to ask their opinion. Take your child for a visit to the potential daycare and see how he or she reacts and fits in and whether he seems comfortable.

The road may be long and winding when finding a great daycare, but the rewards are in the smiling face that greets you every evening at pick-up time.