Choosing a daycare can be one of the most difficult decisions a new parent has to make. This task can feel incredibly daunting, especially for first-time parents. Since our children often spend upwards of 40-50 hours a week with their child care providers, it’s important to feel comfortable with the level of care they are receiving. While we all agree it’s important to pick the right daycare for your family, not everybody knows exactly how to go about doing that. If you are pregnant, it’s a good idea to start looking at daycares during your second or third trimester; when you find the right daycare for your family, you can put your name down for the month you want to start and your space will be held. Unfortunately, good daycares can fill up fast, especially if there is an influx of babies that year, and waiting lists can be long if you aren’t quick.
The first step in finding daycare options to choose from is generally to activate the word-of-mouth super-power that moms have. If a mother at your place of employment has had an experience, good or bad, they will absolutely tell you about it. Plant the seeds at work and within your friend groups that you are starting to think about daycares for your little one-to-be, and the suggestions will start coming in. Not only will the suggestions flow in, the recommendations for which centers to steer away from will be offered up as well.
Before you register your child for any particular center, it’s important to do your research and schedule a tour. When you come up with a list of facilities you want to tour, it’s helpful to write down a “pros and cons” list for each center. Make sure to focus on what is most important to you, and keep your price point in mind to avoid any unpleasant disappointments later in the process. Some centers are smaller and more like an intimate family, some are larger, and some are more focused on academics. You will know which one feels right for you, based on your parenting style and personality. Make sure to read online reviews and check if there are any license violations before getting your heart set on any particular facility. For practical purposes it’s also important to check what your commute will be at each facility–that could be a deciding factor when choosing between two centers.
When you schedule your tour, make sure that all parenting parties are able to make it to the meeting if possible—this is an important decision that everybody should be on board for. To prepare for the tour, it is highly recommended to write down a list of questions to ask while you are there. What type of discipline is used, what are the parental expectations for volunteering/monetary contributions/fundraising, is food provided, etc. Ask for a daily schedule example for whatever age you are looking for—likely, the infant room. Do they feed on cue or on a schedule? What are the ratios between teachers and children?
When you are at the school, pay close attention to the interactions between the teachers and the children. Especially in an infant room, seeing teachers on the floor playing with kids is a fantastic sign—this shows dedication and nurturing. Do the kids seem happy? Even if you are only looking at enrolling your child for the infant room, ask to see the other rooms during your tour. You don’t want to have to go through this process again in another year or two, so it’s a good idea to find a daycare that your children can grow up in, if possible. They are absolutely not a replacement for you, but they will be part of the village helping to grow your child into a wonderful human being, so use these tips to find the perfect fit for your family.