Choosing the right childcare centre can be a stressful time for any parent because there are so many factors to consider. Here are some important things to think about when selecting the perfect home-away-from-home for your little one.
Visit prospective centres without making an appointment. When you arrive, take note of the children's demeanour. Do they look happy and relaxed? Are there many runny noses and full nappies? Take note, too, of the carers. Ideally, you should find them on the floor, engaged, talking and playing with the children. Pay attention to your sense of smell too. The smells of old food/urine/mustiness are good clues as to the hygiene and cleanliness of a centre. In addition, ask questions of the manager or principal and notice whether your questions are answered easily and openly.
Find out about the children's daily routine. Look for age-appropriate activities, music, books and toys that will foster development, as well as a balance between indoor and outdoor playtimes and between busy and quiet activities. TV should feature little or not at all in the day-to-day schedule.
Investigate the centre's policies on issues that are important to you. Perhaps your child is a picky eater, or you are concerned about contagious sicknesses. Ask to see the policies on the management of these childcare aspects, and weigh these against your own methods and childcare beliefs. Remember though, that no centre can match your parenting exactly, and be prepared to compromise on some things. For example, you might want your little one to be rocked to sleep every nap-time. This is not always feasible in a childcare centre, but the carer could sit next to your child until they fall asleep. It is important to find a centre that has an ideology that aligns with your own, in order to avoid confusion and mixed messages to your child.
Talk to other parents who have similar values and parenting styles to you. Parents can share valuable insights like the centre's approach to issues such as behaviour management and food. They can also speak to the overall "feel" of the centre and the level of ease they feel leaving their children there. Other people's experiences can be very helpful when choosing a childcare centre, but remember to keep these opinions in perspective.
Finally, trust your gut feeling. You can't always put your finger on it, but the centre may just feel right (or wrong) for your child.
To learn more about the services that childcare centres can offer, contact a centre like Hopskotch Kindergarten.