Guidelines for Choosing a Safe & Healthy Daycare for Your Child
When choosing a daycare provider to entrust with the care of your children, there are several factors you should consider, as well as several red flags to be on the lookout for. Nothing is more important than our children, and protecting them from potential dangers in their daily environment is part of our job as parents.
When choosing providers, each parent must make a decision they are comfortable with. Some parents will choose the in-home care of a nanny, others will choose a larger facility with multiple providers and more children. While these decisions are personal, the process of choosing should be relatively similar:
1. Does the daycare follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines for childcare facilities?
- For standard infant care, the AAP recommends that daycare centers have no higher than a 3:1 child to caregiver ratio.
- While the high number of caregivers needed decreases as children get older, ensuring that a daycare facility abides by these guidelines is the number one step in making sure your child will be well attended and cared for. When workers get overwhelmed with too many children, some of the children are bound to get overlooked, neglectful and dangerous situations can happen, and accidents do occur.
2. Check the experience level of those providing care at the facilities.
- It is your right as a parent to interview the people who will be caring for your child. Whether they are an in-home nanny or a worker at a facility, make certain you feel comfortable and safe leaving your child with these people.
- It is also your right as a parent to perform background checks on those workers who will be attending your child. If any facility is ever hesitant to let you do this, take that as a red flag and seriously consider the reasons they might be hesitant.
3. Look for a facility with great communication skills.
- While this might seem vague, take serious note of how well documented the days are at the facility. Do the workers keep track of children’s schedules? Do they easily offer information to you, or do you feel like it’s work to get them to talk about their policies and practices?
4. Find a facility that is fully supportive (and not just tolerant) of your practices.
- For example, if you are in search of infant care and you have chosen to breastfeed or use cloth diapers with your child, these things are your right as a parent and should never be questioned by an outside caregiver. If you feel they are not supportive, or if you are not comfortable with their policies regarding your choices, it might be a good sign to look elsewhere for care.
- Pay close attention to how the facility handles special requests you make. Are they cognizant of allergies or special dietary needs your child has? Are they respectful of your choices as a parent? Do they question the decisions you’ve made and offer alternatives that you are not comfortable with, or even know to be harmful to the child?
5. Choose a facility where you know your child will be challenged and engaged intellectually.
- Daycare programs should offer more than just babysitting. They should begin introducing children to a preschool-like environment (or continue the structure of a school-like environment for older children), and should begin to engage your children on physical, emotional, and cognitive levels.
- Are there scheduled activities? Do you notice the children being taken outside to play, being read to, being played with and interacted with on a daily basis? On the opposite side, do you notice children being left in the same place for extended periods of time? Do you feel like the environment they are being left in is less than stimulating?