I remember vividly what it was like the first time I talked to childcare providers. At first, no one seemed good enough. And during the tour, I had a hard time imagining my infant spending time there. But I chose one anyway and with time, my son’s teacher became an important part of his life. They were truly caring, loving, and joyful in their work. That’s what every new parent wants to find when seeking a childcare provider.
How do you know when you’ve found the right childcare? And how do you get to that point?
Here are some helpful steps in choosing the right childcare provider for your family.
STEP 1: Decide what kind of Childcare Provider you want There are so many different types of childcare providers. From the largest centers that care for a few hundred children to your nanny who devotes their time to only your child. Decide what type of childcare is most attractive to you.
- Daycare center: A daycare center offers care for many children in the same age group as your child. The benefit of a daycare center is that you aren’t relying on one person for care. This means that when your childcare provider has an illness or takes a vacation, you aren’t left taking vacation time off of work.
- In-home childcare: In-home childcare generally has one individual who provides care to your child. For this type of care, you take your child to someone else home. Generally, the caregiver is also a parent, and providing in-home care allows them to stay at home with their children.
- Nanny that comes to your house: Nannies travel to your home to care for your children only. In some situations, neighbors can do a nanny share where they bring all children to one home for the day. While this is generally the most expensive option, it’s also the most flexible and personalized option. It’s also a good option if you have multiple children in need of care.
- Family members: Depending on your family situation, you might be able to find family members willing to care for your child. Some families split the care up among multiple family members and each one has set days of the week. Others have one family member willing to be the sole caregiver during weekdays. As a parent, you have to decide where your comfort level is with your childcare situation. Everyone has different thoughts and feelings about their child’s care.
STEP 2: Gather recommendations for childcare providers Ask your friends, family, and coworkers who their childcare provider is and what they think of them. Recommendations are great because you’ll know the inside scoop on the childcare provider and how they do things. This is information you might struggle to get during tours and interviews. There is a wealth of information around you about childcare providers in your area. Here are some people you should ask about their experience.
- Coworkers: The great part about asking coworkers is that they likely have similar working hours as you do, which means that part of the childcare is already vetted for you. Plus, their childcare provider is within a reasonable distance from your place of work.
- Neighbors: Asking your neighbors about their childcare setup can be especially beneficial if you are looking for a nanny share or in-home childcare. Just like your coworkers, you’ll be confident that you are learning about local childcare providers.
- Social media: If you’re part of any online mom groups or forums, ask for recommendations or tips for local childcare providers. The more you know before reaching out to a potential provider, the better.
- Friends: Talk to your friends to learn what aspects they like about their childcare provider. Learning more about what to look for in a childcare provider will be helpful in your quest to find the right care for your family.
STEP 3: Do further research Once you’ve gathered some recommendations, you’re ready to do further research on the childcare providers. Go online and read reviews. Each mom is looking for something different from their childcare provider. If there are negative reviews, see if these are topics of importance to you. Ask the childcare center if they’ll allow you to speak to other moms who send their children to the center. Read up on the childcare centers’ licensure and see if there are any complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau. At this point, you should have a shortlist of childcare options that interest you.
You’re ready to start scheduling interviews and tours to take the next step. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask all providers. Asking a set list of questions will help you compare and contrast your options. Feel free to ask additional questions outside of that list but be sure to get answers for your set questions from each provider. As you go through the interviews and tours, picture your child or children attending the center. What would their typical day look like? How happy would they be at the end of the day when you pick them up? Will they get the opportunity to go outside regularly but also have the chance to work on their fine motor skills indoors?
STEP 4: Learn the childcare providers’ policies Throughout your research phase, be sure to learn all about the childcare providers’ policies. Visit the providers’ website and see if there is a handbook you can read. Handbooks contain all major policies and the tone will give you a better idea of what the childcare center is like. If you can’t find a handbook, ask for one during your interviews and tours.
For in-home childcare or nannies, discuss how they handle children acting out, snacks and lunches, illness, etc. Your goal is to get a clear picture of what life will look like when you leave your child with the provider and head to work. You might have certain care instructions and guidelines that you specifically want done for your child. Ask the provider if they will do those things. Ensure that the provider is willing to comply with areas of care that are important to you because no one knows your child like you do.
STEP 5: Ask about education programming Even if you’re shopping for a childcare provider for your infant, you want to know more about educational programming at the childcare center. Ideally, you don’t want to have to shop around for a new provider as your child grows. You want your child to grow right where they are at from the start. Your child’s early development and learning are important to their lifelong success.
Protect that success with early education programming to make them empowered learners. Discuss what sort of activities the childcare provider does with children during each important stage of development. Children should be well prepared for kindergarten and the right childcare provider can help ensure that. Plus, as your child grows, you’ll need before and after school care as well as care during summer break. Learn more about what your childcare provider offers for these later phases of life to aid you in making your decision.