The search for a childcare provider can feel like a maze. As the service manager at ChildServe’s Childcare program, I help parents learn about the childcare industry so they can make the right decision for their family.
My best advice is to start your search by scheduling a facility tour. You may choose to drop by the center unannounced to request a tour at that time. A tour will let you see the caregivers in action, and give you a sense for what the organization is really like. Not sure what you should be looking for? Check out my tips below for some ideas to get you started:
1. What is the relationship between the caregivers and parents?
Relationship building starts when you walk in the door. A great care provider wants you to feel welcomed to the center. You should be greeted by center managers and staff, with a smile. Your first impression should be positive and indicative of what you can expect if you chose to enroll. When you find a care provider you can trust, communication and respect should be natural, key parts of your relationship.
2. How do the staff and kids interact?
You obviously want caregivers who will treat your child with kindness – that is a given. But you should also look at how involved they are while providing care. Do the caregivers get on the kids’ level? Are they just “watching” the children, or are they interacting with them? Great caregivers find ways to use what’s happening around them as a teachable moment. They’re not restrained or cold, but instead they are helping the kids develop their language skills by talking and playing with them.
3. What is the environment like?
Look at the building as a whole and make sure it’s clean, safe, and organized. Pay attention to how the staff takes care of messes (food or otherwise). Look at the children’s appearance. Kids can get messy from a fun art project or from playing outside, but when the play time is done, clean up should happen. If you visit during snack or meal time, you can watch for whether kids wash their hands before eating. Runny noses should get wiped, and diapers should be changed promptly. If you notice someone changing a child’s diaper, you should also see them wash their hands afterward. These are small things to watch for, and a great care provider is going to prioritize a clean, safe environment.
4. Is there evidence of learning?
Kids learn best by playing. Find out if kids have time scheduled into their day to take part in imaginative play, songs, crafts, and field trips that help bring learning to life. From kids work posted on walls to age-appropriate books to read, there should be lots of evidence of learning. Listen to the room – is it complete chaos, or are kids learning and participating in activities together? Of course, the room will sound different depending on the kind of activity going on, but you can often hear whether it’s intentionally fun and full of life, or overwhelmingly loud.
Are you looking for childcare in the Des Moines or Ames area? ChildServe provides outstanding childcare for kids of all abilities. Visit our Childcare website to schedule a tour.
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ChildServe improves the health and well-being of over 4,200 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, acquired injuries, and other special healthcare needs.