Leaving your child on their first morning of daycare is a momentous occasion, but the natural worry all parents will feel can be eased by choosing your daycare center well. Asking these questions before enrolling your child will help you make the right decision and ensure your child is left in good hands.
Who is in Charge of First Aid?
Children will be children, and even in the safest and most protective of environments accidents can happen. If your child is hurt, is there someone on the staff who’s qualified to apply first aid? Is such a person present at all times? Are they regularly trained to keep their skills and knowledge fresh?
What Happens in a Crisis?
In case of emergency, what procedures are in place for fast and safe evacuation of the building? Have these plans been approved by the fire department or other emergency services? Is there always a member of staff on duty who is responsible for enacting the drill? This should be easy information for the center to provide, and if there’s any hint of uncertainty then take it as a strong warning sign that preparations in this area might not be up to standard.
How Many Staff to Children?
Daycare should be about far more than simply providing a babysitting facility while you work. At such a formative age, time spent at the center has a huge influence on your child’s development – in effect, the staff is acting as temporary parental substitutes. If each staff member has a large number of children to look after, then each child will not be given as much attention as you might like. The younger the child, the more care is needed and so the lower the staff-to-child ratio should be. Ideally, there should be no more than five to eight children per staff member at any one time.
What is the Age Range of the Children?
The other children attending the center will also have a large influence on the social development of your child, and it’s vital that there is a good mix of ages. Your child should have friends of a similar age to play with, but it’s also beneficial for there to be older children present to act as role models. Conversely, if the center is overly dominated by newborns and toddlers, older children may not get the attention they require from the busy staff.
What Activities are Timetabled?
Early daycare is an essential first step into education, and the center should offer a wide range of stimulating activities for your child to participate in. You should be able to see a rough outline of the weekly timetable, to satisfy yourself that your child will not become bored and frustrated. However, there should also be plenty of time for rest and free play so that the kids don’t feel under pressure and become overtired.
What Food is Served?
A well-balanced diet is vital to both physical and mental development, and all your good work drawing up healthy menus at home can be undone if the daycare center serves up poor quality food each day. Of course, a healthy meal is pointless if it remains uneaten, and so there needs to be a balance between nutritional value, variety, and acceptability to young palates. There should also be a range of freely available healthy snacks such as fruit and fresh vegetables, as well as easy access to drinking water.
The first morning at a daycare center is probably the first time your child has been separated from family for any significant length of time, and the potential distress for both parent and child is easy to understand. However, asking these questions before choosing a care provider will go a long way towards ensuring that this important moment is the start of a happy new chapter in your child’s young life.