Childcare: How do I choose a daycare for my child?

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Q:Childcare: How do I choose a daycare for my child?

The type of care you choose will depend on your situation - how long you need to leave your child each day, your location, culture, finances, age of the child, and so on. But no matter what type of caregiver you choose, there are certain things you need to consider before leaving your child in their care.

First, find out if it's high quality childcare. This means that you must visit any potential daycare in advance, to observe how they run things. While there, you should look for:

  • Warm interactions between caregivers and children,

  • Low employee turnover, and

  • Staff that are trained in early child development.

You should also ask for references from other parents whose children are in their care.

This will take some time, and most quality childcare organizations are likely to have a long waiting list, so plan well ahead of the time when you will actually need the care.

Second, keep in mind, a small group size is best, with no more than about five children per caregiver for preschoolers - only three if the children are 18 months or younger.

If there's just one person who will look after your child, you'll need to know who minds your child when the caregiver is making meals or is otherwise busy. And what plans will be put in place if your caregiver gets sick or has an emergency.

You'll also want to know the daily routine at the childcare location, as well as how they handle crying, problem behaviour, naps, exercise, health problems and so on.

Lastly, every babysitter, nanny or childcare centre has to be checked out regularly, even if it's the one at your workplace. Don't rely on a license or certificate. Even licensed childcare centres aren't inspected often. Drop in, unannounced, to see how things are going. If the centre doesn't allow visits, it's the wrong centre. Discuss your child with the caregiver, and also pay attention to what your child says about the caregiver.

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