With re-registration happening all around me this time of year, I couldn’t help but remember two years ago when I was stressing out about finding the “perfect” daycare fit for our son Everett. It weighed heavy on my mind for weeks, maybe even months, leading up to our decision. Here are some things to consider when researching how to select a day care for your little one.
Should your daycare be closer to home, closer to work, or closer to the pediatrician’s office in case of an emergency? I remember asking my girlfriend this question and her response was one I will never forget. She said, “I want the shortest ride home with them (she has two boys) as possible.” So her advice was to pick a care provider that was closest to your home. We did and I think it was the right choice.
Another thing to think about is whether or not one parent will do the dropping off/picking up, and does the location allow you to split those duties?
Hours of Operation:
My hubby and I both work early in the morning – 7 am – so early start times were a must for us. There were two facilities we were considering, but one opened at 7 am and the other at 6:30 am. Needless to say, E is dropped off by 6:45 every morning, so the start time was a major influence for us.
Another thing to think about is whether or not your center has the availability of drop-in days, for if your child is not full time and/or over the summer.
This may sound a bit trivial, but smell was a big one for me. I toured three different day care centers when searching for my little one, and I remember walking into one and getting an overwhelming smell of Febreze … which made my mind go directly to “What are they covering up?” The center didn’t smell clean; it smelled masked. Not awesome.
Staff to Child Ratio:
First, always ask if there is room/availability for your child. This was my biggest worry … that we would find a place we loved and they wouldn’t have room. EEK! Also, be sure to ask what the minimum staff-to-child ratio is in each room (this will depend on age). The following is mandated by the state of Florida for licensed day care facilities:
- Children under 12 months: 1 to 4
- Children age 12 to 23 months: 1 to 6
- Children age 24 to 35 months: 1 to 11
- Children age 36 to 47 months: 1 to 15
- Children age 48 months to 59 months: 1 to 20
- Children age 60 months (5 years old) or older: 1 to 25
Flexibility of attendance:
I remember this like it was yesterday. I started touring daycare centers in April 2013 and was asking about our son starting that August. The daycare representative immediately said, “Oh, are you a teacher?” After I told her yes, she let me know that their center has attendance flexibility, meaning that during the summer I can change from full time to part time — or no time — since I would be off, and not lose his spot for the following year as long as we were registered. This was a huge plus in my book, as well as a huge money saver. As long as we submit the request the month before we can switch his attendance status as often as we need throughout the year.
Cost and what is included in tuition:
Obviously, cost is a biggie and day care is NOT CHEAP. But, it is always nice to know what your tuition includes — like lunch, snacks, wipes, etc. You may also want to ask what other fees you will incur throughout the year, like re-registration, beginning of the year fees, fundraising responsibilities, how often payment is due (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly) and what forms are accepted (check, credit card, cash).
Does the center feel safe? Do they have a thorough check-in/check-out system? What are the procedures if someone else is to pick up your child? Do they ID?
New or established:
Has this daycare been around for a while, or is it brand new? Is it a franchise or attached to a school or church? Who is the director, and what are his/her qualifications? Our daycare has been around for years and years, which made me feel better. One of the ECE directors actually went there as a child, and it has won many awards over the years for exceptional service.
Sometimes just going with your gut is the best bet! Much like when I walked onto the Rollins College campus when touring colleges, I just knew when I found E’s daycare that it was the right fit. And so far it has been. He’s happy, healthy and thriving. Score.