Sunday, October 14, 2012

What to Look for in a Day Care

          When I was doing my undergraduate studies and shortly following graduation, I had the opportunity to work in full service day cares.  This experience helped guide us in our choices, but truthfully, much of it comes out to gut instincts and the impression a particularly centre has on you.  For example, one centre we visited had the smell of urine, and that was an automatic no go.  Another had a supervisor who sat in her office the entire time, while a staff member gave us the tour.  The children there were clearly bored and misbehaving, and one child ran into my wife at full speed while attempting to give her a hug.           
            There are four things that you should look for in a good daycare.  The first is cleanliness.  From my experience, a child care centre is extremely hard to keep clean.  Kids are constantly, eating, playing, doing arts and crafts, coming and going from outside, and having sunscreen put on them, not to mention the occasional toilet accident.  So if a centre looks really clean, the staff  there have put in the effort to make it so.  This brings us to the staff itself.  The director or supervisor is certainly a key person, and likely the one you will first meet.  She should make a good impression, and come across as caring about the welfare of your children and those in the centre.  It is wise to visit the centre during the course of a normal day.  Watch to see the demeanour of the staff.  Are the genuinely happy to be there?  Is their attention on the children?  Or are they chatting amongst themselves?  At the centre we chose for the toddler room, we were impressed not only by the supervisor and her thoroughness, but there was a staff member we were introduced to, and my wife said afterwards that she hoped our kids would be taught by her. As it turned out, they were, and she was even better than the great first impression she gave.
            Programming is the third important area to think about.  It should be comprehensive and follow some sort of weekly and/or monthly theme.  It should not be “whatever the kids are interested in” as we were told at one centre.  Apparently, they had been learning about bugs for several weeks!  Most day cares post the programming plan on the wall, and many send home a monthly newsletter.  Safety also comes into play here. Does the centre have safe practices and good documentation of any incidents that occur?  Last but not least, check out what kind of outdoor playground and/or play area they have.  There are more and more day cares located in industrial parks or strip plazas that have very small outside areas with limited equipment.
            The final important area to inquire about is the food.  What is the menu and are there enough healthy choices?  Some jurisdictions conduct health and/or food inspections of day care facilities.  If so, ask to see how the centre did on its latest inspection.   Centres may post these up on the wall for parents.   Is there an on-site chef or is the food brought in from outside?  How are allergies or religious preferences dealt with?  As a Jewish family, having a centre that understood that we did not wish our children to eat pork or eat milk and meat together was important to us.  Remember, no matter what the issue is, you have the right to ask before you sign your child up for care.  And be sure to take a tour of the centre to allow those parental instincts to guide your decision.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why Choose Day Care for Twins?

This story begins a few months before our twins were even born.  Actually, we probably hadn’t named them by this point.  You might ask why would anyone start searching for a daycare before their children are even born?  Fair question.  But first of all, allow me to address why parents might choose a day care centre for daily care giving after both have returned to work. 
            We did consider the option of a nanny.  In fact, we had a nanny part-time, three mornings a week during the last few months of the maternity leave.  But since both my wife and I are teachers, we feel that social stimulation for children is vital and the best place to get this is at a full service day care.  Twins do have each other, but they cannot get enough stimulation just from one another.  This is not a healthy situation in my opinion.  It is true that parents, nannies, and grandparents can take babies and toddlers to community and library programs for some stimulation.  But there are only so many of these.   My wife attended quite a few, and as those with twins or multiples know, it isn’t always easy.  Sometimes, she had help from the nanny or a grandparent, but she even enjoyed a stroller fitness class with her two babies in a her large double stroller!
We realized that the cost of two infants and toddlers in day care would be greater than sponsoring (in Canada) a live-in nanny but we were willing to do this if we could find the right day care centre.  I had worked in day cares during my university years and knew what to look for as far as quality was concerned.  I will share this information with you later in this article.  Of course, many people opt for home day cares, but one of the things to consider with those is that the range of children can be quite varied, and, as an example, many home day cares in Ontario can only accept five children.  Check your state or provincial government to find out what the ratios for each type of care and age group are in your community.  We were pretty sure that we had a great day care nearby, because so many people we knew were recommending it highly—but that meant getting on the list over a year ahead, pre-birth, in order to secure two of ten spots in the infant care room.  And so we did.