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Choosing a daycare center for your children

Choosing a daycare center for your childrenIt is OK to put your kids into a daycare – after all, many families have two working parents, and young children cannot be left home alone! However, it is not OK to put your children into a daycare without doing a little research first.

Here are some tips to help you ensure that you find the best child care center for your children.

Research – ask around. Ask family, friends, neighbors, and doctors which childcare centers they have used and recommend. You can also check phone books and the internet for additional options.
Awards and accreditation – look for an accreditation by the National Association of Family Child Care and/or the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Also see if the center has received awards.
Ask questions – do not be afraid to call and visit potential centers and ask a lot of questions. Find out what you can expect.
If you get a bad feeling about a place, cross it off your list.
Consider your child – do you think that your child would like it? Would he or she have fun and get along well with the teachers and children? Is it a welcoming environment? Taking your child along with you for a visit to the center can help you answer these questions. See if your child seems comfortable.
Check references
Get a copy of their policies.

Specific things to consider:

Staff to child ratio – one staff member for 3-5 small children is fine. Likewise, one staff member for 8-10 older children is fine. The fewer children the staff member must be responsible for, the better.
Location – one important factor to consider is how close to home or work the day care center is. The easier it is to get to, the more time you will be able to spend with your children.
Hours – will you be able to drop your child off early or pick him or her up late on occasion?
Activities – how often do they change activities? What types of activities do they offer?
Age groups – are older and younger children kept together?
Discipline – how do they discipline the children?
Special requests – will they easily be able to accommodate any special requests that you may have?
Teachers – how experienced are they?
Adult day care – adult/child day cares can be beneficial for all involved. Consider if this is a good possibility for your child.
Safety – look around the childcare center and to check for anything that seems potentially dangerous. Check for wood chips or rubber beneath the playground equipment to absorb impact. Are there easy-to-reach high places that children may climb to? Will the children be exposed to strangers? Is the outside play area fenced in? Are there any broken toys? Are the toys clean? Are surfaces regularly disinfected? Are corners covered? Are there smoke alarms, etc.?

Additional questions you may want to ask potential candidate daycare centers:

• Is there a nurse on staff to help with medical care?
• How are medicines given?
• Illnesses – will sick children be kept in a sick room? Will very sick children stay at home when sick? How will parents be told about different illnesses among children?
• Are vaccinations and physical exams required?
• Are all staff members certified in basic first aid?
• What sort of training are staff members required to have?
• Does the center make the children (and the staff) wash their hands frequently and well?

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