Choosing the right daycare or preschool for your child can involve many things. To help narrow down the list, here are the top 8 things parents should look for in a daycare:
A Current License – Does your daycare or preschool have a current license clearly displayed in a visible area? Every state has a list of requirements including criminal background checks that must be met in order for a childcare facility to receive a license.
Having a license helps parents in weeding out the childcare facilities that do not qualify to take care of your child.
Curriculum – Does your daycare or preschool have a stimulating curriculum for children? Look for a daycare or preschool that has a schedule with a good mix of play time, individual time, imaginative play and group time to help your child develop social skills as well as independence. Music, arts and crafts should also be a part of your child’s daily routine. A well rounded curriculum helps stimulate a child’s development and imagination.
Teacher Student Ratio – Are there enough staff members available to take care of your child? The teacher student ratio varies depending on your state and your child’s age. Most states have basic guidelines and are not required. Ask your daycare what their teacher student ratio is and see if you are comfortable with that number. This is important because on a day to day basis you want your child to get the attention they need at this important stage of their life. Even more important, in case of an emergency, you want the staff to be able to handle the number of children under their care.
Age Division – Are the children at the facility divided in to age appropriate groups? To maintain the safety of infants, toddlers should have their own space for activities. Toddlers should also be separated from older children ages 3-5 years. Make sure the daycare or preschool has age appropriate toys for each age range. This will ensure that your child’s mind is properly stimulated.
Clean and Safe – Is your daycare center clean and safe? Floors, tables, chairs, and eating area should be clean and tidy. Make sure the food preparation area is far from the restrooms and diaper changing area. Soap dispensers should be filled. If there are tall shelves along the walls, they need to be secured. All upstairs windows need to be secured and barred.
Naptime area should also be clean. General childproofing such as latches and locks should be seen. Fire extinguisher and first aid kits should be readily available in case of an emergency. Outdoor play gyms area toys should be in good shape.
Ground Rules – Does the facility set ground rules? A good facility will require children and employees to be up to date with their immunization. This will cut down on illnesses due to contagious diseases. They may also require children with a high fever to stay home to prevent a flu or illness from contaminating other children.
CPR and Emergency Training – Are the staff members of your daycare CPR and Emergency Trained? The facility should have staff members that are fully CPR trained to handle infants and children in case they are choking. The center should also have set procedures for what to do in case of a fire, earthquake or other emergency.
Food Allergies – This is only important if your child has food allergies. How does the center handle food allergies? If your child has food allergies it is important to find a daycare or preschool facility that has experience with controlling food sources. Make sure that kids with allergies are served allergy free food. Make sure that the center has a policy of not allowing other children to bring allergy causing foods from home. Children at this age will touch and consume food from other children without knowing that it can cause them harm.
The daycare and preschool selection process should start well in advance. The best test to make sure your child will like their daycare or preschool is to bring them to several that you’ve pre-chosen.
Watch your child’s body language as they visit each facility. How do the teachers interact with your child? Are the children and staff members there friendly and inviting? You will feel better about choosing the right school when you know your child will be happy.
Difference Between Daycare and Preschool
Often times the word daycare and preschool are used interchangeably as many daycares operate preschools within the same facility. Generally, daycares care for your child either half or full days, placing the emphasis on fun and socialization. Preschool focuses more on children who are between the ages of 2.5 and 5 years of age and encourages a more academic-based curriculum to prepare children for kindergarten.
Most preschools hours are from 9am – 3pm, however, children are allowed to be dropped off at an earlier time and can be picked up at a later time. Due to the fact that these schools offer to care for your child for an entire “day,” preschools are often also referred to as daycares.
Depending on the program method used at a preschool (Montessori, Waldorf, etc.) your child will be exposed to activities that will prepare them for a smooth transition between daycare and kindergarten.
The Montessori education focuses on academics learned through day to day activities and allows for children to develop at their own pace.
The Waldorf philosophy focuses more on imaginative play and rhythm and music allowing a child to tap in to their artistic senses. TV, electronics and basic academics are removed to allow for a child to form their imagination and spirit with the understanding that there is plenty of time to learn as the child gets older.
Keep in mind that Montessori and Waldorf are only two of the many types of teaching philosophies. Many schools may combine the two or incorporate other types of philosophies. The key is to find one that is suitable for your child and parenting style.
Should My Child Attend a Licensed Daycare?
Parents should always place their child in the care of a licensed daycare or preschool facility. Although an unlicensed child care facility can give children adequate care, parents will have greater peace of mind knowing that a licensed child care facility has taken the extra steps necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of children in their care.
There are two basic types of childcare facilities: In-home Child Care Facilities and Child Care Center or Preschool. In order for these facilities to obtain a license to provide care for children, the facility must fulfill the regulation requirements by the state. The licensing requirements vary from state to state. Most requirements will include, but is not limited to, the below:
In-Home Child Care Facility Licensing Requirements
- All adults living in the home as well as all additional care providers have submitted fingerprints and child abuse index check forms to the Department of Justice and have received clearance.
- Outdoor play area is in good repair and free from dangerous conditions. All play equipment must be securely anchored according to the instructions of the manufacturer.
- Home must have a working landline.
- All smoke alarms are working properly.
- Home is neat and clean.
- Fireplaces, woodstove and heaters are screened in a way to prevent children’s access.
- Any and ALL hazardous materials are inaccessible to children. This includes kitchen cleaning supplies, bathroom solvents as well as any gasoline, paints, solvents, and/or machinery that may be stored in garages.
- All firearms and weapons are not loaded and are locked. Ammunition must be stored separately from weapons.
- All poisons are locked.
- If home has a swimming pool, a 5 foot fence must be installed around the entire perimeter of the entire pool.
- All childproofing safety measures are taken for children under 5 including gates that block the stairway.
- All toys and play equipment are safe and age appropriate for the age of the children being cared for.
- If renting or leasing, a copy of the lease agreement must be available. If the property is owned, the deed or property tax statement will need to be shown.
- Bouncers, jumpers, baby walkers and items of that nature will not be used for children in care and must be stored in an inaccessible location.
Child Care Center or Preschool Licensing Requirements (for ages 24 months to entry in the first grade)
- Each child must have a minimum of 35 square feet of indoor play activity area.
- Each child must have a minimum of 75 square feet of outdoor play activity area.
- Air conditioning and heating are available and running, keeping the temperature at a comfortable level between 68 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Storage space is available to store all napping equipment (cots, blankets, pillows, etc.).
- Storage space is available for each individual child.
- For every 15 children there must be at least one toilet and one sink.
- Play area fence must be at least 4 feet in height.
- If a child becomes ill or contagious, there must be an isolation area.
- Adult and staff bathrooms must be separate from the children’s restrooms.
- Medicines, cleaners, tools, dangerous machinery, and full bodies of water are inaccessible to children.
- Safe drinking water must be available outdoors and indoors.
- A refrigerator, food storage, hot and cold water, and sink must be available in the food preparation area.
- Equipment in the facility should be age appropriate and in good condition.
Qualifications Of The Director
- Minimum of 15 units of early childhood education and four years of child care experience at a center for child care
- 12 units of child development, curriculum, and child-family and community
- 3 units of staff or administration relations
- Child Development Site Supervisor Permit
- Director must be on-site and responsible for site operations
Qualifications Of A Teacher
- Minimum of 12 units of early childhood education
- Child development, curriculum, and child-family and community education need to be included within the 12 units
- Child Development Associate Teacher Permit
Qualifications Of An Aide
- Must be 18 years of age or a high school graduate
- No minimum college units are required
Teacher Student Ratios
- Maximum of 12 students per 1 teacher
- Maximum of 15 students per 1 teacher plus 1 aide
- Maximum of 18 students per 1 fully qualified teacher plus 1 aide with 6 early childhood education units
- 1 teacher per 24 students is allowed ONLY during naptimes providing that additional teachers are available once the children wake up
There must be enough staff on site to handle the number of children attending the center. Children must be visually supervised at all times and an aide may not be left alone with children unless the children are napping or to escort a child to the restroom.
For children under the age of 24 months the caregiver to child ratio is much lower. In most states the ratio is maximum of 4 infants to 1 caregiver. A few states require higher or lower ratios. Check with your state licensing requirements for specific details.
- All staff members of the center must be cleared by the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation via fingerprint.
- All staff members must have a Child Abuse Index clearance.
- At least one staff member must have a minimum of 15 hours of approved Emergency Medical Services Authority health and safety training.
- At least one staff member must have a First Aid and CPR certificate of completion.
- All staff members must have a clear health report. This includes TB clearance.
As you can see, the criteria set forth for obtaining a license is thorough. Some of the above requirements may not be easily verifiable by a parent. However, when selecting a child care facility that is licensed you can be sure that the above requirements have already been met and verified by the licensing authority of your state.
An unlicensed childcare provider may not be aware of the state guidelines for child care and may inadvertently place your child in harm’s way. State licensing requirements are put in place to protect children. If a childcare facility does not take the time or put in the effort in obtaining these requirements, how dedicated are they to protecting your child?
Every child is a precious soul full of potential. Children are not capable of protecting themselves. Therefore, it is imperative that parents make the right decision by selecting a licensed child care facility to care and protect your child’s safety and well-being.