Choosing The Right Daycare For Your Child

They grow up too fast, don’t they? It feels like yesterday you were holding a newborn, and now it’s already time to look for daycare so that you can return to work or have some time to yourself. Every mum needs to know that her child in good hands while she’s not around, but there’s so much to consider.

RELATED: Attack Of The Mummy Guilt: Is Daycare Really Bad For Kids?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task of choosing the right day care, here are some steps to get you started:

Consider your child’s personality

The best type of care for your child will depend on how they relate with people and what activities they prefer. Before you start looking, try to imagine the ideal environment where your child will thrive. Does she always run around and climb?

She will probably be happiest in a daycare that has a big playground with lots of equipment. Is your child reserved and suffering from separation anxiety? Consider a family daycare. A bigger centre might be fine, too, but definitely ask about staff turnover before you enroll. You don’t want a centre where carers are changing frequently.

First impressions

Once you’ve gotten clear on the environment you’d like for your child, it’s time to start visiting some centres in the area and comparing the reality to your vision. Some things to look out for are:

  • Does the place look welcoming?
  • Are the staff friendly?
  • Is the centre clean?
  • Do the kids look happy?
  • What toys and activities are available?
  • What is the daily routine?
  • What’s the playground like?

Ask for recommendations

You can’t see everything in a brief visit. Talk to other parents whose children go to the daycare you’re considering and ask them how they feel about it. Don’t be discouraged if there’s one parent who has issues with the centre (there’s always the one!), but if you consistently receive negative feedback, look elsewhere.

Some of us live in areas where there’s shortage of daycare spots. If that’s you, make sure you put your child’s name on the waiting list as early as possible. It’s good to have options when the time comes and you can always say ‘no’ if an opportunity no longer suits you.

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How To Survive The Daycare Drop-off

I’m terrible at quick goodbyes – I find it nigh impossible. Maybe it’s the drama queen in me – I just really struggle with short and sharp farewells. And it when it comes to my children, forget it! And so it is that I’m spectacularly bad at the twice weekly daycare drop-off.

It’s the ultimate anguish: leaving your beloved child in the arms of almost-strangers, while said child wails and howls like a banshee. It rips out your heart and the mother guilt following said drop-off is a cruel and relentless beast. And I know I’m not alone on this – many women struggle with the daycare drop-off, just as I do.

My smart, sassy little almost-three-year-old is fully aware of my struggle and has previously used it to her complete advantage. When my husband and I first put her in daycare aged 2.5, she was well and truly ready for interaction with small people. She loved daycare from day 1, but did hysterically cry/grab my legs/flail like an abandoned child at first. Thankfully, my daycare centre is fantastic and an older, firm daycare carer took me by the hand on day 1, and basically told me to “harden the f*** up”, for my child’s sake, though she didn’t use those words. You see, the more upset and emotional you are at the daycare drop-off, the worse it is for your child. So, here are my top tips for a stress-free transition:

Drop and run: Get out of there fast, sister. Don’t be the parent (i.e. me), whom the daycare workers, lovely as they are, roll their eyes at and have to usher out. It’s better for your little person not to see your upset. And she’s most likely crying crocodile tears, anyway!

Get organised: Familiarise your child with where her bag is located and where her lunch box and drink are in the fridge – this gives her a cosy confidence.

Be a detective: Being annoyingly nosey comes naturally to me, as a professional journalist; I recommend befriending another daycare mum with whom to swap notes on your centre, just to ensure your child is getting the best possible care in your absence. Caution is best. Confidence is key.

Play date: Once your little person makes some BFFs, arrange some play dates, where possible, to encourage the friendship. Nothing else makes the daycare drop-off quite so bearable as when your child squeals with glee when she sees her BFF in the playground.

Corner the young: There’s a barely 20-something at my daycare centre whom, while lovely, is unusually forthright. I corner her twice weekly for all the goss on the centre and exactly what my child has been up to. She’s got loose lips and I love it – I have happily interrogated her on everything as to who are the problem children (there’s a biter at the centre) through to how to make egg-free cakes (yes, there is such a thing) so as to cater for children with allergies.

Listen up: Above all, child psychs say to talk to your children and really, really listen. Ask them about their daycare day. Who did they play with? What did their friends have for lunch? How did their day make them feel?
Hopefully, these tips will save you some stress and heartache.

How do you cope with the dreaded daycare drop-off?

Image via Pixabay.com

By Nicole Carrington-Sima

Finding Suitable Daycare For Your Children

When the time comes to send your little ones off to daycare, you want to be sure you’re making the experience a happy one, for them and you.  Those first few years of life are important for children as their physical, cognitive, emotional and social development evolves.  Finding a centre where your children can thrive, feel happy and safe is crucial as well as somewhere that you are comfortable with.

Once you have made a list of the centres that you’re interested in visiting, remember these important questions to ask yourself to help you come to the ultimate decision.

Does the centre have a reputable name or any complaints against it?  Word of mouth is a great way of finding out what people really think.  Don’t believe everything you hear though – ensure you do your own research to find out for yourself.  Search the internet for any reviews, positive or negative.

Does the centre look safe?  It’s imperative that daycare centres adhere to strict health and safety guidelines to ensure the safety of the children at all times.  Ask plenty of questions when you visit such as when were the smoke alarms last tested?  Are the electrical sockets covered?  Do they have an evacuation plan and how often do they practice?  Is there adequate security to protect the children from strangers?

Are the staff friendly and welcoming?  Your children need to feel comfortable turning to their teachers in times of need otherwise it could be an awful experience for a young child who is left feeling alone and forgotten.  A centre that has staff who can connect and build relationships with children is extremely important.

Do they have records of what children do all day?  Some parents like to know how much their children have eaten, if they had a sleep and how many nappy changes they’ve had each day.  Ensure the centre keep these records up to date and ask to see some examples.

Is the centre tidy?  Keeping a daycare centre clean can be a hard task during the day when the children are busy having fun making a mess but at the end of each day they should be cleaned to a minimum standard.  If you visit a centre early in the morning check the cleanliness.  The rubbish bins should be empty, the dining areas and bathrooms should be clean and the floors should have been vacuumed.

Is there adequate shade in the outdoor play areas?  The sun in Australia can be unforgiving at times and although most centres now insist on children wearing hats and sunscreen whilst outside, playing in the shade is equally important.

Does the centre offer a nutritious menu and easy access to drinking water?  Ensure that the menus offer a variety of foods such as fruit, vegetables, bread, dairy and meat.  Water should also be available and accessible at all times for the children to drink.

If all else fails and you’ve asked yourself all of the questions above but are still having a hard time coming to a decision, the last resort is normally going on your instinct.  When you visit the centres you’ll get a feeling about whether a centre has a good vibe or not and if it feels right for your child.  Trust your instincts.

Image via defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=55152

By Karyn Miller