Your Child and Daycare: Finding the Perfect Match

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You want childcare to be a happy, healthy experience for your child. Get tips for finding the best, most appropriate daycare for your little one.

Not every daycare setting is appropriate for every child. To find the perfect match, parents should carefully evaluate all the options.

“Each decision a family makes about childcare needs to be weighed by the family dynamic and the personality of the child,” says Developmental Pediatrician Joseph Holahan, Medical Director of the Child Development Center at the Children’s Hospital at St. Joseph’s in Paterson, New Jersey.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 41.3 percent of children of working parents, are cared for by relatives. The alternatives include enrollment in a group childcare facility, family daycare in the home of a provider, and in-home care. Determining which of these is best for your child is the challenge. “There are a number of factors to consider,” offers Holahan, “not the least of which is the child’s age and temperament.

“Young children, infants and toddlers, benefit most from a consistent, nurturing provider,” Holahan says. “For preschoolers, social and group experiences are more important.”

Family or Group Care?

Is your daughter outgoing and gregarious or does she prefer to spend time in quiet pursuits? Does your son need to develop stronger socialization skills? The answers to these questions will help you to choose group or family daycare.

Will your child enjoy commuting? For those who do, on-site daycare or a location closer to work may be the best choice. If not, a facility near home or in-home daycare may be better.

If you are not confident that you know your child well enough to answer these questions, consult your pediatrician. Your child’s doctor can add valuable input to your daycare decision.

Resources and Referrals

There are over 1,750 licensed childcare centers serving some 100,000 children in New Jersey. By law publicly and privately operated childcare centers which serve six or more children below six years of age must be licensed by the Division of Youth and Family Services. The law allows a maximum of six children in a family daycare setting, but this figure does not include the provider’s own kids.

To access information on licensed daycare throughout your state, contact the Child Care Aware Resource Referral Line (1-800-424-2246). This nationwide hotline provides access to a database of all local daycare options. Detailed information, including licensing and accreditation, is available on each.

Parents should always visit daycare centers in person before enrolling a child. The American Academy of Pediatrics publishes the free brochure, “Child Care: What’s Best for Your Family, Guidelines for Parents” which includes a detailed checklist for assessing each facility. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to ‘Child Care Brochure,’ The American Academy of Pediatrics, Dept. C, P.O. Box 927, Elk Grove Village, Illinois 60009-0927. Take the checklist with you on each visit to help in the evaluation process.

Observations and Evaluations

Be sure to visit the daycare while children are there. Observe the interaction between caregivers and children. Count how many adults supervise how many children. “Ideally, there should be three to four infants or toddlers per caregiver and five to six preschoolers per adult,” Holahan recommends.

Evaluate the cleanliness of the facility. Food preparation should be segregated from toileting and diapering areas. Is there an isolated place for children who become ill during the day? What arrangements does the daycare provider make for the care of sick children?

Review the curriculum. Are there stimulating, age-appropriate toys, games, and books? Do the children engage in organized activities? Is there a place for naps and quiet play?

Will the children have the opportunity for outdoor activities? Playgrounds should be well protected from traffic. Equipment should be in good condition, and the ground should be cushioned to avoid serious injuries.

A Cooperative Effort

The relationship between parent and caregiver will be significant. Parents should feel comfortable with the daycare provider. Likewise, providers have certain expectations of parents. Barbara Barrow, Director of The Olive Tree Child Care Center and The Olive Tree Baby Branch in Bloomfield, New Jersey, says, “We like to see cooperation between the parents and ourselves.”

Barrow suggests that the provider should be told when something disturbing happens at home since it may affect a child’s behavior throughout the day. Parents should call the daycare when a child will not be attending. If a child becomes sick while at daycare, parents should respond immediately. Children should be picked up on time and payment should be prompt.

A careful study of all the options will assure a quality daycare experience for both parents and children.

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