When my son was born, over four years ago, I decided to quit my job. It was an easy decision at the time, because I had an incredibly long commute, and I just couldn’t come up with a childcare arrangement that made me comfortable.
A year and a half later, I started working part-time and I put him in childcare. It was a bad experience. I ignored my gut because I thought I was being paranoid. (After all, would anyone really be good enough to care for him the way that I had for the last 18 months? I didn’t think so.)
After that bad experience, I vowed to never ignore my gut again. I ended up visiting a childcare center that gave me a great feeling when my search began months earlier, but didn’t have spaces available at the time. But this time, my timing was perfect, and I enrolled my son. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Now, years later, he still goes to the same center and will be starting pre-kindergarten this fall, and his little sister is thriving and has been in their care since she was 4 months old.
During my childcare experiences, I have learned a few things that I think can help other moms who are trying to find great care for their little ones. Leaving your child in someone else’s care is never easy, but it’s something many moms have to do. I hope these tips help you identify a childcare arrangement that keeps your little one happy and safe, resulting in smiles for you as well.
- The infant rooms and classrooms are clean, at all times. Parents, especially first-time parents, probably don’t really know what to expect when they walk into a childcare center. I mean, kids are messy, right? Yes, they are, but there is a huge difference between messy and dirty. Of course there should be activities going on, toys on the floor, and all of those wonderful things, but you should not see food just sitting out, spills not cleaned up, or trash not being emptied. Messy is okay, but dirty is a huge sign that they don’t value your child’s health.
- The staff greets children in the morning, cheerfully. As a mom, I have an expectation that when I walk into a room with my child he or she will be greeted with a smile and addressed by name. No exceptions. You won’t find this everywhere, but it seems more than reasonable in my humble opinion. I want my children greeted and acknowledged – with a pleasant attitude – when I am about to leave them with someone else for hours.
- The children look cared for. I have walked into childcare centers where children have on really dirty outfits (like they spilled an entire bowl of baby food on themselves), or they are just hanging out with runny noses that have not been wiped. I don’t think it’s acceptable. Of course it might take a second to get to each kid if a cold is circulating, but when I see a kid with dried up snot under his or her nose, that tells me they are not getting the attention they deserve.
- They carefully accommodate your child’s needs. Whether your kid has eczema, asthma, food allergies, or any other medical condition that requires special care, you should always feel like their childcare providers are on top of everything. There is no room for error when it comes to a child’s medical/health needs.
- There isn’t high staff turnover. If you come across a childcare center that has been around for a few years, but everyone you meet has only been there for a few months, do some research. There may be a good reason, but typically, lots of new staff means that the old staff members ran out of that place and never looked back.