Decide on the Kind of Childcare
There's more than one way to care for your child while you are away. Do you want her to be socialized with other children? If so, daycare centers might be what you're looking for. Do you need a flexible care schedule? You may want to go with a nanny or au pair. Is cost an issue? Letting family take care of him may be a better option. There are pros and cons to each of these, so make sure you weigh those points carefully to get a feel for what you are most comfortable with.
Cost, Location, and Your Parenting Style
Cost is always something to consider when choosing childcare. If the cost is going to be 80% of your income then it's time to rethink some things. But never be willing to put your child in an environment that you are unsure of to save a few dollars. Be prepared for high childcare costs.
Be sure that the location of the childcare you choose is close to either home or work. It will help ease your day to day routine, and your child's routine, if daycare is close.
Evaluate your parenting style and match it with the right provider. Do you adhere tightly to the daily schedule, or do you let her nap when she's tired and eat when she's hungry? Pick a provider that is consistent with your parenting style. You will get along better with the provider, and she won't be yanked from one type of care to another.
What to Look for When Visiting Childcare ProvidersCleanliness: It is the first clue to the quality of care. Are toys and games organized or shoved against the walls gathering dust? If there is a kitchen, check it out. Is it serviceably clean, or grimy and greasy?
Licenses and Degrees: If it's a daycare center, or a childcare provider, look for the license. It should be hanging on the wall. If you don't see it; ask to see it. If it is not displayed and they do not provide you with it, get out. There is a reason childcare providers need a license, if they do not have it then they are not qualified to care for your little one. Period.
Art and Projects on Display: A good way to get a handle on the provider is to check out what's on the wall. Are drawings and art projects displayed proudly and neatly? If so, it is a good sign. If not? Be skeptical.
Safety: Pretend to be a building/playground inspector when you visit. What do you see? Is there faulty or exposed wiring? Broken window latches and door locks? Unstable swing sets? Are stairs sufficiently gated? Take a hard look to decide if you feel your child will be safe.
Don't think you're being pushy if you have dozens of questions. Here are just a few sample questions:
- Where is your license?
- What is the kids' schedule?
- Do you have part time care available?
- What qualifications does each staff member have?
- What food is served? (then ask yourself: Would I eat it?)
Your Gut Feeling Listen to your instincts. Ultimately, it is your child, and you need to feel comfortable with the childcare provider. If you're not at ease with the situation or the place then you'll never concentrate at work, and your child will sense your anxiety. There is no doubt that the process of finding childcare, with all its options, pitfalls, and questions, can be a difficult decision. Remember, you know your family and your child better than anyone. Keep these tips in mind, and trust yourself to make the right decision.