10 Tips for Evaluating Your Child's Care

If you haven't done so lately, there is no better time than now to revisit your child's caregiver and child care setting to ensure your choice remains what is best for your child and your family. Here's what every family should review every few months.


Is Your Child Happy?

Teacher helping young student to draw on an easel
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Your child's environment may be safe and offer all sorts of early education activities, but a primary question that every parent should ask is "Is my child truly happy at child care?" While all kids must have bouts of separation anxiety or days where they simply don't want to go to daycare, parents should assess whether their tot is comfortable at childcare (at least most of the time). Does your youngster have friends, look forward to special events or days, and seem to have a bond with the care provider? Does she engage socially and seem to thrive in her care setting? If not, it might be time to re-evaluate and seek a different childcare setting.


Is Your Child's Caregiver Passionate About Kids?

Your child's teacher/provider may have impressive credentials, but most parents want a caregiver who has a genuine love for kids and nurturing them. This is subjective, but parents want to feel like their child's caregiver views his/her job as a blessing, and that kids are a joy to be around. If you get the sense that your caregiver would rather be doing something else, it may be time to find a replacement.


Is Your Child's Care Environment Safe?

Tots seem to be drawn to dangerous objects and potentially hazardous playthings. Be sure to carefully evaluate whether your child's in-home provider has all the bases covered in terms of home safety. Daycare centers should have a list and be able to provide detailed explanations of safety precautions and procedures. Be sure to ask about drop-off and departure safety protocols and be sure you're comfortable with the answers given.


Are You Pleased With Your Child's Growth and Learning at Child Care?

Experts and parents alike differ on the importance of structured early education to prepare kids for pre-school and kindergarten. Some argue that attending to basic needs, providing lots of safe and fun free play, and encouraging social interaction is sufficient. Others, however, believe that a focus on early reading and math as well as introducing academic concepts and even foreign language is essential for success later. Determine what your goals and expectations are for your child at his current stage; then, be sure they are being met to your satisfaction.


Do You Communicate Well With Your Child's Care Provider?

Communications continue to be a primary "make-or-break" factor with the long-term satisfaction of child care arrangements. Be sure to utilize an early educator/care provider whose communication style works with yours. Do you want a daily report of activities and to know your child's eating/sleeping habits in detail? Some parents do; others consider it unnecessary. Do you like a provider who sets weekly themes and creates special days (like wearing red on Thursday), or do these types of activities drive you crazy? Does your provider request regular conferences? This is a partnership; make sure it works for everyone.


Do You Have That Lovin' Feeling About Your Babysitter?

Most of the time, parents have an intuitive feeling about a babysitter or caregiver and rely on those instincts to make child care decisions. While those feelings shouldn't be the sole reason to choose or not choose a care provider, they should be strongly considered. You want to feel confident in your provider's abilities and personality. Spend time with your babysitter chatting about interests, career plans, etc., to make sure your "parent radar" bodes well.


Do Discipline Approaches and Care Styles Mesh?

There is no one right way or wrong way to raise a child. But you want your child raised your way. Make sure you and your child's care provider agree on approaches to discipline, character development, religious observances, and other social and emotional issues. This can help avoid conflict or misunderstandings.


Does Your Caregiver Know Latest Medical Advice?

Advice on how to safely care for infants and toddlers changes as new information is discovered. Ensure your care provider keeps up with the latest recommendations and that they follow the advice of pediatric associations and other reputable health authorities. Examples include sleep position and crib safety to prevent sudden infant death syndrome and flu immunization for care providers who work with infants.


Are Credentials/Licensing Up-To-Date?

Licensing requirements and regulations regarding child care providers may differ by state or organization, but parents should remain in-the-know of requirements and whether their provider is up-to-date. Daycare centers often have additional credentialing options. Ask about any inspections and credentials, and what criteria is used. This information is typically available online for easy review so that parents can understand standards and expectations. If you choose to use someone who is not licensed (such as a part-time babysitter), at least require that the caregiver has basic first-aid/CPR training.


What Is Your Provider's Back-Up Plan for Sickness?

Parents usually hire caregivers so that they can work themselves, creating a predicament when the child care provider can't work. But, with advance planning, a Plan B can often be put into place effectively. While another teacher can be brought in easily at a daycare, in-home providers can also arrange for a backup caregiver for times when they are sick or unable to work. Parents should also make plans for when their own tot is sick and can't attend daycare.

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