If you had to choose a place to keep your most precious and irreplaceable possession, what would you want that place to look like? Who would you trust to care for it in the way that you would care for it yourself?
What if that priceless possession was your child?
When making important decisions about childcare, it is helpful to know what elements make a daycare center great. After all, your child will be learning and growing there day after day, and you want them to be in the very best care.
Do you need help deciding what factors to look for while touring local daycare centers? Well, we’re ready to welcome you to The Learning Experience.Visit us and take a tour of our facilities, but be sure to read on to learn about the qualities that make daycare centers warm, loving, educational environments where children flourish and thrive!
Qualities of a Great Daycare Center
If you are seeking childcare options for your first child, choosing your first daycare center can be a daunting task! What should you be looking for on your tour? What questions should you be asking?
While all daycare centers will be different, there are a few features that high-quality programs will have in common. If you’re trying to get a handle on whether your local daycare is the best fit for your family, you might want to consider the following factors when making your decision.
Qualified Childcare Providers Who Stay!
The first question that most parents have when they enroll their child in a daycare program is “Who will be watching my child all day?” Naturally, the first sign of a great daycare center is the presence of qualified and consistent staff who love what they do.
Quality care starts from the top, so a great center will have a strong, competent center director with years of experience in the field. This individual should be well-versed in licensing requirements and be knowledgeable about center policies and any curriculum being used in classrooms.
The teachers and providers who nurture your children are just as important. Each classroom should have a qualified lead teacher and, depending on class size, a helpful assistant teacher. When you tour the center, ask about what qualifies a teacher to work at the center.
You might also want to ask about how long a teacher or provider has been employed with the center. If teachers are happy, it most likely means they’re well trained, well-compensated, and have what they need to do a wonderful job caring for your child. Happy teachers mean happy kids!
A Safe, Clean Facility
After you know who is caring for your child, you will probably have questions about where your child will be learning, eating, napping, and playing all day. A great program starts with safety and cleanliness, which go hand in hand.
During your tour, you might want to ask how often toys and materials are sanitized and how often the children and staff wash their hands. At most daycare centers, these processes are routine, joyful parts of the day. Everyone involved should know when and how these things take place.
If your young child will be napping, you should ask about how often cots are sanitized, and when bedding is sent home to be washed.
Children should always be supervised during meals by CPR and first aid certified staff members. If meals are provided, they should be healthy and varied.
You can also ask to see information about emergency procedures. Depending on state licensing requirements, most centers are required to have a certain number of emergency drills during the year. Ask about when and how those drills take place, and how children are prepared.
When we talk about class size in daycare centers, what we are really talking about is the staff-to-student ratio. All states have licensing requirements that dictate the maximum number of children per staff member. A great center will always have enough qualified staff to keep group sizes intimate.
You want your child to be receiving the time and attention they need to develop to their best potential. A lower ratio means more one-on-one time, more time for building oral language skills through conversation, and more individualized consideration given to your child’s developmental needs.
For older children, this becomes more important. Are classes small enough that your child has opportunities for learning and engaging in projects in small groups? A smaller class means more opportunities to support each child’s interests, which definitely makes a program great!
This might be obvious, but when you look around, notice what the children are doing. If they are engaged in play, what are they playing with? Do they seem busy and excited, or bored and irritable?
Children should be spending a majority of the dayengaged in playful activities with direct supervision from staff members. You want to see children working on creative projects, making choices, and trying new things. There should be systems and routines in place to keep things organized and safe.
While everyone has a bad day – especially toddlers! – taking in the general mood and energy of a daycare center can tell you a lot about its values as an institution. Happy children and happy staff are a wonderful sign that a daycare center is taking care to build a loving community.
You might also want to ask about facilities and schedules for outdoor play. Children tend to be happier when they have opportunities to leave their classroom and explore! A great center will have a great playground or outdoor space.
Evidence of Learning
One of the benefits of a truly great daycare center is the implementation of a curriculum. Yes, even the youngest learners can benefit from intentional, curated learning experiences led by qualified teachers. If you want to know about how your child will be growing and developing while they are away from you, ask about what learning looks like day-to-day.[adsense]
A truly great center can balance learning and care and truly help your child come into their own. Ask to see lesson plans, if applicable. Most great centers will have them posted.
You can also tell a lot about a daycare center’s priorities based on what’s hanging in the room. When you arrive for your tour, consider “walking the walls.” Is children’s work displayed in a place of honor, and does it show evidence of learning and growth?
We Make a Daycare Center Great Together!
All of the above factors can make a daycare center great, but at the heart of every great center is love. If you see evidence of love and care from the moment you walk through the door, you will know that you are placing your child in the right hands.