Quality matters most when deciding on any type of childcare. Look for a welcoming, nurturing environment where children can have fun and be safe. Take your time, do your homework and ask a lot of questions until you find the right situation. Research shows that the following factors determine whether childcare accommodations are considered high quality:
- Small groups of children - To ensure individualized attention for every group of 6 to 8 babies, 6 to 10 toddlers, or 16 to 20 preschoolers, there should be 2 adults.
- Consistent caregivers - Infants and toddlers need nurturing from consistent caregivers to build their self-esteem and sense of security.
- Adequate staff compensation - When the staff is paid well they tend to stay in their position longer which in turn ensures consistency in care-giving.
- Active parents - Involved parents help ensure trust, communication and consistency between home and childcare.
- Education and training - A staff trained in child development is critical to high quality childcare.
- Clean, safe and stimulating environment -This type of environment is essential to a child’s development.
- Can you or your spouse afford to stay home with your child? Make sure you consider what you’d both be happiest doing.
- Do you have relatives who can help? Since relatives are familiar and trusted faces many parents prefer relative care, especially for infants.
- How much can you afford to pay? Nannies usually cost the most, in-home care the least.
- How flexible is your schedule? Childcare centers and preschools usually have set drop-off and pick-up times.
- Does your company offer a childcare center, allow you to bring your baby to work with you or let you work at home? These benefits allow you to work and still be near your child.
- Would your child benefit the most from group play or individualized attention? During the first year, individualized attention is often best. After that, look for an environment that provides a mix.
- Does your child have health issues or needs that require special attention? Discuss with your child’s pediatrician your child’s needs and what childcare situation will best be able to address them.
- Do you prefer structured play and activities for your child or are you comfortable with a free-form environment? Childcare settings vary in the amount of structure provided. A balance is often best.
* Finding a compatible child care situation takes time. If possible, begin investigating about 6 to 12 months before you need it.