Finding the Best Day Care for Your Child

Day care for your children is a fact of life if both parents work. But not all day-care options are good for your child. If you're just starting to look, here's what the experts say:

First, decide which type of child care best suits your situation.

Hiring a baby sitter in your home or taking your child to the home of someone who watches a few children may be convenient or more economical, but your best bet may be a group or center setting.

"A quality group child-care program or center will have more teachers and staff per child, and they'll have more professional training," says James M. Poole, M.D., a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Early Child-care Committee. "It takes a very special person to become a teacher at a center. This is a calling."

Things to think about

Before you make a decision on a day-care center (or another day-care situation), here are a few things to consider:

  • Be sure the center has a state license, and ask about accreditation.

  • Look for a ratio of one adult per three children under 2 years old, one adult per seven children 3 years old, and one adult per eight children 4 and 5 years old. Ask if caregivers are certified.

  • Be sure discipline doesn't involve isolation, humiliation or intimidation—make sure the center's policies agree with yours.

  • Be certain there is a designated diaper-changing area, with a sink, separated from the rest of the center. Watch to see that staff members wash their hands at appropriate times, such as after diaper changes and before snacks or meals.

  • Be sure the center was designed with children's safety in mind. There should be impact-absorbing material in outdoor play areas.

  • Make sure the center's food and drink meet your child's dietary needs. Snacks and naps should be on a schedule.

  • Ask about policies for special situations, such as when your child is sick or when you're stuck at work late.


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