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."
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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