Monthly Archives: October 2010

Daycare Features at a Glance

daycare_kid_mousingMaking the decision between a day care center, at-home daycare, and a nanny is difficult work. This chart shows some of the main features of different types of childcare. If you would like further information regarding specific items, please check the articles under Types of Daycare.

Child care Features

Daycare Center

In-Home Daycare


Government regulations Yes Yes No
One-on-one attention No No Yes
Chance to interact with children of own age Yes Yes No
Multiple teachers Yes No No
Frequency of infectious illness Yes Yes No
Caregiver turnover Yes No Yes
Individual focus on special needs (food allergy, etc.) No No Yes
Flexibility in the child’s routine No No Yes
Extended hours of operation Yes No No
Backup care if a provider can’t work (vacation, illness, etc.) Yes No No
Personal relationship between parent and provider No Yes Yes
Possibility of preschool curriculum Yes Yes Yes
Budget-minded Yes Yes No
Supervision of provider Yes No No
Family privacy Yes Yes No
Socializing with other children Yes Yes No
Convenience No No Yes
Home-like environment No Yes Yes
Control over rules and values No No Yes
Employee taxes and benefits, living arrangements, etc. No No Yes
Chance to meet other parents Yes Yes No
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The First Week at an In-Home Daycare

daycare_sidewalk_artThe first week in an in-home daycare will be a very important week for you, your child and the provider you chose.  You’ll have to get used to how each other handles the daily routine.  Make sure that you’ve talked to your child about the upcoming changes in their routine and the exciting new daycare they are about to attend.  This can be a difficult time for everyone as they adjust to this new change. Just remember to take it one day a time, be patient, and maintain open and honest communication.

Transitions for Young Children
Transitions for Young Children

It’s very important to make sure that you prepare yourself as well as your child for starting in this new in-home daycare.  Talk to your child frequently in the days leading up to beginning.  Answer any questions your child may have and make your best effort to help your child be comfortable with this idea.  They’ll be going into a stranger’s house with strange people and children they don’t know.  This can be very difficult for child who has known only comfort and familiar faces.

Routines and Transitions
Routines and Transitions

Make sure to schedule plenty of extra time in your daily schedule for this first week so you can properly drop your child off and pick them up.  Give yourself an extra fifteen minutes to a half an hour for both drop off and pick up for your first week.  For the drop-off, you will likely need to hang out with your child for awhile until they get comfortable with their new situation.  The new provider will probably get the child playing with the other children right away. This will help your child feel better about the new daycare.  When you pick them up make sure to speak with the daycare provider about the details of their day and how your child did.  Make sure to offer lots of praises to your child as this will surely help them to warm up to the new daycare.

The first week at the in-home daycare is your chance to make sure the standard of care is at your desired level.  This is the best time to make any adjustments for the long-term.  Most daycare providers will be very receptive to making some minor changes should it make the parents and the child happy.  If you see anything drastic, be sure to bring it up immediately so that it can be addressed.  Once a certain amount of time passes both your provider, and you, will have an unspoken agreement about how care is handled.  It’s easier to make minor adjustments during the first week.


Children Starting School
Children Starting School

During this first week you also want to make sure the daycare provider has all of the equipment and supplies they may need.  For younger children in diapers this means you’ll have to supply all the necessary things surrounding a diaper change: diapers, wet wipes, any creams or ointments.  You should also provide an extra set of clothes or two in case they get messy.  You may even need to supply an extra car seat should they take any trips.  Some daycare providers will also want you to leave coats, gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen and possibly other things to help them take care of your child.  Make an effort to get all these to them as soon as possible.


Preschooler Problem Solver
Preschooler Problem Solver

The right in-home daycare can be the toughest to find. In home daycares can provide some of the most benefit once you find the right one for you.  It’s important to start early, remain diligent, and make sure that the daycare fits your needs.  If you make this effort, you’ll be rewarded by a high quality in-home daycare that will take great care of your children.  Hopefully a long lasting bond of friendship will forge between the children as well as you and the daycare provider. This kind of care can be ideal.  Bringing the social setting of a few kids together with the focused personal attention that children need and deserve, it is no wonder that in-home daycare is so popular and widely used.


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Needs That Match an In-Home Daycare

daycare_girl_reading_floorWhen considering daycare for your child, it’s important to keep in mind what you want in daycare.  You may find that in-home daycare is the best solution to meet your needs.  These daycares range widely in the type of care they offer.  Some are little more than a playroom in the basement or the kids are cooped up all day.  Others are highly structured with daily itineraries that plot out what your child will be doing.  Some include religious curriculum, and some often take the kids out during the day on various trips.  It’s good to have a clear understanding of what you need in the daycare and remember your priorities when seeking one out.

In-home daycare is often less expensive than a daycare center or a nanny.  This is often a driving factor in parents choosing in-home daycare.  However, being less expensive doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice the quality of child care.  Keep this in mind when you are searching for a daycare because the quality care of the care is very important.

Quality in-home daycares rarely have openings when you need them!  Therefore, it’s very important to get a good lead on enrolling your child in the in-home daycare of your choice.  Looking for a daycare really should be considered six months or more out from the time you’d like to enroll your child. If this isn’t possible, you should still be able to find someone, but you will definitely need to contact a lot of people.

In-home daycare providers offer personalized care for children that they wouldn’t get in a daycare center.  Most in-home daycares will have six or maybe eight children total.  The ratio for this is almost always better than the child to teacher ratio you’ll find at a daycare center.  Much stronger bonds between the daycare provider and your child will form. Many childcare professionals see this is a valuable and a source of happy and healthy child development.  This is a very important time in your child’s life and being able to forge strong bonds with those around them can help them considerably in the future.  This often helps children feel much more comfortable in this type of daycare.

Choosing Childcare For Dummies
Choosing Childcare For Dummies

In-home daycares often offer a kind of customizable care.  Having such a small group of children to look after, they can easily make arrangements to suit your needs.  They’re definitely an excellent choice for children with special needs.  Be sure to discuss any special needs and the combinations required with the daycare provider.  With the marked increase in child allergies in recent years, in-home daycare providers may offer a certain peace of mind.  This is because the provider is able to modify her menu, in-home snacks and be acutely aware of your child’s  allergies, which allows them to screen any snacks that might come in and to make other parents of the daycare aware of this.

Being less expensive than other forms of daycare, in-home daycare providers are the preferred choice for many parents.  Not only are they less expensive, they offer a type of customizable care that allows the parents and the children to feel more comfortable.  They offer custom care and often quality preschool so important in child development. The best ones are incredibly difficult to get into, but being a proactive, educated and well-meaning parent you too will be able to get your child into the care of your choice.

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The First Week in a Daycare Center

daycare-center-classroomThe first week a new daycare center is going to be an important one.  It is important to do your best to do it right, prepare your child correctly, and work with the daycare center to make sure this transition goes as smooth as absolutely possible.  This first week may well end up shaping you and your child’s overall experience with this daycare center. You don’t want your child to dislike the daycare center or have to fight them every time you drop them off. Remember to have an extra amount of patience during this first week with your child as this is a very difficult time for them. This will help to make a happy daycare center experience.

Meeting New Friends
Meeting New Friends

Once you’ve signed all the papers and your start date for the new daycare center is set, make sure to ask the administration specifically how the first few days are going to go.  It may be a little different as they will certainly have their own methods to integrate your child into their daycare facility.  Do your best to follow these procedures that they give you to help with this transition.  They will likely tell you a few things to do when you arrive to get used to the daily drop off and pick up schedule.  Make sure that you speak with your child about this transition ahead of time so they are excited and eager to start the new daycare center.  If you spring this decision on them as you are dropping them off for the first day you’re guaranteed to have a lot of problems.  Do what you can to generate excitement in your child about starting with the daycare center because this will really help them prepare for this new experience.

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time this first week while dropping them off and picking them up.  You may have questions for the administration or teachers and they may have questions for you. Be prepared to spend a little extra time there than you will normally to make sure everyone is on the same page.  You should also have some extra time to comfortably drop your child off.  Most daycare centers will encourage you to hang out for a few minutes in the morning to help your child adjust to the new classroom and the new people.  You definitely don’t want your child to think you are abandoning them in this unfamiliar environment.  So take your time, help them feel comfortable as you introduce the teacher and the children.  You may even want to sit down with the teacher and your child and start playing a game or with some of the toys.  This will help to distract them and allow you to leave without tears.


The Fairy Twins: Land of New Friends
The Fairy Twins: Land of New Friends

This routine should last through the week and then you can gradually wean your child off the heavy attention this first week demands.  Eventually you would like to get your child to the point where you sign them in, give them a hug, and then let them run off to their daycare friends.  Be sure not to push your child too much and allow them the time they’ll need to feel comfortable in this new daycare center. Don’t be too surprised though if there is nothing that can be done to calm your child, and you have to leave when he or she is crying. It is heartbreaking, but usually they’ve stopped crying by the time you’ve reached your car in the parking lot.


Make sure to touch base daily with your child’s teacher to ask how they’re doing and if there is anything you can do to help.  Make sure that you stay connected during this first week to the needs of your child to as well as the daycare center.  This is a transition time for you and your child.  Make it’s the best you can and you’ll have a pleasant and lasting daycare center experience.

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Assessing Needs For Daycare Center

daycare-kids-in-playgroundThere’s a wide range of things that you need to consider when thinking about taking your child to a daycare center.  Not only should you consider the needs of your child but you should also consider your own needs.  Make sure to keep in mind your budget, your work schedule and the kind of experience that you’re hoping to give your child.  Remember this is always a partnership between you, your child and your daycare provider.

One advantage that draws many people to a daycare center is their availability.  Most daycare centers are open Monday through Friday, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM, year round.  Some even have longer hours during the week. They also can offer things like a once a month “Parents’ Night Out”, when they keep the children longer into the evening, giving them dinner and a movie.   A Something you may not even consider when comparing daycare types is that centers are usually only closed during the major holidays. In-home daycare providers or nannies will generally be closed or unavailable around major holidays, but also will have vacations during the year, sick days, appointments, and other scheduling conflicts, when you will need to find backup care for your child.

Daycare centers offer the closest facsimile of school which will make that eventual transition much easier for child.  Daycare centers also offer a myriad of other services.  So if you are looking for more than just daycare for child a center may be the choice that you want.  They often have sports activities, field trips and optional classes.

Choosing Childcare
Choosing Childcare

Daycare preschool centers are often more structured than in-home daycares.  If your child, like many, thrives on a very structured day, a daycare center could be the right choice.  They generally have a day to day routine that remains similar.  They will also have a daily routine that remains consistent.  Oftentimes reading time, craft time, lunchtime and nap time are usually started and completed at around the same time every day.  When your child has a structured routine this helps them feel more confident during their day and comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar people.

If this sounds like what you’re for in a childcare provider, is likely that a daycare center would be right for you.  Daycare centers may seem the same but they often vary greatly on the specifics of what they offer or what their focus may be.  Some are religion-based, some academic-based, and some are activity-based. Make sure that you ask them the details of their day and what they focus on with the children.  If the focus of the center aligns with your primary goals for your child in daycare, you may have found the right place.

You’ll want to prioritize what you find most important in the daycare center.  Then when you are calling, and then later interviewing these daycare centers, you can compare them with your priorities.  This should give you the knowledge and information that you need to make best informed choice for you and your child.

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How to Decide on a Daycare Center

daycare_crayonsWhen it comes to picking the right daycare center, it’s important to keep all your top priorities in mind.  Most of the daycare centers in your area are going to be regulated by state laws and inspected by the same inspectors, so the basics of how they operate will be the same.  However, each individual daycare center can still vary widely depending on what they offer.  So make sure to look into all of the various programs and activities your child will be involved in.

Here are few of the programs and activities that you may want to ask about.  These daycare centers should go into as much detail as you request with any of the programs they offer.  Sometimes for extra fees you can even enroll your child in extra programs such as swimming lessons, gymnastics, art classes, and sports activities.

Daycare Programs That May be Available:

  • Art classes
  • Preschool education
  • Music classes
  • Sports classes
  • Physical education
  • Sciences education
  • Religious studies
  • Swimming lessons

Daycare centers are often more expensive than in-home daycare providers.  They also tend to have more hidden fees that might take you by surprise if you do not ask about them.  Make sure to ask about late pickup fees.  Many daycare centers charge a fee should they need to stay past their closing time waiting for you to pick up your child.  These can range widely and can be charged per minute, in 15 minute blocks or even a percentage of your weekly fee.  Make sure to also inquire if there are any extra crafting fees, field trip fees or anything else is not disclosed up front.  They are required to make you aware of these fees should you ask but sometimes they’re hidden or buried within the mountain of paperwork.

It’s also a good idea to ask the daycare center how they inform the parents of the children’s activities.  They may have information walls, send out a weekly newsletter, or have talks with the parents.  However the particular daycare center prefers to keep parents up to speed is fine, just so you know what to look for.

Having your child in a daycare center can be very convenient.  With their long hours, different features and ability to accommodate many different needs and children, they can be the ideal care provider for child.  Ask other parents which centers their kids attend.  If you know parents of the kids in your daycare, you can remind each other of upcoming events, keep an eye on each others’ kids, and share any concerns you may have. You might even be able to work out arrangements and take turns picking up both children.  Since the classes are larger, it’s easier to connect with a friend of yours whose child attends the same daycare center.

Be sure the daycare center goes over the security measures and procedures of the facility.   Daycare centers are full of many different children every day.  This can make it difficult to keep an eye on every child all the time.  So make sure you check for open doors and an open playground.  Make sure to ask about their sign in and sign out policy.  Ask them how you authorize others than yourself to pick up your child.  And in this day of high technology ask them about video cameras or any other security measures they use to make sure children are safe.

Daycare centers can offer a wide variety of services and experiences for your child.  Their convenience and long hours, availability, wide range of services including preschool, and ease of enrollment make them a popular choice for many people.  They are more expensive than in-home daycares but not as expensive as in-home nannies.  Budget, convenience, and preschool activities are usually the reasons people end up deciding on daycare centers, but you need to make sure this option works best for your child and your family.

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In-Care with a Daycare Center

daycare-kids-in-classIn our busy lives it is easy to forget the importance of staying vigilant after you’ve chosen a daycare center for child.  This vital and often overlooked step is very important in making sure you have quality daycare for child.  You’ll want to monitor the situation to ensure that the daycare center and your child are working out well together.

You definitely don’t want to question the teachers on a daily basis, spend an extra half an hour with them every time you drop them off, or be overly critical about the day-to-day activities.  But you do want  to stay vigilant and watchful for signs of trouble or turmoil within the daycare center.  Often if issues are spotted early they can be resolved easily and quickly.  Make sure to address them as soon as you see them and not to let any issues get out of hand.

It’s important to let your child feel empowered by letting him or her have control of some part of the daily routine. Don’t push them into anything they’re not ready for, but giving them decisions to make will help them feel like a part of the process.  It will really help the transition between home and daycare if your child feels that it is (at least partially) his or her idea. It’s a good idea to to stick to their routine as much as possible. Children like to know what to expect.

Ask the Teacher Specific Questions About the Week

Games for Children

It is probably too much to ask the teacher every single day for a summary of the day. However, you can definitely ask the teacher at least once a week how things are going.  Asking specifics and looking at examples of what they are doing will help to give you get a better idea of your child’s day at daycare.  Note your discussions and compare them with your priorities and what you’re looking for in a daycare.  Make sure that these are matching up. If they aren’t, raise the concerns you have with the teacher.  Most daycare centers generally have a daily plan for what the children will do, but they are generally unable to accommodate the individual needs of specific children.

Ask Your Child About the Specifics of Their Day

It is important, to ask your child each evening about their day. Ask them specific questions about the activities they were involved in during the day, about teachers, about other kids.  Sometimes it’s hard to get details but if they mention something, ask them more questions about it. This is very good and healthy for your child.  It makes them think about their day and what they liked about it.  This is a very important part of early childhood development.

Talking to your child about the day can also give you a good and accurate idea of what they’re doing at the daycare center.  Should your child mention something that sounds little suspicious, such as hitting, biting, coarse language, or any other strange behavior make sure to remain calm and neutral.  If you overreact, show surprise or anger toward your child when talking you’ll just cripple you ability to find out about their day.  You want to make sure that your child is always 100% comfortable with talking to you about anything.  Should something stand out ask more details about it, being careful not to plant any words, suggestions, or hints of the behavior you’re trying to isolate.  Once you have an idea of what might have happened in the center and the teacher didn’t discuss it with you, make sure to bring it up with the teachers, then the administrators if you need to.  Most daycare centers are highly regulated and required to report to you even the most minor incidents.

The “Drop In”

Any daycare center should allow you to “drop in” anytime.  I find this to be one of the most effective ways to get a true gauge of how the daycare center is run.  During interviews, drop offs, and pickups, the daycare center and its employees will be on their best behavior.  As a responsible parent for the well being of your child, you also need to be sure that these best practices and best behaviors are carried on throughout the day.

It’s best to give your child a few weeks before you have your first drop in visit.  You don’t want to drop in until your child is more comfortable in daycare.  If they’re still nervous or about daycare, your visit could cause quite the scene.  That is definitely something you do not want to happen.  The best scenario is if you are able to observe your child without your child seeing you.  This gives you the opportunity to see how your child interacts with the other kids, how they interact with the teachers and aides, and what a normal day might be like in the center.

I would recommend three or four drop-in visits spaced out about a month apart when you first start a daycare center.  This should help you to get a very accurate idea of how this daycare center runs and how well your child is doing within it.  You can keep up the pattern of visits but the first two or three are most important.  If you can avoid it don’t come in on the same day at the same time every month.  You don’t want them to get used to when you’ll arrive and prepare for your visit.  The whole idea of the drop-in is that they’re not prepared so you get a truer of the daycare center.

Drop-in visits are also a very useful tool should you suspect something is happening at the daycare center and you want to try to catch it happening.  The effectiveness of this visit will depend greatly on the amount of information you can get from your child.  You’ll need to find out if there’s a specific time, a specific child, or specific teacher that your issue might be with and make sure to coordinate your visit with that information.

The Virtual Drop In

Many daycare centers are employing technology to ease parents’ concerns in this area, by using video cameras in the classroom that the front desk or administrators can watch. Some daycare centers even give you the opportunity to watch streaming video of your child’s classroom over the internet, so you can keep track of your children at work.

Daycare preschool centers can be a great experience for you and your child.  They offer a wide variety of services and education, and grant you one of the most flexible daycare options.  It also gives your child good preparation for entering school. The larger classes and the more organized daily routines are the most like a school environment.

The quality of daycare centers can vary widely so be sure to stay vigilant.  They usually have a high turnover rate which means you may see a lot of different teachers for the children. Make an effort to welcome new teachers and pay attention to how your child is reacting to them.

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How to leave In-Home Daycare with a Smile

daycare-girl-pink-outfitIn-home daycares and the providers that run them are incredibly varied in their personalities, situations and how they run their own businesses.  This makes specific advice challenging due to the nature of everyone’s unique situation.  But there definitely some good rules of thumb to follow to finish up a relationship with an in-home daycare provider with a smile.

Make sure to plan ahead and around the contracted notice time.  This can be different between in-home daycare providers but is usually 2 to 4 weeks.  You will be responsible to pay for care from the time you give notice to the end of the time noted in the contract, even if you decide to pull your child out early.  This can often be a very sticky point between parents and the daycare providers which can sour the relationship instantly.  So make sure you are aware of the agreed-upon time frame and plan accordingly for it.  It is also a good idea to write up a quick friendly letter notifying a provider that you will be leaving.  Here’s an example letter you can use:

Dear (daycare provider’s name),

I wanted to thank you for all of the great care you have provided for (child’s name(s)).  I have really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know you and appreciate all you have done for our family. Unfortunately our circumstances have changed and our last day at daycare will be (date).

Thank you again!





It is very important to make sure that you speak to your child about the upcoming change in their routine.  On the Friday before their last week make sure that they are aware that the next week is going to be their last week at the daycare.  You can use the weekend to have them make some pictures or cards for their friends as well as one for the daycare provider.  This is a critical step in helping your child prepare for the changes to come.  You can try to make it easier for them with a good transition.  Make sure you remind them that this is their final week with the children and daycare provider they spent so much time with.  You may even want to do little extra to mark the event.   One final thing you can do is to make up some healthy and allergen-free treats to take  to daycare on the last day to help make a fun little going away party.  As a sign of your appreciation you might think about getting a gift for the daycare provider.

You might want to let the other parents at the daycare that your child is leaving, and collect their contact information so you can schedule future play dates or invite them to birthday parties. An in-home daycare setting is much more intimate than a childcare center and it’s likely that your child has built up some strong friendships and bonds.  If you have the ability to keep these friendships going after leaving the daycare provider, it may help the transition.

Keep these steps in mind to help make leaving your daycare provider easier. It will help to show your child some valuable skills about how to handle change in their lives.  Leaving with a smile will also leave a positive impression with your old daycare provider. This often reverberates through the local daycare community.  You never know what the future holds.  If you and your family are known in the neighborhood as friendly and polite, should you need daycare the future, you’ll have little trouble finding it.

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How to Leave a Daycare Center Gracefully

daycare-center-classroomMost parents find daycare centers are the easiest type of daycare to leave.  Daycare centers are used to children enrolling and leaving as part of the business.  If the teachers and administrators are be upset at the news, it means they really enjoy having your child there. Even though this might be the easiest of exits, it is always important to make sure that it is done gracefully.

Make sure that you adhere to the amount of notice required in the enrollment agreement. This is usually two weeks for a daycare center.

It is very important to speak with your child about the upcoming change.  When they have a week to go, make them aware this is going to be their last week.  Your child may want to give something to their classmates, so you can help him or her write up little notes or drawings to give to their friends on their last day. They might also want to make something for their teachers.

Be sure to talk to your daycare teachers and administrators to inform them that you will be leaving.  Some teachers do baby sitting on the side and may offer their contact information. It would be handy to have a good babysitter to use.

When the last day arrives, try to make it a happy event.  Ask the daycare teachers if it would be OK to bring in some treats. If so, try to bring in treats that are healthy and as allergen-free as possible.  Many centers will have little going away party, especially if your child has attended for a long time.  You definitely want to make the last day a happy day with fond memories.  This is much better than dragging your kid out of the daycare kicking and screaming because they weren’t properly prepared.  Remember that this daycare center has been a major part of your child’s life and a transition from this routine can be very difficult for them.  Take the extra effort to make it as easy as possible for a child and ultimately it will make it easier for you, your child, and the daycare providers.

Even though you may never step foot in this daycare center again is very important to make sure you leave on a good note.  Make sure to consider the transition for your child and make it as easy as possible for them.  If you leave this daycare center right they’ll happily accept you back in the future should your circumstances change. It would be nice to be welcomed back to a familiar place.

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Your Time in an In-Home Daycare

daycare_reading_togetherIs very important to make sure you stay vigilant even after you’ve decided on what appears to be the best in-home daycare for your child’s needs.  This step is often neglected but it is one of the most important ways for you to ensure that your child is in a quality daycare.

In a childcare center, other faculty members can keep an eye on what’s going on with the children and each other. But in a person’s private home, it’s another story. The intimate personal setting of an in-home daycare can give your child a much stronger bond with a provider and the other children, and more specialized care but the private nature of the daycare can also come at a cost—nobody is there to report a questionable situation.

It is in your family’s best interest when picking up your children and dropping them off to actually take them inside of the daycare.  This allows you the opportunity to do a quick scan of the daycare for cleanliness, safety, and where the children spend most of the day.  Every so often, you should be able to wander some at the daycare to see where children will be.  Make sure to scan the main play area inside, the kitchen or where their food is prepared, the bathroom, and their outdoor play area.  All of these should remain clean and tidy during drop off and pick up.  The provider’s home should be clean and ready for the day in the morning, and at the end of the day, perhaps a bit cluttered with toys, but things should be tidied during the day. The older children can help more with cleaning up than the younger children, but picking up toys should definitely be a regular part of the day. The floors should be clear enough for people to walk on, meals should be cleaned up and table areas should be wiped down. A clean house is important for healthy and safe environment.

The Other Parents

It’s a good idea to learn the names of the other parents and their children that go to the daycare.  If you can get into a friendly relationship with them, you can work together to keep an eye on the daycare and your children.  These relationships can really be to your advantage when discussing situations with the daycare or with their kids.  It really is only a matter of time before the kids at the daycare are close friends.  But some children may develop problems with other children in the daycare. If you’ve already established a good relationship with the other parents, tackling a situation will be less awkward.

Ask About Their Day

Most daycare providers will generally write up a synopsis of their day or week.  If they don’t volunteer this, ask for one.  One of the advantages of enrolling your children in an in-home daycare is their flexibility to meet your needs.  An update of the day should be posted on an information board just inside the home.  It should include what their meals were for the day, what activities they did and any special events, such as field trips, birthdays or other celebrations.

You can ask the provider specifics about the day, should you need to, but for the most part, the written summary should be sufficient. The activities and preschool topics for the kids should be in line with what the provider promised during your interview with them.

The “Drop In”

Any daycare provider should allow you to visit at anytime.  This can be one of the most effective ways to get a true gauge of how the daycare is run.  During interviews, drop off and pick up, the daycare provider will be on their best behavior.  As a responsible parent for the well being of your child, you also need to be sure that these best practices are carried throughout the day.

It’s best to give your child a few weeks before you have your first drop in.  You don’t want to drop in until your child is more comfortable at the daycare, and knows the routine.  If they’re still nervous or unsure about the daycare, or don’t know the routine, your visit could cause quite the scene, and you don’t want to be the reason they have trouble acclimating. The best scenario is that your child sees you, possibly greets you, and then continues on about their business.  This gives you the opportunity to see how your child interacts with the other kids, how they interact with the provider, and what a normal day might be like.

I would recommend three or four of these visits spaced out about a month apart when you first start daycare.  This should help you to get a very accurate idea of how the daycare runs and how well your child is doing.  You can keep dropping in, but the first two or three visits are most important.  If you can avoid it don’t come on the same day at the same time every month.  You don’t want them to get used to when you’ll arrive and prepare for your visit.  The whole idea of the drop-in is that they’re not prepared for you, so you get a true view of the daycare center.

Dropping in is a very useful tool if you are concerned about the care your child is receiving.  The effectiveness of this visit will depend greatly on the amount of information you can get from your child.  You’ll need to find out if there’s a specific time, a specific child, or specific teacher that your issue might be with and make sure to coordinate your visit with that information.

Things to Look For:

  • An excess of candy or treats.
  • Excessive TV watching.
  • Free play time – This is definitely important for child development; however, the children shouldn’t just be stuck in a room and left to play all day long.  Structured and educational activities are very important.
  • Not having time to discuss the day regularly.
  • The provider sends your child out of the house to meet you instead of having  you pick them up inside.
  • Any talk of secrets from your child.

In-home daycare providers are usually less expensive than daycare centers and offer a very wide variety of care styles.  They are more oftentimes more flexible than centers and can often better accommodate special needs such as allergies or developmental disabilities. Your child will build stronger and longer lasting bonds with in-home daycare providers, which can be very beneficial.  It is very important for you to keep your eyes open and to remain constantly involved in their care.  Daycares are not inspected regularly and may only get a visit from a state investigator when a complaint has been filed. So it is very important that you act as the daily inspector for your child’s well being.

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