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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