Choosing appropriate child care for your infant or young child can seem overwhelming. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child is safe and happy in a child care environment that is fun, educational, and nurturing. Here are some tips for making such an important decision.
The family's own values and emotional needs also come into play. Some parents are overly anxious about leaving their very young child with one person, while others prefer this individual care. But by age 3 or 4, it's good for kids to have at least some exposure to other kids and participate in a structured program like preschool or daycare.
Make a list of qualities you're looking for in a caregiver or day care, such as experience, discipline beliefs, and flexibility.
- Children spend most of their time playing and working with materials or with other kids.
- Kids have access to various activities throughout the day.
- Teachers work with individual kids, small groups, and the whole group at different times during the day.
- The classroom is decorated with children's original artwork and projects.
- Kids learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences.
- Children work on projects and have long periods of time to play and explore.
- Kids have an opportunity to play outside in a safe play area every day (weather permitting).
- Teachers read books to kids individually or in small groups.
- Curricula are adapted for those who are ahead as well as those who need additional help.
Just as you need to feel confident in the caregivers, kids need time to adjust. Young infants up to 7 months old generally adapt quickly to caring adults; older infants may suffer from "stranger anxiety" and need extra time and parental reassurance. Many toddlers and preschoolers go through adjustment periods involving tears, pouting, and tantrums as they settle in. Visits with you, favorite objects (a familiar blanket or teddy bear, for example) in the child's backpack, and the reassurance that you will return at the end of the day can help the adjustment.
However, if your child is not happy and flourishing in child care, reassess the program or individual caregiver. Realize that bad days may happen from time to time; one bad day does not equal a bad day care facility or caregiver. But if problems persist, look for another arrangement as soon as possible. This will help your child boost your child's mental, physical, and social development, trust in other adults, and sense of self-worth.