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Evaluating Your Childcare

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Parent Handouts and Info - Parent


Quality childcare during the first few years of a child's life is very important. Parents can evaluate their childcare. Some important factors are accreditation, supervision, cleanliness, teacher training, group size and safety procedures.


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Preschool/Kindergarten (3-5), School Age (6-12)

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Evaluating Your Childcare

Evaluating Your Childcare

Research says that quality childcare during the first few years of life is very important. However, trying to find quality childcare can seem challenging. What does "quality childcare" mean?

Experts point to many factors that define quality childcare. Accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or other national childcare organizations usually indicates very high quality childcare. Ask your childcare provider if they are accredited. Still many very good places may not be accredited. You can use the other indicators to decide if your childcare is of high quality.

  • Friendliness. Children should like the teacher and the teacher should like the children. A friendly atmosphere is important for children of any age. Older children can tell you how they like the teacher but infants may fuss just because you are leaving them. Ask about how long fussing lasted and what activities your child did while at child care to find out if they feel comfortable there. You need to like the teacher, too, to feel safe leaving your child.
  • Supervision. Children should never be left alone. Discipline should be fair and consistent. Spanking or embarrassing children are not acceptable forms of discipline. Children should be given lots of love and attention.
  • Changing staff. Having the same teachers over time without a lot of changes helps children feel secure. Ask how long the teachers have worked there and what is the average length of staying in the job.
  • Cleanliness. Frequent hand washing is important. Hands should be washed before eating and after changing diapers or using the bathroom. Check to see if there are child level sinks or step stools so children can reach the sinks. Also check to see if there is a potty for children.
  • Teacher background. Directors and teachers should have a college degree in a child-related field. Check to see that they have a few years of experience working in childcare.
  • Staff Ratio and Group Size. Care is usually better when there are smaller numbers of children per teacher. Count how many caregivers and children are usually there. Acceptable ratios depend on your child's age. For instance, a ratio of one or two children per teacher is typical for babies. Preschool age children are okay in groups of 5 or 6 per teacher.
  • Health and safety. All children should be immunized and up to date records should be available. Medications and cleaning products should be kept in locked cabinets out of reach of children. The building should not have dangerous substances such as radon or lead.
  • Emergency Plans. Escape plans should be posted in case of fire, flood or earthquake. Children should practice these drills regularly. Check to see that emergency phone numbers are posted by the phone. Caregivers should be trained in first aid.
  • Playgrounds. Playgrounds should have safe equipment that is right for your child's age. Also it should be surrounded by a fence. Regular safety checks of the playground are good too.

Your childcare facility should encourage you to drop in and observe your child's care. If you think your childcare is inadequate, talk to the director about your concerns. If your concerns are not addressed, decide if they are serious enough to find new childcare.

In the end, one of the most important factors to choosing childcare is how you feel about the teacher. Do you agree with his or her approach to caring for children? Do you think they really understand and care about your child? Do you feel comfortable leaving your child with the teacher? Does your child like and admire the teacher? Talk to other parents and see if their impressions of the teacher are favorable.

Adapted in part from A Parent's Guide to Choosing Safe and Healthy Child Care, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care.

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