Quality Child Care – STEP 1
Aside from making sure that your child is always safe, you also want to make sure that those who care for your child have the training and experience to offer a caring, educationally-rich and fun environment. Choosing quality child care involves asking plenty of questions and being informed. At times, it can feel overwhelming, but knowing what to look for and what questions to ask will make your search less stressful.
STEP 1: Assess Needs and Research Options
Finding the type of child care center you need depends on a number of factors. For example, do you need full- or part-time care? Do you want a provider to come to your home or one that cares for children in his/her own home? How much can you spend on child care? These are just some of the questions you will need to ask yourself in order to figure out what child care option works best for you.
There are many different types of child care providers; these can range from a friend or relative looking after your child to a large, licensed day care location. Research different child care resources to find what is available in your community. A single “right” option does not exist – it all depends on what works best for you, your family and your child. Not all options may be offered or may be within your means, which makes this step a very important part of the decision-making process.
The following are different child care options to consider:
- In-Home Care: This is when someone comes to your home to care for your child. It can be a friend, grandparent, relative or a professional child care provider. While in-home care is not licensed, it may allow you to set the hours you need.
- Family Child Care: Some parents find it hard to place their children in the care of someone they do not know well, especially is a child is very young. Hiring a trusted relative, friend or neighbor to care for your child in his or her home offers you child a home-like place. These caregivers, however, often lack licenses or formal training in child development. You will learn more about this in STEP 2.
- Child Care Centers: Child care centers are licensed and can be run by a person, business, school, church or public agency. These centers – which can range in size from a large building to a small classroom with a playground – may have accredited staff members or program coordinators who have education or training in child development or early care and education. Most centers have separate areas for playing, learning, eating and napping.
- Preschool: Parents often place their children in preschool around the age of 2½ or 3 because they feel their child is eager to learn and explore new ideas. In preschool, children learn reading and math skills that help them get ready for kindergarten. Preschools tend to be licensed, and children often attend a half- or full-day – either three or six hours. In a quality preschool, children learn through play. The teacher sets up the classroom and plans activities that help develop children’s social, emotional and physical skills. Additionally, children learn to develop their thinking skills during this time.
To help you determine what setting is best for you, talk to your friends, family members and neighbors. You can also search the Internet for quality programs near your home or starts by viewing/browsing the Child Care Aware website.