From a delicious anticipation during pregnancy regarding who, exactly, your child is going to be, to a quickly-learned intuitive understanding of who, exactly, your child is; it seems impossible to now be considering an infant daycare program. I totally get that. In an ideal world you’d love to find a program that embraces whole families into their school community. Not just the children. Because let’s face it, this issue resonates directly through every member of your “tribe”. Any list of similarities between day care centers will certainly be longer than one of notable differences. And yet it’s the “stand out” features of a childcare program that will most likely have significant impact on your child’s future.
Developmental Psychology recently published a study from the University of North Carolina in which graduates of high quality childcare are found to be 4x as likely, 30 years later, than a control group to hold advanced college degrees and enjoy longitudinal employment. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development continues to find positive links in their on-going Early Child Care Study between children placed in high quality day care centers and successful early cognitive and language skill development.
So, with the pressure on high heat, which top “stand out” features should be noted in your search for a quality program?
- Caregiver Characteristics – Are the caregivers passionate about children? Is the child to caregiver ratio low? What are the educational, safety and health credentials of staff members? How long have current caregivers been working in their present program? Which
caregivers are continuing their higher education? Answers to these basic inquiries speak volumes to the quality of interaction your infant will enjoy while in program.
- Communication Level – A strong, clear and concise communication network is paramount. You want to easily be able to speak with a caregiver who has been with your child all day. Can you call anytime to check in? Is there an open-door policy?
- Physical Environment – This is often difficult, at first glance, to evaluate. You see a clean, inviting room filled with content infants and call it a day. Please don’t. Check to see if there is equipment that limits physical development, like playpens and high-chairs, versus equipment that encourages it, like low seating and appropriate-high sinks.
- Feeding Technique – Rightfully so, this all-consuming issue in infant care must be honestly addressed. Is breast-feeding permissible? What steps are taken to promote relaxed and safe feeding? Where will your child be during feeding – in a highchair or in a child-size chair? Will your infant be observed and evaluated for hunger rather than routinely fed predetermined amounts?
- Ill-Child Policy – Is it straightforward and followed to the letter? Are families required to have a child-care back-up plan for their under-the-weather infants? If not, keep looking. We all know what happens when rules in this arena become relaxed.
I believe a program which satisfies these considerations conscientiously will partner with you to nurture, support, and celebrate your distinctly-unique child. You can simply add them to your “tribe”!