What should you expect to see in an infant care program? If your parental leave is over and your baby is ready for out-of-the-home infant care, you may be looking to choose the best center. You can already expect to see clean classrooms and safe cribs. But what else does your child need? Take a look at the not-so-obvious make-or-break things that should top your visit list.
A Staff-to-Child Ratio That Doesn't Change
According to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families Office of Child Care, the adult-to-child ratio for infants 12 months and under should include one trained adult staff member for every three to four babies. Infant classrooms should include no more than six to eight babies per grouping.
While you may have already thought to ask the daycare center's director about this ratio, you may not have added a follow-up question to your list. Instead of stopping at the ratio right now, ask the director or other center staff member if this number ever changes over time. An infant classroom that has two trained adults supervising six children right now may not always have the same ratio over time. Make sure that if the ratio changes, it still fits within acceptable guidelines.
A Class Size That Won't Over-Grow
The ratio isn't the only number that could change over time. Again, a maximum infant class size of six to eight children (per group) is ideal—and possibly a state licensing law requirement.
If you tour the school and see six babies in the infant classroom, ask if this is the norm for the center. Ask the director or knowledgeable staff member whether this number will stay the same or if it could grow. If the class number will grow, follow up the answer with another question about the maximum number of infants the center allows in each room.
A Selection of Toys and Educational Materials
More specifically, your child's new care center should include a selection of toys and educational materials that are age/developmentally appropriate and change as the infants grow. The items your child plays with or uses during their day in care should help them to learn through their senses in a safe and educational way. These could include anything from soft blocks to high-contrast board books. Look for developmentally appropriate items in the infant classrooms. If you don't see a selection of toys, ask to see the materials during a tour of the center.
For more information about infant care, contact a local child care center.