What do new parents need to know about daycare? If you're pregnant or recently welcomed your first baby into your home, take a look at the top tips that can help you to find the best program in your local area, prepare your child for preschool, and make the most of the early learning experience.
Search Before You Need To Search
Whether your due date is still weeks away or you won't return to work for several months, now is the time to find a childcare center. Licensed early childhood programs and daycare centers must follow the state's regulations for class size and teacher-to-child ratios (by age).
Infant rooms for children under 12 months should have a maximum group size of six and a one-to-three adult-to-baby ratio, according to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families Office of Child Care. This low group size and teacher-to-child ratio may mean that classes fill quickly. If you wait until your work return date to enroll your child in care, you may not find a center that has space for your infant.
Not only does an early start to your search make it more likely that you won't end up at the end of a long waiting list, it also gives you time to visit several different daycares, talk to the staff, and weigh your options. With an early search, you won't feel rushed to make a decision.
Learn About Learning
Even though your infant is years away from being able to read, write, and solve math equations, the learning process starts from day one. This means you will need to ask each center you visit questions about the program's curriculum and daily activities. An appropriate curriculum for infants should nurture the young child's sense of curiosity, help them to learn through exploration, and include age/developmentally-appropriate interactions or experiences.
Along with the curriculum, ask the center's director or staff about the materials available in each infant classroom. These could include soft or board books, toys that foster fine motor (hand and finger) development, and materials that invite exploration in a safe, meaningful way. You should see examples of these items when you visit the school and tour the rooms.
Communicate About Communication
Communication is crucial in the early childhood environment. You need to know what your child does during their day in care, if there are problems or challenges to work on, and basic information about the center, classroom, and activities. As you search for the best program for your child, talk to each program's staff about how and when they communicate with parents.
Keep these tips in mind when looking for a daycare center near you.