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Parenting in a Nutshell: Choose child care wisely |
More Lifestyles

Parenting in a Nutshell: Choose child care wisely

Doreen Nagle
| Saturday, May 25, 2013 9:00 p.m

Consider these factors when deciding on the right child care for your family.

Day care center

A day care center or preschool can be a great first place for your children to meet new friends, join in groups of play and learn what it means to wait their turn on the slide. Some questions to ask:

• What is the ratio of children to teacher? (These standards are set by the state.) Is the facility licensed and accredited? While regulations vary from state to state, there are some consistent standards that run through each in terms of cleanliness, health standards and emergency procedures. Is the facility well-lit and maintained?

• Is there a weekly schedule? Does it include nap time and snack time? Is there a good mix in the curriculum that includes open play time, arts and crafts, reading, creative play, outdoor activities, story and/or song time? If your child might be at the day care center for a few years, are there activities that grow with your child? Is there a library of books? Are toys in good repair and new ones added on a regular basis? Are their scheduled trips to local museums and activity centers?

• Is there a place to store personal belongings for your child, such as a change of clothes? What is the policy on diapers — does your child have to be out of them before they can be accepted into the program?

• How do teachers stay in touch with you about your child’s day? Do they write milestones down, take photos, send you an email, use a webcam you can access from wherever you are?

You might want to check the National Association for the Education of Young Children at to find a facility that will work for you.

Family child care

Family child care is usually in a home, an environment many parents want for their children when they are away from them. Often, there are fewer children in a family child care facility vs. a day care center, which is a desirable attribute for some parents.

• Is there a business license available to see and a report that means they have been approved to state standards, such as the provider-to-child ratio, and a background check on the provider? Is the home baby-proofed? Who else lives in the house, and are they home when your child is there?

• While being a nurturing parent is a wonderful attribute for any child care worker to have, also check to see whether your provider is trained in CPR and first aid for infants and toddlers. Does the provider take continuing-education classes in child care? (This is a good question to ask any child care worker.) Is there a high level of cleanliness, are toys in good repair, and are there plenty of toys and books to go around? Is there a schedule of activities posted?

• The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (at is a great resource.

Private baby sitter

This is a good choice if you want your child in your own home and want more voice in how your child spends his day.

• If you hire a sitter through an agency, inquire about the depth of their background check not only in terms of safety but also in terms of your sitter’s education, hobbies and interests.

• If you find your sitter through a trusted friend or relative, an interview will help you get a firsthand feeling about her personality and interests.

• Is your sitter trained in CPR for infants and young children?

• Ask for and, then call references. Ask what the parents liked and didn’t like about the sitter, in addition to standard questions such as why the sitter no longer is employed with them.

• Thoroughly review what is expected of the sitter upon hiring. (A trip to the park every day? Nap schedule. Food dos and don’ts.) Also ask how she would respond in an emergency.


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