For many working parents, childcare is a must—and there are plenty of options. But regardless of whether you’re planning on a nanny, a group care center, or a small, local provider, you want (and expect) a professional level of care at all times.
If you have an only child used to one-on-one attention, you might want to hire an in-home caregiver. This can be costly, especially if you need someone full-time, but you might be able to find another stay at home mom to watch your child at a discounted rate if you allow her to bring her child with her.
Regardless, it’s crucial you understand your caregivers’ day-to-day operations—before you enroll. Are they organized and detail-oriented? Do they schedule every minute of the day, or are they “free spirits”? Children thrive on structure. If you find a center not as structured as you’d like it to be, it’s okay to pass!
You also should consider include cost, location, availability, and ratings. Are they on Yelp? Do they have a Facebook page? Do some digging. Ask around to see if anyone has heard of the provider—good or bad. You may hear a couple of complaints, but remember: there always will be one or two people unhappy with a service. Weigh the pros and cons carefully when evaluating ratings. If you hear something bad from a reputable source, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
When visiting the center, pay attention to how the provider interacts with other children.
Always ask questions. Professional caregivers will be more than willing to give you the information you need to make an informed decision. You might ask:
- Are you certified in CPR and first aid? (This is a must. If they answer no, move on to another provider.)
- How many children are in your care, and are they grouped by age?
- How do you handle discipline?
- Do you have any professional training?
- Are you licensed and accredited by the state?
- If you provide meals and snacks, what are they, and when are they served? Are meals included in the quoted price? (Look for healthy, balanced options.)
- What is your policy on parental visits? Can I drop by any time? Do you provide video surveillance?
- How do you handle separation anxiety?
- How do you handle naps?
- How do you deal with potty training?
While it’s great to be prepared, at the end of the day you have to rely on your intuition as a parent—and the information you’ve gathered. If you get a bad vibe or feeling from any provider, mark them off the list and move on to the next. Never settle when it comes to care for your child.