When it’s time to go back to your job, one of the biggest challenges is to find high quality child care. Your precious baby now will be spending many hours of the day with a caregiver, rather than with you. What do you look for in a child care provider? How can you tell if the caregiver is doing a good job?
In a previous post, I wrote about types of child care and what to look for in the child care setting. Here, I’ll focus on the caregivers rather than the physical environment and program.
A child care provider will have a large impact on your child. In a group day care setting, try to meet all the staff who work with your child’s group, not just the director or manager. Do the staff seem happy, upbeat and to be enjoying their job? Do they smile often? Child care is not a job someone should take simply because they need a paying job-they should truly enjoy being with children.
Do the staff have energy and strength or do they seem to be tired much the time? Child care is a demanding job. You want to see staff getting up and down on the floor, and easily carrying babies and toddlers.
Do the staff speak clearly to the children, using lots of words and description? Do they deliberately encourage speech development by extending words and phrases, and encouraging children to communicate? Do they get down to the child’s eye level when talking? Do they read stories with expression? Is most of the conversation and communication with the children, rather than with other staff? Do they know all the children’s names and use them, rather than, ‘buddy’ or ‘baby’ or other general terms?
Is their focus on the children, rather than doing paperwork or cleaning? Are phones used only while on breaks, not while on duty with the children? Staff should not be texting or checking their phones, but focusing on the children.
Do all the children get attention from the caregiver? There should be no obvious favorites, and quieter children should still receive their share of adult time, even if they don’t demand it.
When a child is upset, sad or crying, the caregiver should be sympathetic and supportive. It should be clear that the caregiver understands that crying is a way that young children communicate and responds accordingly. You should not see rough treatment, hear harsh words, or witness anger or frustration from the adults towards the children.
Staff should have training in child development, behavior guidance and programming. They should have first aid certification. Ask if they have any other training that is pertinent to your child’s needs such as a special certificate in infant care.
You will look for many of the same qualities in a family day home operator. While typically, day home providers are not required to have the level of formal training that an early childhood education staff member does, she still should have knowledge about child development which may have been gained by experience, or through workshops or courses. She should have first aid training. Her personal qualities and skills are very important, as she will be the only adult caregiver that your child will be in contact with during the day.
Some of the challenges for a family day home provider are the same as those of any mom at home. She needs to juggle cooking and household tasks, while making sure the kids are supervised, busy and happy. Observe how well she multi-tasks. Be sure that the home is safe and that toys and materials suitable for older children are not in the reach of infants and toddlers. Ask to see where your child will sleep as well as the outdoor play area. Find out if there are other adults in the home who will be present when your child is there.
There is a lot to consider when selecting a caregiver, but the biggest thing is trust. Can you trust this person with your child? Can you focus on your own employment, confident that your child is safe, happy and cared for? If you have doubts, trust your gut and keep looking.
Written by Laurie Lafortune