I n our last post we covered what high quality child care looks like, and most of the clues come from observing how your child reacts after they start going to daycare or preschool. In this post we will cover how you can evaluate a child care or preschool program before your child enrolls.
The daycare and preschool tour is a (maybe even the) key moment in the decision making process so it’s important that you do your homework before you visit (and make sure the preschool does theirs). Here’s how to make the most of your daycare tour:
1. Questions to ask while touring a daycare or preschool
Make a list of questions and print it out so you can bring it with you during your visit. It’s probably a good idea to email some or all of the questions ahead of time to make sure you get answers.
- What type of license does the home or center have? (You may have to do some research on the licensing requirements in your state or city.)
- How long has the director been there?
- How long have the teachers been there?
- Have the caregivers all gone through background checks?
- What are the teachers’ educational backgrounds and qualifications? (Especially those who will care for your child.)
- How often do directors and teachers communicate with parents? What is the feedback system? Is there a “real-time” online platform?
- Can they give references to other parents? Important: if the director is not willing to give parent references, don’t waste your time. Next!
Prepare a list of any special requirements you might have. These may be, for example:
- Special dietary needs
- Flexible scheduling for pick-ups and drop-offs
- Budget for tuition
2. Talk with the director and staff
In addition to the preschool tour itself, make sure that you schedule time to talk with the owner, director and the staff. During the meetings, you should go over the specific answers to all your questions. Pay special attention to the staff turnover rate. You want to see well-qualified staff who are happy where they are. You don’t want to see a revolving door of teachers who come and go.
This meeting is also your chance to “suss out” the people to whom you will be entrusting your child’s care. There is no substitute for a good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. This moment is also your chance to discuss tuition. If cost is a critical factor, let them know. The child care provider may be open to offering you a reduced rate.
3. Observe “the action” in the classrooms
Pay attention to the facilities but focus on the people. You’ll want to see teachers who have loving and respectful relationships with the children. Are the teachers supporting the children while they play? Are they talking with them while they change diapers? Do the teachers get to children’s eye level when speaking with them?
4. If possible, do a “trial run”
Not all child care and preschool programs offer so-called discovery days, but you should always ask. If the one you’re touring does, be sure to take advantage of it. Your child can participate for a few hours or even a full day and see how she likes it. Bear in mind that it’s not a perfect solution as most children take several days or even weeks to adjust to a new environment. It can, however, be a good “early indicator” of how things will go.
We can’t guarantee that the above four steps are foolproof, of course, but if you work through them carefully you have an excellent chance of finding a good fit for your child. Good luck!
What else do you look for during a daycare or preschool tour and what other questions do you recommend asking?
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