Day care is a necessity for so many families. It’s a place for kids to learn new skills, play and socialize — and it allows parents to go to work and do other things. But all of this is only possible once you’ve found the right day care for your needs. To start, you should answer a few important questions:
Once you have a sense of the different types of day care available and what’s important to you, it’ll make your search that much easier. To find the right day care, many parents turn to recommendations from friends, family and neighbors. You can also use helpful online resources like Care.com to find day care providers and see what other parents have said about local centers. You should always look up providers on the National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulations to check licensing information and verify records.
No matter what type of day care you choose, having a thorough understanding of all the options will help you make the smartest and best choice for your family.
The price of day care can be a shock to many parents, as it can cost upwards of $11,000 a year for an infant. But that doesn’t mean that excellent child care is out of your reach. The cost of day care can depend on a number of factors, including:
And the good news is that there are several ways to offset the cost of day care:
To help you prepare for this new expense, use the Care.com Cost of Child Care Calculator to help you estimate how much you’re likely to spend on day care.
Once you’ve identified a few great options near you, the next step is to interview day care providers and take a tour of their facilities. The interview and tour are the most important part of the process, as it allows you to get to know the provider better, ask questions and to get a feel for how the day care will ultimately care for and nurture your child. The goal should be to get a sense of what your child’s day-to-day experience will be like and to gain you a clear understanding of the day care’s rules, policies, curriculum and classroom environment. You should get to meet the people who will be caring for your child and be able to see the actual classroom and outdoor play areas your child will use. Be sure to ask questions like:
When you’re touring day cares and interviewing providers, your gut will also play an important role. The “right” provider will be someone who is professional and trustworthy, who offers open communication and whose policies and philosophies clearly align with the kind of care you expect for your child.
Once you’ve found a day care you think is a perfect fit, preparation is the key to a successful transition. It’s important to start preparing children for day care long before their first day, by doing things like:
Most children will need at least a few weeks to adjust to their new day care, but once they’ve gotten into the swing of attending, you can start to evaluate their day care experience. Checking in with your child and their teacher regularly will allow you to assess whether or not they’re making friends, learning new things and enjoying their time at day care. You can also have a more formal meeting with your provider to discuss your child’s progress.
Day care is a big change, and it’s totally normal if your child struggles a little with the new routine — or you experience guilt over putting your child in day care. But if your child is consistently unhappy or the day care is doing a poor job of communicating or easing the transition, it may be time to reevaluate their day care and consider finding a different program. Ultimately, you are the expert on your child and you have every right to make a judgment call about a care provider.