Make the most of your one-on-one with the day care staff with this list of questions.
Signing your child up for day care can be a scary step for families. Parent-teacher conferences are a great opportunity to talk with the teacher (or teachers) one-on-one and discuss how your child is adjusting. Some day cares offer special parent-teacher conference days, while others don't. If your day care doesn't offer this option proactively, ask for a meeting.
"Be clear, calm and rational while communicating with your child's day care provider," advises child care expert Dr. Sharma Johnston. Remember that the conference is about your child, not you. You want to develop a good relationship with the teacher, so that you can stay connected throughout the year. And if there are problem areas, you can start to work on them at home, too.
To help you prepare for your day care parent-teacher conference, here are our top 20 questions to have on your list.
And if you have older kids already in school, here are 20 Questions to Ask During a Parent-Teacher Conference.
Start with some overview questions to get the conversation started.
1) How Are Things Going at Day Care?
Open with an easy ice-breaker about the general atmosphere. This allows the teacher to start describing the program and how your child is doing.
2) What Is a Typical Day Like?
You hopefully already discussed this when you toured the center, but hearing about a ‘day-in-the-life’ can help you visualize your child at school. Putting yourself in your child’s shoes can be helpful in understanding what their day is like.
3) Is My Child Adjusting Well to Day Care?
This is the key question for your conference. Is your child happy during the day, is center a good fit, is the teacher a good match? You want to get a sense of how your child is adjusting right from the start.
4) What Does My Child Like Best at Day Care?
Ask the teacher to provide examples of things your child enjoys at school. It's a good indication of how aware they are of your child's specific needs. And there may be activities that you can replicate at home.
Ask questions about how your child is behaving in class.
5) How Does My Child Interact With You and Other Kids?
For many kids, day care is the first time your child is interacting regularly with other children and new authority figures. Ask the teacher how your child is responding to this change.“Strong child-teacher bonds are key to helping the child with the ongoing separation process that continues after preschool and into kindergarten and the early elementary grades,” shares family psychologist Dr. Fran Walfish.
6) Does My Child Follow Instructions?
How is your child handling basic directions at day care, like cleaning up or sharing? The teacher can provide examples of routine activities and how your child is adjusting to learning the rules.
7) What Happens When My Child Gets Upset?
Inevitably, tantrums happen. Ask the teacher how she approaches calming your child and whether your child is responsive.
8) How Do You Discipline?
Likewise, find out how your day care provider manages bad behavior. Everyone handles discipline a little differently. Be sure that your teacher’s approach is in synch with your own.
Day care is often when your child starts to make friends. How is the process going?
9) Is My Child Getting Along With Others?
Find out how your child is relating to his/her peers.
10) Who Are My Child’s Friends?
Probe a little further to hear about whether your child is more comfortable in groups or with one-on-one friendships. Learning about how your child socializes at school can help you reinforce friendships outside the classroom.
11) How Is My Child Doing at Activities, Playtime or Naptime?
Is your child active at playtime or restless during naptime? Is he or she participating in activities, class or group time? Ask the teacher if there are any issues you need to be aware of and can work on at home.
12) Does My Child Share?
Learning to share is an essential part of early development. Be sure to find out whether your child is sharing things like toys, art supplies and books -- especially if you have an only child and this step is new.
13) Is My Child Being Bullied or Bullying Anyone?
Be alert to bullying -- at any age. If your child is being bullied or if your child is bullying anyone, talk to the teacher about how to stop it immediately.
Here are tips to help with bullying.
Academics and Activities
Is your child handling the learning process at day care?
14) Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?
If your child is almost at the age to take the next big jump into kindergarten or full-time school, ask for the teacher's opinion. Does your child need more time to develop and work on basic skills? How does he or she compare to peers? Develop an action plan to get on the right path.
15) Does My Child Ask Questions?
This is an easy way to hear more about your child’s interests and what he/she is curious about.
16) Does My Child Understand Your Expectations and Finish Tasks?
Ask the teacher whether your child is completing projects. Day care is when children first learn roles and responsibilities at school. Find out if your child is meeting basic expectations.
17) What Is My Child’s Learning Style?
Your child may begin to develop a learning style during day care. Does your child take better to oral or visual information? Find out what works best so that you can reinforce positive learning outside the classroom.
18) What Are My Child’s Strengths and Weaknesses?
There may be areas where your child needs improvement. Asking about what’s going well and requires support can help you focus on what your child needs to better adjust to their environment. You’ll also want to hear about areas where your child excels, so that you can reinforce his/her interests.
Talk about what comes next.
19) Is There Anything I Can Do at Home to Help?
The teacher may have recommendations for how you can help your child build skills in certain activities.
20) What’s the Best Way to Stay in Touch?
Find out how your day care provider prefers to stay in touch -- email, phone calls, etc. You can also ask if they're willing to do a follow-up conference later in the year.
After the conference, sit down with your child and talk about how things went. “Make sure you identify areas for improvement,” recommends Dr. Johnston, “and offer guidance on how your child can overcome any obstacles.” You can then track progress throughout the year, mark improvements, and celebrate successes.
Tiffany Smith is the director of content and publicity at William Woods University. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And, as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite.