On The Right Track: A Beginner's Guide To Choosing Daycare

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Sending your little one to daycare isn't easy. Whether your maternity leave has just ended and you're making the transition for the very first time, or your child has been in a daycare setting before and you're switching to new care. Whatever the case, any change is hard and leaving your little one with someone new can be overwhelming. You want to make sure you can trust the people taking care of your children and you want trust their physical environment top. Having the right daycare in place will help you with the transition back to work. As a working mother, choosing the right daycare is crucial to your own success. 


Here are 5 beginner tips for choosing the right daycare:

1] Creep The Daycare Online

When searching for a daycare you'll most likely come across a facebook page or even an instagram account. Whatever is out there check it out. Larger centers may have a more professional website that gives you access to pricing information, photos and their curriculum. You might even get to check out some reviews. This might give you a better idea on what the center offers and might answer some of your key questions. There’s value at looking at all this information. Keep in mind the website has likely been really carefully curated with content driven by the daycare. Here you see their best stuff. In my opinion, you get a much more authentic look at the daycare through social media where things might not be so ‘perfect’.


Bonus Tip: It’s also a good idea to reach out to any other families you know of that go to the daycare. Ask what their experiences have been like and their opinions of the pros and cons of their daycare. Even if you don’t know them well it’s always nice to get another parent's perspective when considering a decision. I bet they won’t mind sharing it.


2] Decide Between A Small Or Large Daycare

With a larger daycare facility, you may get extras in terms of programming and activities. There is likely to be more available resources and staff in this type of environment. Due to the size, expect a larger facility to be more formal in its operations. Expect more processes for both kids and the parents. The pace may be busier at a larger centre. Your child may interact with several different staff members during their time at the daycare. This could be great to interact with new and different personality types. Or, your child may find this really stressful.  A larger centre may be less likely to close due to things like weather and/or staff illnesses.


Smaller daycare centers may not have as many formal programs and activities. There is likely to be limited resources and a much smaller staff. Due to the size, expect a less formal operation. Expect less processes for kids and parents. They pace may be slower, allowing for more personal and 1:1 connections. Your child may be paired with a single daycare worker through all of their daycare years. They may form a really strong attachment to this childcare provider.  A smaller centre may be more likely due to things like weather and/or staff illness because of limited resources.

To choose, you should make a list of pros and cons. You’ll need to decide on the optimal fit for you and your family. Of course, there is good and bad with both large and small facilities. Ultimately, it comes down to what works logistically for you and your child’s preferences.


3] Whats The Meal Plan

You’ll need to decide if you want a center that provides a hot lunch and several snacks. Or, a center where you pack your child a lunch and snacks everyday. This comes down to personal preference. If you like the idea of someone else looking after the food, make sure to ask what they serve.  


If you have a child with peanut allergies make sure the daycare a peanut free environment. If your child has other allergies, understand the daycare’s protocol for managing this. For example, if your child is allergic or intolerant to dairy, ask what steps the daycare takes to protect your child, especially during staff changes like breaks.

4] Trust your Gut

If you get the chance to do a tour of the center or a go through a transition period with your child, this is a good time to really see the true colours of the daycare. Make the most of this experience by having your eyes and ears open for all the things that make you feel really great or really uneasy. Talk, talk, talk, to staff members and leaders and managers about how you're feeling. Ask as many questions as you want, be open and honest about your concerns before you leave the building. 

We all have a feeling deep down that helps us make decisions. Listen to this intuition, pay attention to any concerns you have.

Bonus: There is no shame in walking in with a list of questions for the tour or transition. Note taking is completely acceptable too! A good daycare provider will expect nothing less and be happy to answer your questions.


5] Give Yourself Time To Adjust

Daycare can change your life in many different ways, both positive and negative. It’s important to remember with any big change comes a tough transition phase for many people. The move to daycare might go very smoothly for some parent. For the most part, parents left feeling extremely overwhelmed during the transition to daycare.  This new environment and all the new people can throw us all off, children included. During this time, we need to be kind to ourselves and families. It won’t be perfect. We are getting to know our daycare and they care getting to know us.


Give yourself time smooth transitions don't happen overnight for anyone.


Daycare is a wonderful opportunity for you and your child to excel separately. Daycare is a chance to build new friendships, to learn, to grow and become independent. Just like anything there are choices and we have to weigh out the good and the bad of both. It might take some time before you land on a daycare decision (and it probably should!). Remember to talk it over, use as many resources as you can and don't be afraid to ask questions. The right daycare is out there waiting to welcome you and your child.


Guest Post By April DeLong

Like her name implies, April brings sunshine and brighter days.  She is a Mom to be, experienced Early Childhood Educator and I'm pretty sure she is my five year old's first love ;)   You'll see April guest posting here from time to time.  She's got a way with words, with pictures and she's just plain genuine.