Many parents fret about how to find high quality childcare. In most communities, there is a variety of options, and it can be tough deciding which setting will work best for you and your child. Whether you are considering asking a family member or friend to provide the care, or you’re planning on enrolling your child in a licensed public or private setting, the National Association for the Education of Young Children encourages you to consider these issues:
- Relationships: The most important aspect of any child’s development is the quality of the interpersonal relationships available to the child. Children should feel important and valued in the preschool setting.
- Curriculum: Children should be exposed to developmentally appropriate activities that promote social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive growth.
- Teaching: The setting should employ teachers who are able to provide effective teaching approaches that address a wide range of developmental, cultural, and linguistic goals.
- Assessment of child progress: Parents should be provided with periodic assessments of their child’s progress in order to obtain additional assistance if the child shows developmental delays in any area.
- Health: Be sure the center is employing the most current practices regarding child nutrition and obesity prevention.
- Teachers: The teaching staff should employ early childhood educators who have the qualifications, knowledge, and maturity to support children’s diverse needs.
- Families: The center should demonstrate a deep understanding that childcare is a collaborative process involving the center, the child’s family, and the broader community.
- Community relationships: The center should encourage the active involvement of the local community in order to broaden its range of activities and instill in children a sense of citizenship.
- Physical environment: Assess the setting for safety, including outdoor equipment, and be sure to know the center’s plans for accessing medical and security personnel.
- Leadership and management: Be sure the center embraces employment practices that minimize turnover and encourage additional staff development. Try to choose a center that is fiscally sound and unlikely to close due to poor management.
In addition to these important issues, most families will need to consider other logistical issues such as:
- Location and transportation: Is this setting close enough to my work or home, or accessible by available transportation?
- Hours of operation: Does this center operate on a schedule that accommodates my needs? Is it open early enough? Late enough? Weekends, holidays, snow days? What happens if I am late picking up my child? Can I use the center in ways that provide me enough flexibility?
- Cost: Can I afford it? Are there subsidies available that might make this care affordable for me?
Parents will need to consider both the pragmatic and educational aspects of any care setting. With the wide variety of options available, most families can find an option that fits with most of their priorities.
About the Author
Nancy Heath, Ph.D., LMFT is the Director, Human Development and Family Studies Programs at American Public University. Dr. Heath earned her Ph.D. from Purdue University in Child Development and Family Studies. Her professional experience includes work in the mental health and healthcare arenas, as well as 10 years of online teaching experience.
More from parenting