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ktjrdn

I'm not sure how this would apply to home daycare, but I used it as a guide to picking a center (for my infant. I also don't know how it would work for an older child). They all said "Yes, you're welcome to stop in anytime" But they all know you're looking for that answer.

Actually do it before you sign up. Take your kid with you and go into the room she will be placed in and sit for an hour. Let your kid play with the toys. Stay out of the way of the teachers and watch...

1) How they interact with the other children. Do they respond quickly? If they are busy with another child at the time one crys, how do they handle 2 at the same time? Do they seem to have a set routine? Do they seem too frazzled by your presense disrupting the routine (It will disrupt them a little no matter how hard you try to stay out of the way)?

2) How they interact with each other. There can be up to 3 teachers for 12 infants in a room in my state. My daycare has 2 to 8. I observed 2 others that had 3 to 12. I think a smaller group works better in my experience. Either way, there will be more than one teacher. Do they get along? Do they talk to each other to the exclusion of the children? Do they have a system worked out for delegating responsibilities?

3) How they interact with you. It is likely you will make them nervous. I know it would if I were being watched while doing my job even though I do my job well. Are they friendly? Are they trying to impress you? Are they annoyed that you are there?

Decide what answers you would like before you get there. That way you can be more objective. One center I visited had a very good reputation. They said they had an open door policy and sounded like they meant it. When I showed up, however, I learned that they didn't. You could drop by whenever you wanted, but the parents were expected to stay in the doorway only. There was a shop-counter with a drop-leaf separating the entryway from the children. They actually tried to stop me from sitting on the floor to play with my infant. They had reasons (cleanliness, security, etc) but I did not like it and wouldn't have known if I hadn't dropped in.

Also, your children will be moved to older rooms occasionally. Think ahead and check out the older rooms too.

Okay, that was a little more than 2 cents, but you asked :)

bubandpie

References are a huge help, I've found. My first home-care provider made an iffy first impression on me, but her references were so enthusiastic (from women who felt incredibly lucky to even have access to the child-care brilliance of this provider) I couldn't help but give her a try, with excellent results - I always looked forward to peeking in at the end of the day to see how much fun Bub was having with the other kids.

My next home-care provider had references that were positive but not glowing. I wasn't sure what that meant - maybe these particular people just didn't have an enthusiastic temperament - but in retrospect I would give exactly the same reference: I had every confidence that she was providing my son with a safe environment and appropriate supervision. But something was missing - some spark that comes from really enjoying the children, the fun and games that had made the first situation so wonderful.

My kids are now in home care with a woman who is just starting out (her own son is a year old). I had a personal recommendation from her sister-in-law, which helped, but I had to base it on my gut, and the fact is she is incredible. I agree with the importance of personally liking the caregiver - this is someone you'll be interacting with a couple of times per day, and it makes such a difference of your personalities "click." And of course it's reassuring if the children protest when you tell them it's time to leave, or start chanting the caregiver's name when you get in the car (and oh, the disappointment if we're going somewhere else, like the mall or the beach!).

Angela

I'd also suggest to follow your instincts. My son's first daycare was lousy, there was no structure and he had gotten 6 bites on his face at one time when the DCP left him alone with the other kids in the basement. He kept screaming and crying when dropping him off and he just couldn't wait to escape when pick up and he wasn't even 1 year old yet.
After moving to a nearby town, I was tired of the 10 - 15 min drives just to drop him off. We decided to look for a new one. Lo and behold a new daycare had just opened. The DCP was in my lamaze class so she has a son the same age my son is. She didn't have any references because this was her first time with her own daycare but she helped out for years with her mother's. It's the best decision I've ever made. I followed my instincts and it has been so wonderful. My son has two other boys his age he plays with plus a 2 year old twin girls plus a variety of other kids. DCP follows the state food program plus has structured activities. The most important of all, he got naps in the afternoon and came home in a very good mood. The old daycare, he never took naps and he was a bear during dinner, etc.

The first day, he did scream and cry. I left. He was happy there and the next day he DIDN'T CRY. Oh my... It's hard to drag him away from the daycare now. I'm planning to move to another state and I hope I find one just as good as the current one. My insincts proved right.

Tammy

I would add: If your daycare provider does things just slightly differently than you, DON'T freak out! It's taken me a month to realize that the kids are happy and healthy. If they have a snack after nap, it won't kill them.
I choose my dayhome strictly on gut. I looked at many, many places, I got depressed, and then I found the perfect place. I have no idea why it's perfect. I really like the caregiver. Her home is clean and neat. She just struck a spot with me, and I haven't looked back.

Dreadmouse

Thanks for this post and these comments. My daughter is getting close to the age where we're going to have to think about daycare, and it helps to have this to refer to.

juggling mother

"I was astonished anyone would sign on in the first place!
"

i can answer that one - most places have a shortage of good childcare places, and many parents need to get something sorted on pretty short notice (when I had my first, I only had 6 weeks off work, but could not register him anywhere until after he was born - that gave me 4 weeks to find a full time place for a tiny baby. My current job gave me 48 hours notice of my start date - I had 3 kids to find childcare for!).

Therefore, parents take what is available at first. Most have the sense to move them asap! It's a horrible thing to have to do, but sometimes needs must:-(

stefanierj

Great list. I would only add that i would ask how they deal with things like difficult drop offs, naps, discipline, etc. This doesn't mean they have to do things your way, necessarily, but you should know what to expect and they should know what your expectations are.

My DCP doesn't deal with things the exact same way that I do (can't do time-outs, for example, but does re-direct), but she had answers and reasons for all the things she does, and the fact that she had thought about these issues and could speak capably to them made me feel very confident about her abilities.

Mary P

Ktdrjn - thanks for a detailed, thoughtful reply! Readers can treat your comment as an extension of the post, there are so many good thoughts in it! The idea about actually dropping in unannounced is a great one. I'm curious: did you end up leaving your child in the centre that only let you in as far as the door?

Bubandpie - references and gut. A good combination. You're right: it's important that you 'click' with your provider, particularly if it's a home situation, and there's only the one person. You have to have confidence.

I feel the same way. At an interview, if I feel that 'click' happening, I know I've got the job - and that I want them as a client! (My gut is right on this one a good 80% of the time.) Sometimes it can take a few weeks to kick in, but usually it's almost immediate.

Angela - no naps? multiple bites? That first place doesn't sound like a daycare, it sounds like a holding pen for wild animals! No wonder the poor little guy cried. How wonderful to have him in a place you can both feel good about. Another vote for listening to your gut.

I would like to point out, though, that even in the happiest arrangements, it usually takes longer than one day before a child settles in. If you baby frets for a couple of weeks' worth of drop-offs, this is pretty standard. Your little man was probably so relieved, he went straight from apprehension to delight!

Tammy - Good point. If you can only tolerate your children being cared for your way, then you should be doing it, because no one else will, not exactly. The biggest adjustment many parents have to make is accepting the different dynamic necessary to care for multiple children, as opposed to just one or two. Glad your gut has served you well!

Dreadmouse - It's not just the post that's useful: there's some truly quality advice in the comments, too! Good bunch of commenters around here. I hope your search goes well.

JugglingMother - that would be a good reason, for sure, in this case pretty nearly the only one I could fathom: desperation. Most of my clients sign on three months in advance - but then, our maternity leaves are a year long. What I can't fathom is a centre that doesn't let you sign up a child while pregnant! If they take tiny babies, you'd think they'd have to. How bizarre.

Stefanie - Good questions. You're right: the daycare doesn't have to do things exactly your way - but it's important it has a rationale for the differences, and can discuss it respectfully (not defensively) with you.

ktjrdn

First, I'll clarify: you could go in the center, but were discouraged from entering the actual room in which the infants were being cared for. There was no security at the main door of the day care, so the teachers enforced who was allowed near the children. Also, the entryway rule kept the floors on which the children were crawling clean. Good reasons, but still unsettling to me.

I actually did end up with my 2nd daughter at the center for 2 months. My older daughter's day care had no room at the time I needed it, and I had to find an alternative for a short time. The center was highly recommended and I dropped in multiple times while still on maternity leave. The cargivers were caring and acceptable, but I wouldn't have left Anya there permanently. "Acceptable" was just not acceptable :) They took care of my daughter (feeding, napping, and changing) and at 9 weeks, that was the important thing. I'm glad that she is now in a place that I feel matches my expectations. They are prefectly happy when I visit at lunchtime and feed her even if it disrupts their routine. And because of this, I rarely do it. I don't feel like I need to.

~Katie

Mary P

Of course you want the teachers screening who can go near the children, but concerns about the cleanliness of the floor could surely be addressed by having incoming parents remove their shoes before entering. I'd be dissatisfied with that explanation, too.

I'm glad you've found care that fits your needs and expectations.

Krista

Our son (now 2) has been in day care for six months. (Large chain daycare was our only option that had an opening for him.) Overall he does fine there, and has made friends that he'll talk about when we're at home. I find it disconcerting, though, because we had months of no problems when I dropped him off, then seemingly suddenly he clings to me and needs me to stay 10-15 minutes before he goes off to play. I stay with him and let him check out the situation from the safety of my lap because I cannot handle driving to work with his crying still ringing in my ears. When I stay for that period of time he does fine, and when a teacher "takes" him from me he screams. I find it interesting that this started happening after he'd already been going there for several months... I figure that this is just part of the developmental stage he's at right now, and just needs some extra reassurance.

Krista

I forgot to mention earlier, that I've been reading "The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers" and I love it! I have no idea why I didn't read these books earlier... I had heard of them but I guess just brushed them off as yet another parenting book. Many of the things that she writes about, I kind-of already sensed but wasn't sure how to exactly implement them into our night. Finally I have some solid ideas and a better idea of how to plan our son's bedtime. Woohoo! Thank you Laura and Mary!

Mary P

Krista: Glad to hear the book is proving useful to you. In fact, I've read her original Sleep Solutions book, but I haven't read the one for Toddlers. Perhaps I should!

Re: your son at daycare. It's hard to know, as a parent, what causes a sudden change in a child's behaviour. You start to wonder: Did something happen to frighten him one day? Has someone been unkind to him? Is another child picking on him?

It could be any of these things, certainly, though we hope it is not! However, it is equally likely to be, as you say, a developmental thing. Or a power struggle thing (which is also prefectly developmental!) in that by his protests he's exerting control over your behaviour and responses.

Talk to the daycare staff about his behaviour. Can they attribute his tears to something specific? If they can, they can probably help from their end, and perhaps suggest things you might do. If you have genuine concerns about his safety and/or treatment at care (though it doesn't sound like you do), you may choose to start looking for alternate care.

This sudden change-of-heart about daycare is not uncommon. I'd say a good 25% of the kids I've cared for have done the same. It lasts a few days to a few weeks, then stops. No external reason for it at all, as far as anyone can tell. In that case, you as the parent have to make sure you don't get into a downward spiral of staying longer and longer as his protests get more and more intense. In that situation, you're contributing to the cycle instead of breaking it.

Which is not to say there's anything wrong with staying a few minutes to comfort him with your presence. As long as your reassurance is doing just that - reassuring - that's exactly what you do!

Krista

Mary- Thank you! I feel confident that the day care has done nothing "wrong". Up until now I've never had a moment where my "spidey senses" tingled and I felt something was not right with the situation. Thank you for reminding me about drawing out my time that I stay in his class in the mornings. I'm okay with staying right around 10 minutes, and this morning it was very hard to keep it at that! It took both teachers to pry him off of me and broke my heart to walk away and leave him crying, only to be comforted by a "stranger". (By stranger I mean, by someone other than myself.)

To the other readers out there, please don't let this post flavor your opinion of day care! I firmly believe this is a developmental stage my son is dealing with, not to mention we're having a baby in a little less than two months. (Big change for all!) Up until very recently my son would happily find a child to talk to or a toy to play with, and usually hardly gave me a second glance. The DCPs report that after he recovers from my departure, my son is happy, plays well with others, and generally has a good appetite at meals. If ever I got an uneasy feeling from leaving him there, I would absolutely change day care. At this time, I would hate to "jump the gun" and switch day care with baby brother arriving so soon. I'm trying to keep things as reassuring and normal for our son as possible.

kathrynaz

Thanks Mary! Sure wish I had this advice when I was looking. I remember it being very overwhelming.

Krista- My son started doing the same thing in daycare right around 15 months of age. It lasted only a few weeks and then got much better. I talked to his teachers about it and they said it is VERY common for kids to get anxious about leaving their parents right before they go through a huge cognitive leap. Sure enough, just as he began to readjust (read= no tears and clinging), he took a huge leap in his verbal repetoire. But I remember feeling sooo guilty at the time that I was "abandoning" him!

Kat O+

Here are my 'lessons learned' based on the three different centre-based daycares that my son has been in...
1. Like Katie, I think the way the carers interact with each other and the children is so important. In one centre, I'd often find the carers talking to each other over the children's heads. A totally different environment from another centre where most of the interactions in the room involved the kids. If you can sense that the carers are treating this as 'just a job', you might want to keep looking. (And yes, it's a job but at the best centre we've used, you would never know this from talking to the carers.)
2. Ask if each child is assigned a primary caregiver and make sure you're comfortable with that person. The primary caregiver should be able to give you very specific feedback about your child's development. I also think it's extremely important for a child to have at least one very strong attachment in daycare. It always reassures me when my son mutters his caregivers' names when we're not in daycare because it's obvious to me that he has a very close relationship with them. One of the reasons we love my son's current centre is that we always feel like he's the 'favourite'...even though I know all the other kids are treated just as special (because I see them).
3. Make sure you are comfortable with the caregivers. This isn't just about safety or skills, it's about knowing you can communicate with them and that they hear your concerns when you voice them.
4. Visit the centre during playtime and see how everyone interacts. The noisier the better - it means the kids are having fun. Also, note how the carers discipline bad behaviour.
5. Watch how other parents interact with the carers. If many of them have a chat and a laugh with the carers, that's a good sign!
6. Trust your instincts. When we signed my son up at the second centre, I didn't feel as comfortable as I had with the first. There were just some little, niggly things that kind of bugged me but they all added up. I ended up using two daycares part-time to keep my son's place at the first daycare centre until he could be placed at a similar centre nearby. I'm so glad I did that because I honestly believe that the quality of care at the second centre was just not as good.

Rendra Krestyawan

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