Greetings from a new mom! My husband and I were recently blessed to welcome our son into the world. It is everything and nothing like what I expected. One of the things I was expecting was to look for a child care program that would be able to meet my family’s needs. I wanted to share with you what types of things parents like us look for when selecting a program for our baby.
When I sat down to write this blog, I had every intention of showcasing different lenses that parents might be looking through—my lens as an early childhood professional and my husband’s lens as someone with a completely different background. I created my top five list for what I look for in a child care program and kept it a secret as I asked him what his top five were. What happened next really surprised me. The two lists were nearly identical. What this proved to me was that parents are parents are parents, no matter what walk of life they come from and at the end of the day, wanting the best for their children is often going to look the same. So here is our list:
- Quality, professional, engaged staff in all classrooms. When my husband said “quality,” I had to ask him what that meant. I didn’t want to assume his version was the same as my own. He said that he wanted the staff to be professional and well-trained. My part was engaged staff. It’s important for them to be actively involved with the children in their care—from being down on the floor with the babies to playing board games with the school-agers. Both of us felt strongly that these qualities should be program-wide and not just in the age group our child was going into. Ideally, our son will be at the program through many classrooms and we want quality care to be a constant for him.
- Safe area and safe practices. Safety is important both inside and outside of the program. The facilities and location play large parts in that. But, it doesn’t end there. Safe practices are also huge. This includes emergency evacuation drills, close supervision of the children and positive guidance strategies, among many others.
- Meaningful, stimulating activities. We want our son to have a great experience in child care. What he does while he is there is going to mean a lot. Allowing him opportunities to play, explore and interact with his peers will develop skills he’ll need his whole life. This may mean putting the bouncy seat or flash cards away and getting out the blocks or bubbles.
- Cost of care. I wish this wasn’t one of our priorities. But, it is, just as it is for countless other parents. I was happy that on both of our lists, it was number 4, because that means that other things were more important to us than how much money we’ll be spending each week. We’re looking for a happy medium between dirt cheap and super expensive. Ultimately, though, we recognize that it’s hard to put a price on the important job of caregivers.
- Convenience and availability. This was my husband’s number 5. Naturally, we would want a program that was within a reasonable distance from our home, or is close to our work commute. And we have to understand that even if a program has everything that we want, they may not have the space to take our son. So, this definitely weighs into our decision making process.
- Step Up To Quality rating (or STARS for KIDS NOW in Kentucky). This was my number 5. And while I think it’s important, it’s not a deal-breaker. If I find a program that’s impressive, but doesn’t have a high number of stars, it is not going to disqualify them from my consideration. However, if we are deciding between two essentially equal programs, where one has a quality rating and one does not, it will be a big factor.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are so many other things that we, along with other parents, will be looking for in a child care program. Knowing what types of things parents have in mind when choosing a child care can help you reflect on the services and practices of your program. Is there anything you are proud to provide in your program? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. We still haven’t chosen yet, and we’re not alone in our search.