Friday, February 6, 2004

Good day care eases worry

Check out facility and its personnel to ensure it will be comfortable for you and your child

By Doreen Nagle
Gannett News Service

A good day-care facility provides a safe environment and a place for play. Preschools prepare post-toddlers for real school with a schedule that balances teaching and free time. There are many good day-care facilities that are run like preschools, and there are facilities that bill themselves as preschools that are little more than glorified baby sitters.

What to look for

• Whatever the size of the place, the rule of thumb is that for every two adults, there should be no more than six to eight babies, six to 10 toddlers and 16 to 20 preschoolers.

Does the facility have a current license to operate?

• Is safety a top priority? Are outlets covered and age appropriate furniture plentiful? Is there a fire and emergency routine in place and posted?

Do older children and all employees know the routine?

Are numbers for fire, police, poison control likewise posted? Is there a freshly stocked first-aid kit?

Is it kept under lock and key along with other potentially dangerous medications and household chemicals? Is staff trained in CPR?

• Is there a safe, clean outside area with play equipment in good repair? If not, do the children go to a park? How are they transported and accounted for in public places?

• How will your child be kept track of?

Child-care workers must know where the children in their charge are at every moment, even during naptime.

What safety net has been set up so your child won't go home with someone you have not approved?

Are only certain family members or friends allowed to pick up your child? Is there a locked door to the facility?

• Is the facility clean without it being sterile? Is it colorful and cheery with kid-friendly artwork and posters on the wall? Is there good lighting?

Is child-friendly music playing on the boom box? Are books and toys in good shape and safely accessible? Is there a place for everything?

Does each child have a cubby in which to put belongings?

• Is the staff clean, neat, upbeat? Do they take time to answer questions from their little charges as well as from you? Do they approach their work with enthusiasm? How do they handle disputes between children? Do discipline methods match your ideals?

Staying in touch

• How will you find out how your child fared all day?

• One excellent day care I know of lists each child's name on a chalkboard with info about naps, snacks, diaper changes, special achievements and other info parents crave.

• One preschool puts daily information and (sometimes) snapshots from the day in a folder for parents to peruse.

This same facility also posts activities of the day so parents have talking points with their children after pickup.

• One smart parent calls her child's day care during nap time so she can get the caregivers undivided attention versus the chaos at pickup time.

• You have the right to visit the facility at any time to check on your child.

If you meet with resistance at an unannounced drop-in, this may not be the place for your child.

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