WITH MORE AND MORE WOMEN IN THE WORKFORCE – as the need for two incomes is a reality in most families – the search for high quality child care becomes an essential factor for them.
According to a 1998 study of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development – as quoted by Kyle D. Pruitt, MD in his book Me, Myself and I: How Children Build Their Sense of Self – “The higher the quality of childcare (more positive language stimulation and interaction between the child and provider), the greater the child’s language abilities at 18, 24, and 36 months, the better the cognitive development at age two and the more school readiness the child showed at age three.“ It further states, “Childcare quality was the most consistent predictor of children’s behavior. Children in care receiving more sensitive and responsive attention had fewer caregiver-reported problems at age two or three.” Conversely, Pruitt reports, “chaotic, non-nurturing childcare settings with high staff turnover, insufficient attention to kids, and little parental involvement” can interfere with even the youngest children’s “ability to focus, retain instruction, or regulate emotions.”
So, how can working parents select a high quality child care center for even their youngest children? What should they look for in choosing high quality care for their children? Pruitt gives some basic criteria:
- Look for a center where the staff is warm, loving, and responsive to the child, can respond to his individual needs, praising his achievement and supporting his development. This is essential for the stimulation that is essential for healthy brain growth and optimal development.
- A center should have at least one caregiver for every five children age 18 to 24 months and one caregiver for every six children age 24 to 36 months.
- Be sure the center is licensed by the state. Are references readily available?
- Is the space for children cheerful, bright, and inviting with clean, well-lighted, safe spacers? Is the noise level acceptable? Do you see many children crying? Are there well-organized toy and pretend-play areas?
- Are there quiet areas for rest and nap time?
- Is each child encouraged to be curious and creative?
- Does the center greet parents each day as they drop off or pick up their child and do they provide daily reports to the parents? Is it flexible enough to meet the family needs, like time schedules for children that can be adjusted to parents’ work schedules?
- Are educational, art materials, and books age-appropriate? Are they readily accessible for the children?
- Check out kitchen, bathrooms, and outside play areas for safety and access and to make sure there are safeguards to prevent children from wandering off.
- Check out written policies regarding illness, closings, and pick-ups. Do they have secure procedures for pick-ups by people other than their parents?
- Do they allow unannounced visits by parents indicating that they are not afraid of allowing parents to see the care their children are getting at any time?
We would also add one item: At the beginning of the child’s introduction to child care if the child feels uncomfortable with the new environment, does the center allow a parent to stay with a child until he gets used to it and doesn’t need the parent to stay any more?
Needless to say, when working parents look for child care, they should choose very carefully. A good start in the life of their children will have lifelong positive consequences for him.