Visiting and Evaluating Programs
There are many factors involved in choosing the right child care situation -- and a lot of it is subjective. Some factors, though, are objective; they're the characteristics that mark a safe, stimulating, and nurturing environment for your child.
Here’s what you should see in a quality child care program:
The Classroom or Play-space: Set up so that children can explore freely and safely. The room has the following features:
- Toys, art materials, cubbies, books, etc., are all within the reach of little hands.
- Furniture (and ideally bathrooms) are child-sized.
- The room has adequate space where the children can spread out and play on the floor.
- There are cozy corners for snuggling, reading, listening to music, etc.
- The classroom is inclusive of children with any special needs.
- Are attentive to children, carefully supervising them and quickly responding to their needs in a positive, loving way.
- Set limits about behavior that they convey clearly to the children.
- Encourage children to talk to each other -- both to solidify friendships and work out disagreements.
- Help the children get the most out of their play experiences by asking questions about what they are doing, offering encouragement, and redirecting children as needed.
- Have training in child development and update their training periodically with courses and seminars.
- Always show a respectful attitude towards the children, parents and each other.
Activities: Just right for the ages of the children: challenging enough to allow children the thrill of mastering something they first find difficult, but not so challenging that children are continually frustrated.
Healthy & Safety: Look around to make sure that precautions are being taken: outlets are covered, wires or cords are out of reach, bookshelves and other furniture are secured to walls and floors, cleaning products are locked out of reach, furniture is child-friendly (no sharp edges, rough surfaces, or pointy corners). Surfaces and toys are frequently washed and disinfected, frequent hand washing is required, and there are clear procedures for safe diapering and diaper disposal.
Schedule: Teachers plan so that there is time for free play, group play, individual play, structured activities, outdoor time, and quiet time. Time periods are appropriate to the age of the child: not so long that children become restless and bored -- and not so short that they feel they’ve been interrupted in a chosen activity. Teachers leave adequate time for transitions between activities so children don't feel rushed, and give warnings before changing activities.
Family Involvement: Teachers communicate freely and often with parents, both at drop-off and pickup, in conversations and in notes, and with occasional conferences. Parents feel free to visit the classroom or volunteer in the classroom.
Outdoor Space: Outdoor play equipment is safe and age appropriate. Smaller children are separated from bigger children (who may be unintentionally rough or intimidating). The outdoor area is fenced-in with child safety locks on gates.