So… why should I leave my baby with you?
You got on all the lists, called and called again, and now it’s time: the daycare tour. You feel super lucky to have snagged a spot, only thing is… they’re still strangers. Strangers you’re about to trust with your baby. Your sweet, innocent, uncommunicative baby. Boo.
Pay attention to the details.
We know how hard it is to trust a stranger with looking after your munchkin – we still rely on our parents for regular babysitting duties! But work is waiting and without a whole lot of options, it’s gotta be done. The best way to feel comfortable with a new childcare situation is if it’s based on a solid referral. Failing that, you have to do your homework. Here are our top conversation starters for a prospective daycare:
- What are your hours?
- Do you charge late fees? Our experience has always been $1/minute after 6pm but it depended on your record (how often you were late) and who got stuck staying after hours. So be nice to all the daycare employees and they might just let you off the hook once in a while!
- Can we bring our own food? We used to drop Alex off with a rice cake to prevent meltdowns and he would head straight for the snack table… it was a great routine/distraction.
- What’s your recommendation for starting him off? Ideally they’ll offer you a transition schedule but at the very least they should be receptive to yours.
- What holidays are you closed? And are there any other closures we need to be aware of?
- What’s the security/safety system like, as in, how do you keep strangers OUT while making sure you’re not locking children IN if there’s a fire?
- Who can pick up my child? And what kind of proof do they need? Make sure the centre requires written confirmation from you and make sure Grandma brings her ID if she needs it (and if she does need it – GREAT! The stricter the better when it comes to pick-ups!)
- How do you nap the kids? Will they stick to your schedule or force you to stick to theirs? Alex had to lie on a cot doing nothing for an hour and a half because he’d dropped his nap but the centre was completely inflexible. Not cool.
- Do you have web cams?
- Can I drop in for the Halloween party/Christmas concert/my sweetie’s birthday/anything I want?
- Are there any social events for parents? A centre that promotes community is more of a, well, community.
- How do you communicate what happened during the day to parents? We used to receive written daily reports from Alex’s first daycare about how much he ate, played, and pooped. And at his second daycare we didn’t have a clue what he did all day. We much prefer the BM knowledge.
- How long have you been in the biz? And similarly, how many of your staff are full vs part time and how long have each of them been here? More established with less turnover is what you’re crossing your fingers for.
- What are the credentials of the teachers in my child’s room? You’re looking for ECE’s, first-aid and CPR training, and any other info they’ll give you.
- How do your teachers respond when there’s a sharing/hitting/biting incident? And what about if she’s just in a clingy/crying mood? Comfort and discipline styles are so personal, but do your best to find a good match.
- What are your sick kid policies? Some daycares are stricter than others when it comes to returning to the centre after an illness. You’ll be missing enough work for enough real viruses, spending an extra day or two after a bug to wait it out is less than ideal.
- Do you have any sample menus? And how about ingredient lists? If allergies run in the fam you should inquire about their policies whether or not you know if your monkey’s allergic.
- What do we need to bring? It’s standard to supply your own diapers and wipes, sunscreen and any creams, and a spare change of clothes. Indoor shoes are often required as well, and depending on the centre and how much indoor running they do, slippers may or may not cut it.
- What are we not allowed to bring? Sometimes toys are ixnayed if they’re too big/loud/light-uppy, so make sure you clear your baby’s lovey because if it’s not given the go ahead then that’s what we call a deal-breaker.
- Can you support our family’s decision to cloth diaper? Or wear underwear when potty training? It’s worth the ask but don’t be surprised if they say no. We didn’t get too much support from either of Alex’s daycares… boo.
- What do the kids do all day? If they have a schedule that looks vague, feel free to grill them about it. Too much ‘free play’ generally translates to ‘screen time’, so ask about that policy too!
- Do the babies and toddlers get to play outside? A lot of ‘fresh air’ is only that – stroller walks vs outside play. Understandable for tiny babes but one year-olds are capable of much much more and need the opportunity to explore!
He’ll be okay, you’ll be okay, you just have to do a little legwork first. Check out the centre, toys, washrooms, and playground THOROUGHLY, and pay attention to how the staff talk to the children and how happy the children seem. Be on high alert and listen to your gut. If you happen to visit when parents are coming and going, definitely ask for their opinions. Most parents will spill it if anything’s a little off, and also love to reassure a newbie when they can. Besides, a daycare’s a great place to make friends… for the whole family.
Leave a comment below or email us if you have anything to add or ask!