Solving the day-care mystery
Many first-time parents are confused about returning to work and
leaving their child in someone else’s care. But if you plan
carefully and research thoroughly, you can avoid the headaches
that come with making this most important decision in your
child’s early years.
What Is Good Day Care?
Good day care requires three important things:
-a caregiver who provides your child with care and guidance
-a setting that keeps your child safe and healthy
-activities suited to your child's stage of growth that help the
develop mentally, physically, socially and emotionally.
Consider these questions as you choose day care:
What type of caregiver would be best?
A good caregiver should be well-trained, and warm and loving
toward children. Whether your child is an infant, toddler,
preschooler, or school-aged, the caregiver should encourage the
child's interests and stimulate the child to explore and
discover new things. When you interview caregivers you'll want
to find out about their training and experience, and their
attitude toward child rearing, guidance and discipline.
Is the setting suitable?
Whether you use in-home care, family day care, or center care,
the facilities should be safe and healthy. Equipment--games,
toys, and furniture--should be in good repair and appropriate
for your child. The number of children in your child's group
should be small enough to allow your child to receive individual
What will the cost of care be?
Day care costs vary widely, depending on the type of care you
use, the days and hours you need care, where you live, and other
factors. Investigate the costs of different kinds of day care
available, including the costs of transportation for your child
to and from the day care setting. Find out if your family
qualifies for financial assistance to help pay for care of your
Any kind of day care can be good for your child if the care
provides the warmth, supervision and individual attention your
You may want to use more than one kind of care for your
An in-home caregiver is someone who comes to, or lives in, your
home. The caregiver can be a relative or friend, or can be
someone you pay to come to your home.
If you have three or more children needing care, in-home care
may be less expensive than other kinds of care. It also can save
you from the worry of getting several children, all with
different schedules, to and from a day care arrangement outside
You may want to use in-home care if your child needs special
care because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem; if you
need care for an infant or toddler, or care for a child at
night; if you need only after-school care.
You should know, however, that in-home care can be costly,
especially if you have only one or two children and are paying
someone for full-time care.
Family Day Care
This kind of day care is provided in the home of the caregiver,
who is sometimes a mother with children of her own. You may find
a relative, friend or neighbor willing to care for your child in
this way. Or you may find a family day care home run by someone
you do not already know. Usually just a few children are cared
for at any one time.
Family day care can be a good arrangement if you are a single
parent raising a child alone; if you live in a rural area where
family day care is likely to be easiest to find; if you have
only one or two children needing care; if you have a school-age
child or an infant.
Keep in mind that a family day care provider may go out of
business or stop caring for children at any time. Because many
of these homes are not registered and inspected by any
government authority, it is up to you to make sure adequate
health and safety standards are met.
Day care centers are established settings where children are
cared for in a group away from their homes for all or part of
the day. There are many different kinds of center-based care,
including preschools. Some of these centers are set up primarily
to keep children safe and secure. Others are designed to prepare
children for their school years. Center- based care is most
frequently available in a town or city.
Many day care centers have an organized program of activities to
help children learn. Some centers follow more formal plans.
Others use a more informal program based on their day-to-day
experience in working with children.
You may be interested in center-based care if you want to keep
your child in the same day care setting for an extended period;
if your child needs special care because of a physical or mental
handicap or an emotional problem; if you want certain
educational or religious activities for your child; and if, in
addition to care, your child needs medical or dental checkups,
or psychological or social services.
Keep in mind that center-based care may not provide the “home”
atmosphere some children like. Your child may not be comfortable
in a large group for a major part of each day.
In considering a particular day care center, check out the
facilities available, the qualifications of the staff, and the
number of children cared for by each caregiver (the "staff/child
ratio"). Talk to the director to make sure the center's program
has the approach you like, and includes the kinds of activities
you want for your child.
Whatever day-care solution you choose, remember, it must be the
best situation for your child.