First…Go Inside: A guide to finding quality childcare

Touring the Facility
By now, you’ve made the phone calls. You’ve asked questions and you’ve narrowed down your choices. It’s time to go to those scheduled appointments! Before you go, decide if you are going to bring your child with you. There are pros and cons to both.
1. Pro-If a director schedules a tour, she will (if she’s good) inform the teacher and have something prepared. A cool name tag, pencil, a treat bag to take home. The teacher will prepare the children (age appropriate) and they will make your child/children feel welcome.
2. Con- Your child may not engage immediately and therefore cling to you. If this happens, it’s going to be hard to really focus on what’s being said and remember all the questions you wanted to ask. It might be a good idea to not take the child to the first tour and then bring them on a day when you decide to “pop” in. I encourage you to definitely do this.
Whatever you decide, be on time!
Here’s a basic list of things to look for. You may have some that aren’t on the list. Great!
1. Is the office clean? Clutter free? Does it smell good? (Dirty diapers–gag)
2. Is anyone in the office when you arrive? Can you just waltz in without anyone knowing or even acknowledging you?
3. What does it sound like? Is it noisy? (it will be a little but happy noise and whining and crying–not the same)
4. Are you greeted warmly? Does the director remember she’s scheduled you? She should. Do other teachers acknowledge you and say hello as you walk through the facility on your way to the child’s room? Do they greet your child?
5. Are children happily engaged? Are there more crying than playing? What do their faces look like? Snot crusted? Food on their face? Shoes untied? (Get out!) Now, let me just say, you will see some runny noses and a shoe untied and if you go right after lunch some food, but it shouldn’t be a majority of the kids.
6. How does the teacher greet you? Is she friendly? Does she address the child? Does she engage him/her into the chilren’s activities allowing you time with the director/management? She should!
7. Listen for other teacher’s voices. Watch how they interact with the children. Do the children seem to enjoy being near them? Are toys everywhere? (The toddler room may be a little messier than preschool. It shouldnn’t be as cluttered.)
What to ask
1. Ask to see a lesson plan; do they follow it; do you get a weekly sheet and does it include what your child had for lunch; if appropriate do they get a potty or diaper sheet; how often do they change the children?
2. Ask what the discipline policy is. It should be age appropriate. (We’ll cover behavior in a future blog) Quickly though, infants, toddlers and two’s should always be redirected, although this is debated and you’re getting my opinion. Preschoolers- time out one minute per age. But even preschoolers can be redirected better than time out works. NO NO NO PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT. EVER. If you spank your child fine, but do it at home. Most regulations won’t even let you spank on site your own child! I’ve had parents tell me, “Close your eyes, for about one minute!” 🙂
3. Ask for a schedule and all policies. Do they close under severe weather and how does that effect the weekly price; Do you get free days? Vacation days? When is payment due? Is there a late pick up policy? (Please don’t be one of those!) Is there a late payment fee? (Yes.) Do they have cameras?
4. Ask to see the curriculum if the director doesn’t offer to show it to you, but she should. Ask about napping procedures. Ask for the menu and what is the rule about snacks being brought in.
5. And yes, ask if you can see the bathrooms and the playground (the director will probably offer to show you the playground anyway…kids love it. It generally seals the deal if you have a good one-to the child anyway) Seriously. Take a look. (Poor directors are now shaking in their boots right…what if that little boy missed the target and then you walk in! Sorry!)
If your child has any type of special needs, now is the time to see if that facility can accomodate them. Allergies, illnesses, medications. Get a medication policy. Who administers medicine? Do you get a sign off sheet?
If your child sleeps or not…tell them. Anything you think is important make sure and tell them!
Your child may act shy and hang on your leg even with coaxing and encouragement from you and the teacher to engage in activities. It’s okay! It doesn’t mean they hate the place. It’s an adjustment for everyone. Give it time.
When you walk out of there, make sure you have in your hands all of their policies and pricing info., a buisness card, a menu, and if they have weekly connection sheets–get one. And go with your gut. Your looking for a place where you feel at home, where your child will feel comfortable, a happy place with happy teachers and smiling kids (for the most part). 
Hope this helps! Directors/Teachers, if I missed anything feel free to add to it!
Tomorrow a guest blog by Former Director Lisa Boyd!

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