Choosing childcare options for your child(ren) can be scary and stressful. You worry about whether someone will take care of your child as much as you would. You stress about how reliable they will be, so you don’t have to take off too much work. I have compiled a list of 5 steps that will help you through this daunting process.
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Choosing Childcare- Step 1
Make a list of your requirements and preferences.
Here are some items to include in this list but you can revise it to fit your needs when it comes to choosing childcare.
- Budget– Look at your finances and see how much you can actually afford. Childcare is expensive. Some companies will offer FSA (Flexible spending account) childcare options (called dependent care FSA) that let you take money out of your paycheck pre-taxed to use towards childcare costs. There is a maximum amount so do your research. There are also government programs you can apply for if your salary is under a certain level.
- Type of daycare– Look into different childcare options. The three main options are: Daycare center, Home Daycare or Nanny/Babysitter. A great resource is Care.com for local options. Yelp will also be a good source for reviews. More about this later.
- Schedule– Decide what hours or days you will need someone to watch your child(ren). Do you work full-time or part-time? Is there someone else that can help offset some childcare costs like your spouse/partner or a family member?
- Location– Do you want something close to home, close to work or someone that comes to your home. I found it best to choose a daycare close to home as long as the hours work. If you are sick at home and need some rest, you don’t want to have to drive far to drop your child off at daycare. In-home daycares aren’t often open long hours so if you want to go that route then you might need to find one closer to work.
- Preferences– Do you prefer somewhere that offers all organic meals? Maybe one that is play focused instead of trying to learn reading quickly. Is someone being bilingual important to you to help teach your child another language?
Do your Research– Start looking into what type of childcare would be best for your family. Here are some pros and cons for the 3 major types. A great place to look for referrals is Facebook Mom Groups in your area. Many moms have done this process before and can help you with choosing childcare.
- Nanny– One of the best benefits of having a good nanny is that your child(ren) will be able to attach to one person. They will also get the benefit of staying in their own home where they are comfortable. A nanny will be able to be more flexible. If you only need someone during certain hours or if the schedule changes, this is a good route.
Your kids are less likely to get sick because they aren’t around a lot of other kids. On the downside, if the nanny gets sick or is not willing to care for your sick kids, that is more time you will need to be away from work. There is also less accountability (unless you have cameras). If you have a young child, they can’t tell you how they are being treated. There is also less opportunity for your child to socialize with other kids. – If you are open to someone living with you, an Au Pair could be a good option as well.
- Home Daycare– We have had our oldest son at 2 different types of home daycares. When he was 8 months old he was at one that was a mom and her 3 girls plus 1-3 other children. It was a great experience because one of her daughters was the same age and they went through the same stages. She was kind and patient and gave our son more attention than a center could. The other one he was at when he was 2-3 years old and it was more like a preschool run by an older mother and her daughter who both had early childhood education in their background. That one was also great. The downsides can be if the home is not set up well or if there is not a good blend of ages. Also, it is at someone’s home so what if they have other people over? There are downsides to every situation so its just things to be aware of.
- Center Daycare– The nice thing about a center daycare is they are often closed less often and there is usually more accountability. Most are managed by a company so they will have specific rules and regulations which are checked. The centers are often open longer hours which makes it easier when both parents work full-time. The downside is your child WILL get sick more often because there are a lot more kids they are interacting with. There is also a chance they might get hurt a little more often because there are more kids to each teacher so it’s hard to watch every child closely. We currently have our 3 boys at a center and love it! They have a bus that will take my oldest to school in the morning and pick him up in the afternoon. This makes it possible for me to drop them all off together in the morning and then pick them up together. Some more common Daycare center chains are KinderCare and TutorTime.
Take tours or meet potential caregivers
Now that you have narrowed down your list of preferences and ideally which type of childcare you want, it’s time to check them out. If you are going with the Nanny route, you will want to start doing interviews. My post about finding a babysitter has some great suggestions for questions to ask. For home daycares or daycare centers you will want to take a tour and ask your questions. Here are some topics to ask questions about.
- Weekly rates
- Hours they are open
- When do they close (holidays, etc)
- Any additional fees
- Meals (provided or not. What kinds of food)
- Enrichment activities for kids
- Ratio of kids to teacher
- Policies (late pick-up, etc)
- How they handle discipline
During your tour, you will want to view the interactions between the teachers and children. Are the patient or yelling a lot. How well are the kids behaving? Do the kids look happy? If you happen to see other parents while you are there take the opportunity to ask them what they think. Be specific. Ask them things like, “what do you like most and what do you like least about this daycare.” Choosing childcare is not something to take lightly.
Once you have narrowed down your list to 1-3 options you will want to make sure you do your references. If you haven’t already, check out reviews on Yelp or even Care.com if they are listed. Ask the nanny or daycare for references from current and/or past parents and make sure to call them. Check their license number online to make sure it is active and there is nothing bad that comes up. They will be watching your precious child so doing your due diligence is necessary and should not be skipped.
Do a trial day
Once you have signed up for your daycare or hired a nanny, I highly recommend doing a trial day. It doesn’t have to be an entire day but at least 4-5 hours is recommended. This is an opportunity for your child to start getting used to you leaving without you being worried about being late for work. By having this good amount of time, they will be able to go through cycles. They can experience the initial transition away from mom/Dad, start to warm up, start to engage, experience eating with a new person and hopefully learn to fall asleep around them too.
A slightly shorter day than normal is nice because then you will come back sooner. This is also a great time to make sure you have everything ready to go and get on a schedule for pumping if you are breastfeeding. As a parent, it’s a great time to get an appointment done and maybe even do something for self-care.
Here are some products that I recommend for going to daycare.
Related Post: returning to work after maternity leave has more advice about doing a trial day when choosing childcare. I also give some recommendations of things you will need to bring to the daycare for your child.
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