It can be one of the toughest decisions a parent has to make: to which daycare or preschool should I send my child? Although there are many issues that factor into a parent’s choice, one of the most important is ensuring the child will be appropriately cared for, safe and does not suffer serious injury. The following are tips on what to look for in a daycare or preschool.
What to Look for When Evaluating Daycare or Preschool Facilities
Make sure the center is properly licensed and regulated. But as important as this is, it doesn’t fully measure the quality of a facility. So also check into whether or not it’s accredited. Two of the largest organizations that provide accreditation are the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Additionally, the state of Georgia provides a quality rated system for early education programs. Those who participate agree to meet standards that go above and beyond the normal licensing requirements. Any facility that receives a star is established as a quality program. However, the higher the rating, the better. A program can be awarded a one-, two- or three-star rating.
It’s also important to look for a facility that encourages parental involvement and surprise visits. Any daycare or preschool that doesn’t should raise a red flag.
What to Look for When Evaluating Daycare or Preschool Safety
The facility itself and all its equipment should be safe. For instance, the rooms and toys should be regularly washed and disinfected. During a walkthrough, parents should observe toys that are clean and undamaged (no broken parts, choking hazards, etc.).
The outdoor area should be fenced in, with a layout that allows the children to be seen by staff at all times. The playground equipment should be age-appropriate and in good condition. Make sure the surface underneath any swings, slides or climbing equipment is soft.
Ask to see the area where food is prepared. It should be clean and uncluttered. Staff who handles the food should practice proper hygiene. The same is true when it comes to toileting.
Children and staff who assist the children should ensure they wash their hands:
- after using the toilet;
- changing diapers; and
- before eating.
Ask to see where hazardous chemicals (such as cleaning chemicals) and medications are stored. They should be up high, out of the reach of children and securely locked. The facility itself should be secure. Not just anyone should be able to walk into the building.
What to Look for When Evaluating Daycare or Preschool Staff
It’s important to take adequate time to observe the staff and their interactions with the children. Are they friendly? Do they appear to enjoy the children? Do the children appear to be happy? Are they greeted by staff when they come in? It’s a good idea to come in at least a couple of times, at different times of the day to get a better feel for the atmosphere.
Ask about the staff’s qualifications and if they are trained in CPR and first aid. Also inquire about their disciplinary practices. Check the staff to child ratio.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following ratios in a daycare/preschool setting:
- birth to 12 months – 1:3 (max group size 6);
- 13 –30 months - 1:4 (max group size 8);
- 31 – 35 months - 1:5 (max group size 10);
- 3 years old - 1:7 (max group size 14); and
- 4 years to 5 years old - 1:8 (max group size 16).
It’s a good idea to ask for references before deciding on a daycare or preschool. Also, trust your gut. If something seems off or you feel like your questions or concerns aren’t being adequately addressed, it might not be a good fit.
Should there ever be an occasion where you believe negligence or abuse is the cause of a child’s serious injuries, inform the authorities and seek legal counsel. If you’re in the Atlanta area, set up your free consultation with Jason R. Schultz. Call us at 404-474-0804 or visit our contact page to schedule your appointment.