Childcare will look different for every family. Some will rely on a daycare center, while others hire in-home caretakers. As you weigh these and any other potential options on your list, you have a lot to think about. Frankly, it can be overwhelming to sift through the pros and cons of each entity willing to watch your kid. Plus, it can be a bit emotional to deal with, too — you’re leaving your baby with hired help, perhaps for the first time ever.
Fortunately, many parents have gone through this before you, and they have great advice for handling this situation. The more confident you feel in your decision, the simpler it will be to say goodbye on your child’s first day with the au pair, in daycare… the choice is yours. Here’s how to make it:
1. Align Your Philosophies
Firstly, you should brush up on a potential childcare provider’s philosophies. Do they mind little ones in the same way that you raise yours? Namely, you should know how they’ll discipline your little one, feed them, entertain them and more. Needless to say, you don’t want to hire someone or send your child to a school where they treat your child differently than you do.
You should also ask the childcare provider about their policies when it comes to sickness. What’s their sick-child policy? And, if you hire someone to work in your home, you will have to ask about their back-up plan, too. If they get sick, who fills in? You don’t want to find out the answers in the heat of the moment — ask them now before you make your decision.
2. Check Out the Space…
Online photos can introduce you to a childcare center, but checking it out in person will be vital to your decision-making process. Children should be placed into a center with decor that’s both engaging and developmentally appropriate, especially in their early childhood years. So, peruse the center to see if they have vibrantly painted walls, soft floors and safe toys. You should examine the cleanliness of the school, too. At an age when they don’t yet understand germs, you don’t want your kid spending hours in an unsanitary facility.
3. …And Evaluate the Teachers
Even without formal education training, you should be able to tell if a childcare provider is doing their job properly. As soon as you walk in for your tour, look at the grown-up in charge. Are they standing up overseeing play? Or are they on the ground with the kids? If you want the best carer for your child, then the answer to the latter should be yes.
As a parent, you know how much one-on-one interaction your child needs. A caregiver should be on the ground playing with the children in their charge. Maybe they’re reading to a small group, or they have a little one in their lap. These are great signs — it shows you have a loving person at the helm of the class your child will be joining.
For babies, such care is even more vital. Infants and toddlers need this type of close, warm relationship for them to feel safe and comforted. As you interview teachers, nannies or baby sitters, make sure they have a natural kindness and way with babies. Otherwise, you could be selecting the wrong person.
4. Seek Commitment
On that note, you don’t want your baby jumping from caregiver to caregiver. Try and find a nanny or childcare provider who can commit to at least one year of service to your family. That way, your little one has plenty of time to forge a strong, trusting connection with the person who cares for them.
If you have trouble finding a local provider who can give you that promise, try thinking outside of the box. One of the benefits of hiring an au pair is that they commit to a contract for a designated time period — you can stipulate that it will cover a one-year window. Plus, they live in your home and care for your kids there. That can add to your peace of mind, too.
5. Find Someone Communicative — and Be the Same Way
Your childcare provider should know how your child’s night and morning went before they came into school. How long did your child sleep? Did they eat breakfast? Is anything else going on, like teething or crawling? They need to know so that they can provide the best, must thoughftul care to your little one. When you pick up your child, then, they should return that favor — you’ll want to know what your child needs after their childcare hours are over.
Ask potential caregivers how they’ll keep you posted throughout the day, too. Some daycares have school-centric social networks, through which you’ll get updates on activities, meals, bathroom breaks and more. Or, you can ask that your nanny text or call you to touch base. Just make sure everyone’s on the same page about how often you’ll need to catch up during the day.
6. Trust Your Instinct
This step is the most vital one of all. When you meet a potential teacher, nanny, childcare provider or au pair, your gut will tell you if they’re a good person or not. Listen to this voice! Even after you’ve read sparkling reviews and seen a beautiful facility, it all comes down to your feeling. If your instinct is to choose something or someone else, then follow that instead of the status quo.
Always remember that you’re your child’s most important caregiver. It’s up to you to raise them and, when you can’t be there, you have to find someone worthy to fill in. With the above six considerations, you’re well on your way to finding the right childcare setup for you and your family.