Choosing the Right Daycare/Preschool for Your Child

Looking into a childcare center for your child can easily become an overwhelming task. Whether you're choosing preschool or daycare, there are important things every parent should be aware of when going through the selection process.

Of course, there can often be barriers beyond your control - such as limited access - that can hinder you chances, so it's important to keep your options open. By following this guide, you'll be well equipped with appropriate questions and actions to take to ensure your child will be getting the best care possible.

Get the Word Out.
One of the best and simplest ways to ensure you're selecting a quality childcare center is by speaking to other parents about their experiences. So get out and speak with your friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else you know has young children. Another great way to start your search is by contacting the National Association for Early Childhood Education (NAEYC). This not-for-profit offers guidelines and contact information as well as a searchable online database of accredited centers and preschools. Accreditation is very important in ensuring that your child receives a high quality of education.

Before an education center can be accredited, however, it must be licensed. Licensing is another way educational centers are safeguarded, as this ensures they meet certain safety and quality standards. However, because institutions can be licensed without being accredited, looking for accreditation is still the safest bet for ensuring your childcare facility meets the highest standards.

Be Practical.
Before you make any moves towards selecting a childcare center, it is very important that you sit down and think about exactly what it is that will work for you logistically. To that end, there are a number you'll need to consider, such as:

  • the location of the school and its hours of operation (do they fit into your schedule?)
  • what type of preschool curriculum you are looking for (i.e. heavier focus on activities or education)
  • what type of environment you are looking for (i.e. small and nurturing or busy and active)
  • the specific needs of your child (i.e. napping, socializing, language development, etc.)
  • your financial situation

Consider Educational Philosophies
Another important consideration you will need to be aware of is what particular educational philosophy your child's preschool operates on. Currently, there are many different philosophies adhered to by a variety of early childhood education centers, including the Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, and what are considered the traditional methods. But just what are the differences between these diverse approaches to education?

The truth is, the answer may vary, depending on the individual institutions in question. To make things simpler, here are a sample list of questions that can help you determine whether your child's preschool is in-line with your educational values.

  • Who is in greater control of learning choices, styles and activities: teacher or child?
  • What is the focus of the institution? In other words, does it focus more heavily on education or social and emotional development?
  • Are the environment, activities, and the teachers' approaches agreeable to you, and will they suit your child's personality?
  • How involved are the children's parents? How much input do they have in how the center is run? Does this match your desire for being involved?
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