10 Reasons to choose a Day Care
The 10 “Must Ask” Questions
When Choosing Your Child Care Provider
The Dog Whisperer instructs pet owners to create a calm and orderly energy in their homes and with their pets because the dogs sense that the owner is in control of things and it allows them to relax. While we are not comparing children to dogs, it is true that children are especially attuned to different “energies” or “vibes” in both the people and the environments that surround them.
Take note of the energy of the facility you are visiting. Is it calm and orderly or is it hectic and crazy? While kids will be kids, they can do so in a controlled, loving, orderly, and supportive environment.
After you take note of the energy at the facility, just look at the children there and ask yourself, “Do the kids look happy?” That’s the beauty of kids, they can’t hide their emotions. What you see is what you get! Make sure that what you are getting when you observe the children is what you want for your child.
Most schools will tell you that they prepare home cooked meals for their students. Ask if they have a full commercial kitchen in order to prepare those meals. It is quite difficult to provide this benefit without a full kitchen on the premises.
Do they bring in delivered food like pizza or other fast foods? Ask to see their menus and talk to other parents about their opinion of the school’s food and if their child likes and eats the meals the school provides.
Do they promise to prepare meals using only fresh foods and never canned? Cooking for over 100 students and staff daily is no easy task for the most experienced cooks, but doing it without using any canned foods would be nearly impossible. What you are looking for is balance. To be certain, just ask to see their inventory of food (fresh & canned) for yourself. Some facilities will serve lower quality food in order to cut costs.
Many schools will tell you that they write their own curriculum. Why is that a good thing? Do you really want to take the chance of not providing your child with the foundation they need to succeed in learning and school? What guarantee do you have that a curriculum created by some school owner/director provides your child with the best preschool education they can receive?
You can never replace your child’s preschool years. Children learn more before the age of six than they will during any other period in life, so why would you expose them to a curriculum that has no track record for fully developing their learning foundation?
Familiarize yourself with the curriculum program your child will be using. How long has it been around and how successful has it been in educating students over the years? Ask prospective schools how long their center has successfully used their selected program (or do they tend to jump around to various options from year to year)? Why do they feel the program is the best education they can provide their students?
What is the Kindergarten readiness rate of the center? How prepared or advanced are the students when beginning Kindergarten? See what other parents have to say about their child’s experience.
Listen to your “little voice”. As you meet the receptionist, director and teachers pay attention to the first impression they make with you. Just like you need to pay attention to the joy of the kids, focus on the teachers as well. Do they love what they do? Is caring for kids a calling or just a J.O.B.? Your child deserves caregivers and teachers that want to be at school and who are driven with the passion to serve the children and maximize the discovery opportunities each and every day.
Experience. How long have the teachers, staff and directors been serving in the school you are observing? Why is that important? We have already discussed the importance of a calm and orderly environment, consistent teachers and staff guarantee that your child knows their caregivers and that the caregivers know your child. A child feels secure when they know what happens next in their day and when they know who to turn to for guidance and assistance. Consistency in the director provides a stable framework and structure for the entire school community.
What if a teacher is out sick? Is there a group of substitute teachers whom a child gets the chance to know over time? This can help maintain a stable, orderly, calm and happy environment, even in the teacher’s absence.
It is also important to consider the combined educational and practical hands-on experience of a teacher or substitute working with children. Remember that book knowledge is not everything and that some of the best learning takes place when we make mistakes and get our hands dirty.
Customer Service. How are you greeted when you call or visit? Is the staff knowledgeable and friendly? Are information packets readily available? Do you get a good sense that the staff is sincere when they tell you that your child is their priority or do you feel like you are getting a sales pitch? Do they offer preset tours or have strategies to minimize classroom disruptions? Do they have an open door policy about parents visiting the school? It is important that you feel you are welcome at the school any day and not just during your tour. While you may be asked to follow a procedure designed to protect the learning experiences and environment for your child and his/her classmates, visits and parent involvement at school should be encouraged.
“A place for everything and everything in its place.” Sincere, happy teachers run a tight ship to help them maintain control. Little ones listen to their teachers and teachers are role models for expected choices. So, look for professional organization, labeling, and attention to detail when it comes to structure, layout, and organization of the classroom and the school as a whole.
Will your child be crammed into a small classroom on top of other children? Will your baby have room to crawl and perfect their newly discovered mobility? Would your child be napping on top of another child or wind up with another child’s foot in their face? Is there plenty of room on the playground to run and have fun? Does each age group have their own separate playground for age appropriate equipment and games? Do you look around and see unsafe and unsanitary conditions? How often are grounds and equipment maintained? How do they handle repairs to keep the school safe? Are contractors screened or are they only allowed to work when the children are not present? For inclement weather, is there a plan so that your child can maintain a healthy level of physical activities (i.e. rain, cold, heat, smog)?
Space. Does the school have separate rooms for different daily activities (Cafeteria, gym, etc.) or will your child remain in the same classroom all day? Is their building a true school or a converted strip mall? Look outside the walls to get a feel for the full location and its advantages and disadvantages. Take time to inspect the classrooms, kitchen, dining area, playgrounds. Is each area sufficient for its purpose? Where do the children nap? Where do they go on rainy days when they cannot play outside? What are pick-up and drop off procedures? Is the parking lot safe? Take your time and inspect the facility thoroughly.
Cleanliness. When it comes to your child “cleanliness is next to Godliness!” As you inspect the layout of the campus, pay attention to the kitchen, refrigerator, tables, and chairs in the dining area. Are bottles refrigerated? Is food sealed? Are the “potties” clean? Make sure it all meets your expectations for cleanliness. Ask to see the policies and procedures for sanitation requirements and take a peek at their daily cleaning routine.
Equipment & Toys. Are the toys and equipment age appropriate? Are there enough to go around? How often are items replaced, repaired or updated? Ensure that the playground equipment is modern, safe, clean and plentiful.
Is learning the primary focus of the facility or is it simply a day care? Children are extremely intelligent and open to learning. Make the most of these curious, open-minded, inquisitive years by ensuring your child’s mind is stimulated with age appropriate instruction that will serve them well in elementary school and beyond.
Is the staff all female or is there a coed staff? How does that effect your child in terms of comfort, potty training and safety? Does the center have secure doors and safety gates and are they in good condition? Have there ever been any issues with children wandering off of the property or getting lost? Is there video surveillance in the classrooms? What are the sign in and sign out policies and procedures of the campus? Are all gates locked and secure? Are entry and exit points controlled?
The regulatory agency for the State of Georgia is “Bright From the Start” the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL). Be certain that the school’s license is displayed and know that you may request a review of their licensing inspections if you’d like. Memberships with organizations specializing in Early Childhood Development like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Georgia Association on Young Children (GAYC) are also potential indicators of a quality learning environment for young children.
As you know, caring for little ones is no easy task and should not be taken lightly. The Meliora School is committed to taking early learning and child care to new heights within our community as we strive to “be the best”. Please stop by or call anytime to meet our staff, tour our campus, inspect our facility and become comfortable with the curriculum and nurturing learning environments we will provide for your child. You can reach us at 404-381-9300 .
Thank you for taking the time to read this special report. We hope to see you and your little one soon so we can welcome you home to The Meliora School.