Why Quality Matters - Steps to Choosing Child Care
High-quality child care settings allow children to experience stimulating interactions in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe. It is important for your child to have access to materials, activities, and toys in areas that are safe for their state of development. Your child should feel welcomed, loved, and comfortable with those who care for them. A good caregiver is loving and responsive, respects the child's individuality, and offers a safe environment for play and exploration. Investing in high-quality child care is critical for the healthy development of all children and helps them to be successful as they enter school, and throughout life.
Steps to Choosing Child Care
Start early, take your time, do your homework, and ask a lot of questions!
Note these suggested general guidelines. In any child care setting, look for:
- Adult-to-Child Ratio: Ask how many children there are for each adult. The fewer the children for each adult, the better for your child. You want your child to get plenty of attention.
- Caregiver Qualifications: Ask about the child care provider’s training and education. Caregivers with degrees and/or special training in working with children will often be better able to help your child grow and learn. Are the caregivers engaged in activities or programs outside of work that help to improve their skills and knowledge around child development? Do they attend classes and workshops that focus on early childhood development?
- Turnover: Check how long the child care provider has been at the center or in their home. It’s best if children stay with the same caregiver at least a year. Caregivers who come and go make it hard on your child. Consistency helps to build your child’s self-esteem and provides them a sense of security.
- Supervision: Are children supervised at all times, even when they are sleeping? How do the caregivers discipline children? (Discipline should be positive, clear, consistent, and fair.) Can caregivers be seen by others at all times? Have the caregivers been trained on how to prevent child abuse, how to recognize signs of child abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse?
- Safe and Clean: Have caregivers been trained how to keep children healthy and safe from injury and illness? Do all caregivers and children wash their hands often, especially before eating, and after using the bathroom or changing diapers? Is the outdoor play area regularly inspected for safety? Is equipment the right size and type for the age of children who use it?
- Active Parents: Involved parents build trust, communication, and consistency between home and child care.
- Accreditation and/or IdahoSTARS Rated: Find out if your child care provider has been accredited by a national organization or has been rated through the IdahoSTARS program. These providers have met voluntary standards for children that are higher than most state licensing requirements. Visit the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children website for more information.