10 Things To Know Before Daycare Begins (And 10 Signs The Daycare Isn't So Good)

It’s a momentous step for any family – the start of daycare. What a significant and exciting development for a parent and child. Many mothers worry about finding the right daycare center, how the whole experience will affect the family, and what they can do to make the start of daycare run as seamlessly as possible. The whole process can appear daunting at first but with a thoughtful approach, a family can be on its way to a great first day.

The start of the journey begins with finding the perfect daycare center. There’s a lot to consider – location, cost, size, quality of staff, and safety. And once that path is navigated, there’s all the logistics to consider, such as what the new daily schedule will look like and what needs to be packed for the day. More importantly, how will a child handle the change and how can a mother prepare her young one for the first day? A little preparation will answer all these questions and more, which will ease the transition and make a parent and child feel much more confident about this important time.

10 Things To Know Before Daycare Begins

20 Everything Will Be Fine

Choosing someone to care for your precious child can feel like an overwhelming process. Are they kind? Are they safe? Will your child be happy? OMG, the cost! But rest assured that you will find the child-care solution that will work best for you and your little one. It might take some digging around for recommendations, plenty of research, and a few on-site visits. But at the end of your search, you will find someone who will meet your needs and your child’s needs. It will be one of those “you know it when you know it” type of things.

19 Know What To Pack

Your daycare provider will give you the specifics of what you are expected to send with your child, but in general, parents provide diapers, wipes, pacifiers, breast milk or formula, bibs, and any necessary medications. In addition to that, it’s ideal to send a couple resealable gallon-sized plastic bags with an extra outfit in each. Consider also including any comfort items for your child, such as a favorite teether or baby blanket. And definitely make things easier on yourself. Label everything with your child’s name and pack it all up the night before.

18 Kids Will Get Sick More

It will happen eventually. If babies don’t go to daycare, that wave of back-to-back illness will happen during the first year of preschool or kindergarten. The consistent exposure to so many people means more germs and more sick days. Good news is that a long-term study by the University of Montreal found that although toddlers in group child care did get sick more often than those who stayed at home, the children from the daycare group got sick less often when they reached elementary school. All that exposure to germs is necessary to build their immune systems. You can give your child a fighting chance with a diet rich in immune-boosting fruits and vegetables, Vitamin D, and probiotics, but still expect there to be an increase in illnesses at first.

17 And When They Do Get Sick ...

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Be familiar with your daycare center’s sick-child policy. Typical policies require that a child be free from fevers and other symptoms, such as a rash or a persistent cough, without medication for 24 hours before returning. So a fever that doesn’t go away until a Wednesday afternoon would mean that your child will have to miss Thursday’s daycare as well. It seems disappointing to have a well child kept at home when you need to be at work, but the policy is in place for those fevers that pop back so frequently. Have a backup child-care plan at the ready and a back-up for that plan as well. Working from home, calling a backup babysitter, or using a sick day at work are all options working parents often utilize.

16 Be Familiar With Drop-Off And Pickup Procedures

It’s a big transition in your child’s day and you’ll want it to go smoothly. You don’t want to be distracted with the mechanics of where to go and what to do when your child needs you at your most radiant. Review the times and procedures with the daycare staff. What door do you use? What is the time window? What is the procedure if you are running late? Park in the same area to create a familiar routine. Leave yourself with plenty of time to accommodate traffic and any other unexpected delays. You don’t want to be rushed, especially in the early weeks.

15 Make The First Day Great

It’s a big day for you and your child. Congratulations on reaching this milestone! Starting your family on a new evening and morning routine a week or two before the first day is a great step in the right direction. Age-appropriately discuss the big day with your child in a positive and exciting way, including what they can expect on their first day. Shopping for a new outfit or backpack can build enthusiasm for an older child. Starting with half days can be helpful with infants. On the first morning make sure you have allotted lots of extra time so no one feels rushed. Pack everything the night before. Keep the morning calm and positive. Establishing a specific goodbye routine can help your child become more secure so begin it from the start.

14 Drop Off Might Take Some Getting Used To

After all the researching, interviewing, preparing, after doing everything right, and it still happens. Your child is crying at drop off and you have to untangle her arms from your shoulders and hand her off. It’s a little hard on the heart, isn’t it? Your child isn’t the first to cry at drop off and she won’t be the last. It happens. But we have two good things to point out to you. First, it is so likely that she stopped crying after you left. You have left her in the care of loving people and an amazing environment full of friends and toys and so many fun things to do. Second, those drop-off tears are going to get less and less with each morning. Take a deep breath, keep a smile on until you’re out the door, and know that this part will get easier too.

13 Your Child Might Need A Lot Of Attention After Pickup

Children go through varying stages of clinginess and independence. It’s a natural and healthy progression in their development. Being separated from you during the day can definitely heighten that behavior. A nursling might breastfeed in a frequency akin to the newborn stage. It might feel like your toddler is attached to your hip. Knowing that this behavior might happen can help you mentally prepare for it. It’s demanding, for sure, to be up early, work all day, and then feel like you’re doubling up on mothering when you get home. But rest easy mama and realize that this is likely a temporary period while your child transitions to her new routine. This might be a good time to order takeout and let the laundry go a little bit while you focus on your little one. This transition won’t last forever.

12 Or He Might Need Time To Chill Out

He’s had an exciting and amazing day. All his favorite friends, running around on the playground, playing with toys. It’s a lot. A lot of good but a lot. So on the car ride home, when you’re ready to hear all about this fabulous day and reconnect with your sweet child, it might be a little offsetting when he doesn’t want to talk at all, even to you. It’s okay. Just like you need to unwind after a long day, no matter how good that day was, your little one might need some downtime too. Let this be a quiet time to stare out the car window while listening to music. Give him a few minutes to adjust to the next part of his day until he’s ready to open up.

11 You Will Always Be Their No. 1

Don’t forget this. From the start of the search to the well-worn pickup routine, you have logged the hours and the heart to absolutely and always be your child’s No. 1 person. You are their mother from start to finish. Some days you two might spend more hours apart than you like, and you might crave to hear that twinkling voice dancing through the air, but you will always be connected. The miles and time cannot weaken that bond. So feel at peace that you have chosen the best choice for your family and the best quality daycare for your child. Good job mama!

10 Signs The Daycare Isn’t So Good

10 The Care Provider To Child Ratio Is Off

Your little one keeps your hands full and you might be only taking care of one or two! So it makes sense that most states have ratio requirements for daycare centers. State licensing regulations have very specific requirements about the number of staff needed for a specific number of children, although this number can vary state by state. The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends the following ratios for children: birth to 28 months, 1:3 to 1:4; 21 to 36 months, 1:4 to 1:6; 2 to 3 years, 1:6 to 1:9; and 4 to 5 years, 1:8 to 1:10. Ask about the center’s staff to child ratio at the start and then pay attention to how that ratio is working in the center during your visit. Does the ratio not match up with what you were told? Do the care providers seem overwhelmed?

9 It's Not Licensed

Licensing requirements vary state to state so the specifics depend on where you live. In general, a licensed daycare has met minimum health and safety standards and passed an inspection. Most daycares are required to have a license to operate but there are exceptions. Research the specifics for your state and then ask your daycare center if its licensing is current. An expired license is a warning sign. You can also contact your local social services department to see if the center has a current license. It doesn’t guarantee quality care but a license does mean the center is meeting certain criteria. This is also a good time to ask about who on staff is CPR trained and how background checks are conducted.

8 The Center Appears Dirty And Unsafe

During your visit, assess the cleanliness of the center. We’re not talking a pile of Duplos all over the floor with kids happily building towers. That’s actually a good sign; kids should be actively encouraged to play. But look to see if the floors, walls, and kitchen area look like they are regularly wiped down. Assess whether toys and the playground equipment is in good condition. Are the outlets all covered? Is the area where the children are kept properly secured? Do all the lights work? Are staff washing their hands after every diaper change? A keen eye to all the details will give you a lot of information in just a few minutes’ time.

7 Policies And Procedures Aren't Clearly Defined

A handbook that clearly states the center’s policies and procedures means you know exactly what to expect. Misunderstandings are minimized and it provides a consistent approach toward services. The handbook should cover health and safety issues, such as fire drills, lice, and safe sleeping policies. Other information to look for in writing is the center’s sick-child policy, fee payments, and drop-off and pick-up procedures. A daycare center without this information readily available is enough reason to hesitate. Avoid future problems by sidestepping a location like this.

6 You Asked Around And No One Has Anything Positive To Say

You’ll get a lot of information from the daycare center itself and from your observations during the center visit. Asking for comments from other parents can be just as eye-opening. Talk to other parents you cross paths with at the daycare center and in your neighborhood. Search for comments on your local moms group discussion board. Do people gush over the wonderful staff? Or are they politely trying to stay neutral? Ask for specifics if you hear something negative so you can sort the difference between a poor-quality center and a personality conflict. But generally, if you ask around and no one is saying anything positive, it might be time to move on.

5 They Discourage Unannounced Visits

A center might discourage or deny unannounced visits because it’s disruptive to the children’s schedule, particularly at mealtimes. But it could also be because they are hiding something. Also, limitations on when you can stop by can be disruptive to you and your child’s needs. What if you are planning to still feed your nursing baby by stopping in during your lunch hour? What if you have a chance to pick up your child early? If it makes you feel wary to be restricted on when you can come by, then this center is not for you.

4 Screen Time Policy Doesn't Match Your Own

American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 2 to 5 be limited to one hour per day and children younger than two be exposed to no screen time at all. Screen time limits vary from family to family. You personally might allow more or less or adjust these times depending on the content. But make sure the center’s policies are consistent with your values. More time on the screen is less time your child is active and interacting with other children. Ask what the center’s policy is, then observe if that policy appears to actually be in place during your visit.

3 The Discipline Policy Makes You Feel Uneasy

Discipline is about teaching, not punishing. Clearly defined expectations and consequences are important for the child to know what is expected of herself. They also protect her from the actions of the other children. A written outline of the center’s discipline policy should be outlined in the daycare handbook but make sure you ask a few questions of your own during your visit, such as if the center uses timeouts and how is that specifically handled. What are other consequences given? How does the care provider deal with tantrums or biting? What behavior would warrant removal from the classroom and where would that child go? If their answers are far out of line with what you’re comfortable with, it probably time to look elsewhere.

2 They Are Not Accommodating For Your Specific Needs

You might have to prioritize some of your preferences for others during your daycare search – cost, location, activity schedule. But be sure to consider the needs that are specific to your family and weigh whether those will be a deal breaker for you. Some centers will accommodate cloth diapering; others will not. What about dietary preferences, such as a focus on healthy eating or allergies? A daycare that doesn’t take food allergies seriously is a big sign to turn elsewhere, but you might be willing to accept fewer fruits and vegetables for the otherwise-perfect daycare. Think about what is most important to you and recognize a deal breaker when you see one.

1 It Just Doesn't Feel Right, Even Though You Can't Pinpoint Why

Maybe everything about this place is perfect on paper. Great location. Fantastic and well-educated staff. All the crafty artwork on the wall and imaginative toys on the shelves that you could hope for. But, even though you can’t quite put your finger on it, there’s something a little bit off. Whether it’s something not quite right for you, or something that just doesn’t fit right for your little one, you know it when you feel it. This daycare just isn’t the one for you. It is okay to quit a perfectly decent daycare just because you want to! After all the time and research that you put into your search, you might be hesitant but if it isn’t going to work for both you and your child, then it isn’t going to work. And there is a daycare that will work for you. Gear up for another search, ask around for recommendations, visit a couple more places, and you’ll find the place that fits you and your family just right.

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