Choosing a childcare center

The Studer Community Institute Brain Bag is full of resources to help parents understand why the first three years of a child’s life are so important.

It includes everything from a storybook to encourage family reading, a baby book to help parents track developmental milestones through the first three years of life, and a binder of community resources to help parents throughout those first 1,000 days of parenthood.

One of the resources that we’ve received the most feedback about is a guide for choosing a childcare center. We are so happy to share this resource from the Florida Office of Early Learning in the Brain Bag. And we want to share it here, too.

If your family will use a childcare center or provider, it’s important to make a choice you feel comfortable with.

Look and Listen: The health, safety and welfare of your child of course are among your first concerns. If you can, visit more than one center. Watch how the center and its classrooms operate. Do the children there seem happy? How do staffers behave with the children?

Your child will spend many hours a day in this facility. Make sure you feel comfortable with the people and the facility itself.

Do Research: Check the credentials of each center with the local and state agencies that monitor childcare providers. If the center is accredited by an agency such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), ask to see its latest review and rating. Write down questions as they come to you. Ask for time to discuss them with the director or teacher.

Consider Cost: Weigh the pros and cons of each center you visit. Decide which one meets the priorities you hold important at a rate you can afford. Remember that the highest price doesn’t necessarily equal the best teacher or facility.

Pay Attention to Your Instincts: Talk to parents whose children already attend the center. What is their feedback? What feelings did you get about the center, the staff and how they treat the children in their care?

Can you picture your child in this setting? Were the toys and activities you saw the kinds of things your child would enjoy? Were they clean? How did your child react when you visited the facility? You know your child best. Trust your instincts to make a good choice for your family.

The Escambia County Early Learning Coalition has tons of great resources to help you choose a childcare center or voluntary prekindergarten provider. Visit them at this link for those resources and many others.