Are all daycare centers the same? If this is your first experience with child care, take a look at some top questions parents should consider.
How Many Children Attend Your Center?
Your child may get plenty of individual attention at home. But what about in daycare? While a large school may register a high number of children, they may also provide the one-on-one attention your infant, toddler, or preschooler needs.
If the center is larger, ask about the number of classrooms and the child-to-staff ratios (the number of staff members for each set group of children) for each room. A large center with only a few separate classrooms and a high child-to-staff ratio may not provide the attention, supervision, or high-quality learning experience you expect. But a center with a low child-to-staff ratio may.
Each state or child care licensing agency sets child-to-staff ratios. This number may vary depending on the type of child care services offered and the ages of the children. An infant group will have a lower child-to-staff ratio than a pre-k classroom. Contact your state or local child care licensing agency to learn more about the acceptable child-to-staff ratios in your area.
What Does the Center's Curriculum Include?
Does the center use a specific curriculum based on an educational philosophy or child development research? Don't worry if you aren't an early education expert. You don't need to break down number-heavy research or understand the industry jargon to ask questions about the curriculum.
Talk to the center's director or a teacher about what the children do daily (activities, lessons, or classroom content), how the school approaches extra or special areas such as art, foreign languages, or physical education/movement, and what types of beginning or basic academic skills (such as early literacy and math) the children will build in each age grouping.
What Are the Age Groupings?
Some centers use a multi-age approach, while others separate their young students into smaller groups based on set years or months. This could include anything from six-month groupings to one-year or more. Some daycares divide younger children, such as infants in their first year, into multiple groups to create a manageable child to staff ratio.
There are pros and cons to different types of age groupings. Provided the child-to-staff numbers fall within local licensing requirements, the choice of a multi-age, one-year, six-month, or other types of grouping depends on your child's needs and your personal preference. Contact a daycare center for more information.