Child Development

Choosing a Daycare: Learn As You Grow’s Joshua LaGrow offers some tips for finding the right fit

Children at Daycare
PHOTO BY ISTOCK

Are you planning to go back to work after your baby is born?

With so many childcare options out there, finding the right fit may seem overwhelming.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind throughout the process.

When should you begin your search?

That all depends on the age of your child. If you are looking for childcare for an infant, in many cases, you will need to begin your search before your baby even arrives.

“Infants are the hardest spot because you’re limited; you can only have eight infants per classroom,” said Joshua LaGrow, Executive Director of the Learn As You Grow Early Education Centers. “What we recommend families do is as soon as you find out that you are pregnant, to begin the process of trying to find a childcare center.”

What are some things you should consider?

A couple years ago, Learn As You Grow created a guide to help parents during this process (it can be found on their website, learnasyougrowccc.com). To start, it recommends you rank these four things in order of importance: Quality, safety, location, and cost.

Then you can begin scheduling tours of local childcare centers.

“I am a parent. My three children went to Learn As You Grow, and one is still there,” said LaGrow. “I think you really get a sense of the environment just by using your five senses. You walk in and you look at the center from a cleanliness standpoint. You look at the activities that are going on in the classrooms. Staff engagement. Director engagement, so whoever you met with to do the tour or spoke to on the phone.”

And don’t limit yourself. LaGrow always recommends that parents tour other programs and compare things such as curriculum and programming, cleanliness, and food preparation – to name a few.

“Classrooms are going to be busy,” he said. “Sometimes there’s going to be kids upset or times where there’s not perfect programming going on; however, you’ll get a sense of how it’s dealt with…And you’ll get a sense, even as a first-time parent, of looking for those health and safety things as you walk in. You’ll get a sense of what the center is and how you feel about it.”

Are there any questions you should ask?

During your tours, Learn As You Grow’s guide recommends that you ask the staff questions such as:

  • Do they serve meals?
  • Are there any days that the center is closed?
  • How do they communicate with parents?
  • Are they trained in CPR and first aid?
  • Are there any materials parents must supply (such as baby formula and wipes)?

These will help you get a better idea of which program is the best fit for you and your family.

Final thoughts

“As a parent myself, and as someone that works in the field, the best way that you’re going to get a sense of a program is going there and taking a tour, seeing the facilities, meeting the teachers and the directors, and just asking questions,” said LaGrow.

Visit communityguide.familytimescny.com for a list of childcare centers in Central New York.

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