What to Look for in a Quality Daycare or Summer Camp
Choosing where to send your child and who is going to take care of them – either for an extended period of time or a short stay – is all about doing your due diligence. Not all child care facilities and programs are created equal. There are signs of a good program and signs of a bad one. Here are some essential tips for how to spot a good daycare or summer camp.
Clear, thoughtful curriculum
When you spend money to place your child in daycare or a summer program, you should expect to get your money’s worth. Of course, this means safety first and foremost. But beyond that, you should demand that your child is stimulated – not just “managed” – throughout the day.
Child care is more than just providing a place for kids to stay while their parents are gone. Good day care centers and summer camps will have clear, thoughtful curriculum/schedules that ensure your child is being fulfilled – both mentally and physically.
“Because young children feel safe when their days are structured and predictable, it makes sense to look for a daycare with clear plans and programs … The lessons needn’t be elaborate – just enjoyable and appropriate to a child’s developmental stage. Other signs that a day care is well run include bulletin boards with recently created artwork, a regular parent newsletter, and a parent committee,” says Parents.com.
As a parent, you should ask about any program’s specific plans for how your child will spend each hour of their day. Any place that is unable to give you an acceptable plan is not worth your money.
A healthy meal plan
Making sure that your child is provided with nutritious food throughout their stay is crucial. Your child may eat more than half of their meals at a daycare center or camp. If your child’s nutritional needs are not being met, it may be time to look elsewhere for child care.
“If you have to bring your child’s food, find out the center’s guidelines. Some may require you to pack only nutritious foods and that’s okay. Centers that don’t restrict candy or other sweets may not have your child’s best interests at heart. If the center does have a food plan, find out what it serves at meal and snack times (and make sure the staff is aware of your child’s food allergies, if any). Does it encourage healthy eating habits and cover all the food groups?” says BabyCenter.com.
A good ratio
If you walk into a place and there are only a couple of care providers or counselors attempting to manage dozens of kids, it should be a huge red flag. Like a school classroom, the ratio of instructors to children is paramount to creating a safe environment where learning can occur.
It’s just basic math – your child cannot get the attention they deserve if there is not enough staff there to help.
Positive feedback from others
You should scour the internet for any feedback you can find on a camp or daycare center. Are there no reviews? While not necessarily an issue, this can be a bad sign. Talk to friends and others in the community and see if they have any experiences to share.
Apart from that, you should actively seek businesses that have the proper credentials. Daycares require certification, but looking for accredited institutions that have a stamp of approval from trusted organizations (like the American Camp Association) can help you find the perfect fit for your child. Not all great child care providers are accredited, but if they are, you can be pretty sure that they’ve undergone rigorous inspections for safety, cleanliness, and curriculum.
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