What should I look for in a daycare?

Q: I like the caregivers at my toddler's daycare, but I don't think they provide much intellectual stimulation. Should I look for a place with a greater emphasis on learning?

A: In a quality program, caregivers should be reading to kids, talking with them, and setting up activities that promote learning -- from finger painting to block building to dramatic play. If you don't see these kinds of programs, then it's wise to look for another program. However, some centers are too academic for young children. Be wary of programs that emphasize school-readiness skills, worksheets, and phonics. The best predictor of literacy -- which affects success in all areas -- is the size of a child's vocabulary, and that will come naturally if he's in an environment where adults frequently chat and read with the kids. --Sally Lee

Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission from the July 2004 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009

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