Reliable Group Setting
If you're looking for a lot of socialization and structure, this option's for you. Many centers offer extended drop-off and pickup hours (although extra hours will probably cost you a bit more). It's also comforting to know you won't be caught off guard by a solo provider who calls in sick. Make sure:
The facility is fully licensed and accredited. Day-care regulations vary from state to state, but a licensed program should, at the minimum, meet state health and safety standards and have strict caregiver-child ratios (these ratios apply to family-run day care as well as franchised day-care centers). To find accredited programs in your area that voluntarily exceed the minimum state requirements, check out NAEYC.org and NECPA.net.
There's a daily schedule. Young infants thrive on routine and structure. But there should be free play for older babies as well, says Barbara Rigney-Hill, associate professor of family and consumer sciences at California State University in Northridge. "Children also need time for discovery."
The curriculum is nicely varied. If you're planning to keep your child there for the long haul, it's good to know now whether the center emphasizes early academics. One sign to induce confidence: There's an activity schedule posted for the week, which indicates forethought.
The kids are varied too. Diversity is a priority for families who want their children to feel that they fit in as they get older and start to notice their classmates, as well as for families who want their kids to grow up understanding that not everyone has the same background, beliefs, or skin color.
You'll get daily updates. From feedings to poops to naps, you want to stay in the loop. Some centers give daily "report cards," but have no fear; they don't dole out grades!