“Renee,” a worker in the infant room of a large franchise child center, sits on a rocking chair and talks on the phone to a friend, as infants crawl and toddle around on the floor. Ten-month-old Conner tries to pull himself up on a set of shelves. He falls and bumps his nose, which begins to bleed. Renee continues to talk on the phone, not noticing that Conner is sitting a few feet away, screaming as his nose drips blood on the carpet. When Renee finally looks up and sees Conner, she gasps, grabs a nose siphon from another child’s “cubby”, and tries to siphon the blood from Conner’s nose. Another worker walks into the room, and Renee warns her, “Don’t tell his mom!”
Does this sound like a childcare nightmare? It’s a true story, unfortunately.
Most childcare centers have high standards that they actually do live up to, and children are usually perfectly safe and happy in these places. But in some childcare centers, unqualified teachers work too many hours and look after too many children at once. Here are some tips to help you make sure that your child is in one of the good childcare centers!
When you’re first “shopping” for a childcare center, the director of each center will probably give you a guided tour. She’ll take you to the classroom that your child would be placed in, if you were to choose that center. Often, the teachers in that classroom have been warned that you are coming, and everyone is on their best behavior. But keep your eyes and ears open. Peek into other classrooms as you walk by them, and you’ll catch teachers and kids behaving more naturally. Look for busy teachers and happy kids. For infants and toddlers, if there are more than four or five children in the room, there should be two teachers. In that case, one teacher may be working on preparing projects or cleaning up, but at least one of the teachers should be doing something to engage the children. Classrooms of two, three, four and five year olds should resemble busy preschool classrooms, with children playing and learning in all areas of the room. You might hear teachers talking loudly to be heard above the children’s voices… such a teacher calling, “Johnny, come use the bathroom!” But you shouldn’t hear teachers shouting and sounding angry. Childcare classrooms are busy, noisy places. But if what you see looks like chaos… too many kids, and stressed-out-looking teachers… you may want to bypass this center!
Before you commit to starting at a childcare center, ask if you and your child can spend some time in the classroom that she will be in. Most directors will happily allow this. Observe the routine and see how the teacher engages your child, as well as the other children in the classroom. Often, your child will be shy and hang back, but if the kids who have been there longer look like they’re happy and having fun, that’s a good sign. You may even want to tell your child you’re going to go use the bathroom or speak to the director, so you can step out for a moment and leave the child alone in the room with the prospective teacher. Peek in through a window or a crack in the door to see if the teacher tries to invite your child to get involved in the classroom activities.
Ask about the teacher-to-child ratios used in the classrooms. State laws require that there be one teacher for every four infants in a classroom, and for every five toddlers. The older kids get, the more kids a teacher is allowed to watch alone. One thing you need to watch for is that, when some teachers are missing or when some teachers have been sent home to prevent them from getting overtime hours, the director will shuffle kids around in order to make the ratios work. For instance, if your child is two years old, but is one of the oldest two-year-olds in the class, the director might have him sent to the three-year-olds room. Likewise, if your child is one of the youngest three-year-olds, he might be sent back to the two-year-olds room if there are too many kids in his own classroom. Being switched to different rooms can be very upsetting for kids. They miss out on playing with their friends and keeping the routine they look forward to every day. You can tell the director that you don’t want your child moved to different classrooms on different days. The director should respect your wishes. Be very clear on this matter, because if your child is preverbal, the director may sometimes switch him to different classrooms anyway, and switch him back before you pick him up.
Once your child is in a childcare center, watch her progress. At first, she may seem upset when you drop her off there each day, but this should only last a week or so, as she gets used to the routine. If your child seems extremely upset, to the point where it gives you a bad feeling, try lingering for a while outside the doorway after you drop her off, and then peeking in to see if she’s adjusted. If you see her standing alone in a corner screaming, or if you see a teacher yelling at her or belittling her for crying, this may not be a good place for your child. If, instead, the teacher is speaking gently to your child, trying to engage her and get her involved in the routine, things may be under control. You could also drop in at a random time during the day, to peek in on your child and see how she’s doing. If, when you pick her up, she is happily playing in the classroom, that is definitely a good sign.
Most childcare centers are in business because the people who run them and work at them love children. By being careful and observant, you’ll be able to find a great childcare center for your child!
There’s nothing like a good preschool centre for your child to enroll to mark his beginning in the outside world and understand life through it.