You're headed back to work or school and are looking for daycare centers in your area. But you're not sure where to begin. You could google "daycares in my town," but that might not help you in the way that you're looking for. A general list just won't do. You want to start checking out child care centers that meet your specific needs. With that in mind, you actually need to know what your individual needs are before you start narrowing your search criteria. Start your daycare search by asking yourself these basic (but completely helpful) questions.
What Are the Daycare Center's Hours?
More precisely, "What hours do I need my child to be in care?" Not everyone works a standard 9 to 6 schedule. And, not every daycare is open all day long. Some centers have early morning hours and will allow you to drop off your child at 6 am (or possibly earlier). Others have extended hours, staying open until 7 pm or later. If you work late-nights or over-nights, you'll need a specialty center. Even though they are often a challenge to find, some centers do offer over-night care.
What Should the Curriculum Look Like?
This is your child's first chance to learn in a structured setting. Not only is she getting the comfort and care that she needs while you're away, but she's also getting the opportunity to start her education. There are an array of options here. Some daycares are completely play-focused, some mix play and learning in child-centered ways, and others have a very specific educational philosophy (such as Montessori) at the heart of their curriculum. Knowing what you're looking for in terms of lessons/activities can drive your daycare choices and help you focus on some schools over others.
What's Important In a Caregiver?
Do you only want your child going to daycare with a certified teacher? Some parents who have preschool-aged children are looking for centers that also double as pre-K's. If this is the case, you'll want to narrow your search to daycares that have strict hiring standards and employ teachers with the educational and experiential requirements to instruct preschoolers. Other parents may want to make sure that their children are cared for by teachers/staff members who have more than a few months (or an internship's worth) of experience.
How Far Is Too Far to Drive?
Location is a primary factor in choosing daycare centers in your area. After all, you want a center that's actually in your area. Right? Make a radius that is acceptable for you and your family's needs. Think about who (other than you) is doing pick up and drop off. If grandma lives downs the street from you and will be picking junior up, you might not want to choose a center that's closer to your job than your home.
Before beginning your daycare search, ask yourself these questions. Are they the only questions that you need to ask? No. This is just a start. Build off of this list, coming up with more questions that play to your own needs.