• If you know that you will need childcare for your new infant or for an older child the key is to begin looking early. You want time to evaluate the childcare properly and do not want to make a rash/rushed decision. Whether you choose to have someone come to your home or to take them to a large daycare center you need to be sure that you feel happy and comfortable with your choice. It is difficult enough to leave your child, and if you are worried about their health, happiness or safety you will have a hard time focusing on your work and will have wasted your own time and money. If something doesn’t feel right to you, even if it’s just a gut feeling, keep looking.

    Types of Childcare
    In Your Home
    In Another’s Home
    Daycare (home or school based)

    Things to consider
    Exposure to illnesses
    Social Interactions

    Childcare in your Home
    The convenience of having someone come to your home to watch your child cannot be overstated. No need to pack your child up in the morning and no need to make an extra stop on the way to and from work. If you work unusual hours this might be the only option available to you. If you are considering this option you must realize that the cost is much greater than group childcare. You will need to do careful research into the person you are considering to hire. Do a background check, check references carefully (call every single reference – do not take short cuts), if the nanny will be driving check his/her driver’s license and DMV records, and be prepared to supervise the initial interactions. Arrange for some overlap when you are still home and your nanny has started so you can see the dynamic between your child and the nanny. Make sure you’re comfortable leaving the nanny in charge. You can cut back on the cost of a nanny/au pair by nanny sharing with another family, but this requires flexibility and coordination. There are numerous points to cover such as: which home will be the base? What will you do when one of the children is sick? Will the nanny be spending a couple of days at your home with only your child and other days at the other home with that child, or will s/he have both children together in one of the homes (see Childcare in Another’s Home below)? The downside to having a nanny or au pair is that if s/he is sick you are stuck!

    Childcare in Another’s Home
    If you have a friend or family member who is willing to share their nanny time with you in their home you will save on cost and have more flexibility and convenience than in a typical daycare setting. If you agree that the children can be together even if one is ill this will save you from needing a backup plan for illness. Furthermore, it might expose your child to illness early on, but if you have a healthy child this may not be a big deterrent. If the nanny has already been working for the other family you don’t get to choose her/him, but you can still ask for and research references, do a DMV and background check and choose whether or not to use her/him. Don’t just take someone’s word for it.

    The upsides of daycare are:

    1. 1. Cost – it is almost always much lower than in home childcare.
    2. 2. Social interactions – With more children and adults around, your child will likely be ahead of the game with his/her social development. Learning how to share, communicate, and play with other children will become is an integral part of your child’s development.
    3. 3. Availability – if one caregiver is ill there are others to care for your child and you do not need to use your back-up people.

    The downsides of daycare are:

    1. 1. Convenience – You must travel to get there and are bound by their hours.
    2. 2. Flexibility – If your child is sick you need alternate care. And the definition of sick varies by daycare. Some have incredibly rigid and strict illness guidelines that can be reassuring with a new infant yet can be prohibitive with a toddler.
    3. 3. Illness – Your child will be exposed to more illnesses sooner at a daycare facility. Most viruses are contagious before symptoms appear so there is no way to avoid this even at the most vigilant daycare setting. If it is any consolation, children will probably get these illnesses eventually and those who never go to a daycare or preschool will most likely be sick more often in Kindergarten.

    Things to look for at a daycare facility

    1. 1. Be sure that the facility is licensed and registered, and check their accreditation status.
    2. 2. Ask for names and numbers of current and past families so that you can call and talk to them about their impressions and experiences.
    3. 3. Visit the facility more than once to get a feel for the atmosphere and environment.
    4. 4. Be sure that the facility feels safe and is secure.
    5. 5. Watch the interactions of the caregivers with the babies and with the older children. You should see the children being sung and spoken to, not simply supervised.
    6. 6. If you have an older child look for evidence of children playing independently and positive reinforcement of good behavior.
    7. 7. Look for activities at the daycare that would be appropriate for your child’s age.
    8. 8. Do the caregivers communicate with parents at drop-off and pick-up? Do they seem to support parents?
    9. 9. Look at the child to staff ratio. For babies it should not be more than 4:1, and for toddlers it should not be more than 8:1, over four years of age should be fine with 10:1. But the lower the ratio the more personal attention your child will receive.
    10. 10. Be aware of hand washing, cleanliness around food areas, cleanliness around the diaper changing area, and monitoring of older children with runny noses and wet, sticky hands.
    11. 11. Find out how long each provider has been with the daycare facility. You would like to find a place where your child can get to know the staff and where there is not a high turnover.

    With any childcare situation you will have the most success if you stay alert and involved. Talk to the person taking care of your child. A stronger bond between you and your child’s caregiver leads to a stronger bond between him/her and your child. If your child is at a daycare facility stay involved. Go in and read to the children. Offer to occasionally drive/supervise field trips. Whether your child is with a nanny, in daycare, in preschool or in day school, getting involved is the best way for you to truly know the people caring for your child.