After you've had a tour of a day home or early learning centre that you are considering sending your child(ren) to, it's a good idea to sit down and reflect on how the staff answered your questions and to also think about what you noticed while you were touring. Here are five questions to ask yourself when selecting a child care provider:
1. Is the staff happy? It is incredibly important to pay attention to the staff at the day home or early learning centre where you are looking to send your child(ren). Look at the kinds of engagements that they have with the children, and with each other. Have they been yelling the entire time you've been there -- keep in mind that Early Childhood Educators are not robots and do get frustrated -- or have they been reading stories, singing songs, doing science experiments, etc. to engage the children and help them learn. Remember the questions about programming and the level of education of the staff, and keep that in mind when doing your reflection. Happy staff do get frustrated, but the majority of their interactions should be positive, and that's definitely a good indication of a good environment for children to grow and learn.
2. Are the kids happy? Generally if the staff is happy then you will find that the children are also happy. Sometimes there are situations where a child does not get what they want and they get upset, but if they are getting what they need -- good food, good relationships with staff and peers, and a stimulating environment -- then they will most likely be happy and have positive interactions with the staff and the other children.
3. What do the rooms look like: cleanliness, toys, arrangement? Make sure you take a look around the rooms that your child will be using during the time that they will be at the day home or early learning centre. Pay attention to the areas that are available for the children to play in and if it seems to flow well, or if the children are running about like crazy with no sense of where to go. Most places encourage staff to take care of the children first, and look after everything else later, but look and see if the room is tidy, toys are not broken and in their proper places, tables are wiped down after meals, chairs are tucked in or stacked, and the shelves are generally clean.
4. What does the outdoor area look like? Some day homes and early learning centres are quite fortunate and have very large outdoor spaces, or at least a park near by. Take a look around to see if there are a variety of areas to play in. Is there sand, grass, asphalt or cement? Also look at the play equipment to ensure that it is safe for use, and check out the outside toys that are available.
5. How transparent are they in providing what they do, and how they answer questions? This can relate back to the question about the happiness of the staff, but obviously if the staff are quite rude and unwilling -- or unable -- to answer any questions that you may have then it's a good indication of a lack of administration and a poorly run environment. You are the parents, and they should be willing to talk to you about any concerns that you may have. At most day homes and early learning centres the family is the most important element, and must be respected above all else.