Consider these 3 Items when Choosing a Childcare Program

As a new parent, choosing the right childcare program will be among one of the first big decisions you will make in your child’s early years of life. You want to be sure about this decision, and you want to know what to look for. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer because what is a perfect fit for one family just may not seem right to another. However, there are some key items to consider when you are shopping around for childcare and it is a good idea to know what you are looking for as you do.

1. Teaching Philosophy

You may or may not know this, but there are several different teaching philosophies that dictate the way learning and teaching are approached. Philosophies will vary from program to program. Some common ones you may recognize are Play-based, Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Waldorf, etc. It is important to do some of your own research ahead of time in regards to the philosophies that resonate with your personal beliefs as a parent. This may include how you would like your child to learn and the environment that they will be in. Many programs are fully grounded in a philosophy of learning (Montessori) while some may pull inspiration from specific philosophies (Reggio-Inspired). Most programs are proud to discuss their methods and will be happy to answer any questions you may have around this.

Example of a Reggio Emilia-inspired learning provocation

2. Age Groupings & Group Sizes

Another important piece to consider is how the program approaches the grouping of children. First and foremost, check your local laws and regulations for group sizes and the adult-child ratios to gain an understanding of the minimum requirements and ensure that the program is in accordance with those. Beyond this, you will need to consider the following: large group vs. small group and mixed ages vs. separate age groupings. Large groups are often associated with plenty of opportunities for social interaction, while smaller groups tend to be quieter and allow for a lower adult-child ratio. Mixed-age groupings can have more of a family feeling, while separate age groupings allow for children to play with children of their own age. There are pros and cons that come along with each grouping that you will need to weigh out. Consider your own child and choose a program that offers an optimal environment for them to learn and thrive!

Small group sizes allow for lower adult-child ratios

3. Parent Communication

This is arguably one of the most important items to consider on your hunt for the perfect childcare program. While it is important for a program’s values and philosophy to align with your own, it is absolutely paramount that you not only get along with your Educator but that you trust them. They are, after all, the individual(s) who will be caring and looking after your little one on an almost daily basis and are likely to join the roster among some of the most influential and important people in your child’s life. It is important to take the time to ask questions and to get to know your child’s Educators. Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable approaching this person and entrusting them to care for your child day-in and day-out. If there is any doubt in your mind, take it as a sign that this simply might not be the right program for you. The parent-educator bond is necessary as you will be needing to work as a team to best support your child in their learning and development.

Parent-education communication is necessary for effective support of child development

When choosing a childcare program to fit your needs, it is always beneficial to consider teaching philosophies, age groupings & sizes, and parent to educator communication. Take your time and do your research, because this is a big step in your child’s life and it is important you make educated decisions. Talk to other parents, educators, and friends about their child care decisions, but in the end, what works for one person might not for the other.