Looking for child care or early childhood education is no small task. It can seem like there is an overwhelming amount of daycare centers all promising to give the most to the children who attend them. When a family is searching for a child care program, they need to understand what makes a child care facility high quality and why that is so beneficial to the development of their child.
Several research studies show that high-quality early learning helps kids develop stronger language, math, and social skills upon entering school. Studies also show that they are less likely to require special education classes as they advance in their studies. Children enrolled in child care and early learning education programs are also more likely to earn higher wages and have fewer interactions within the justice system as adults.
What Are the Characteristics of High-Quality Child Care?
Specific characteristics are used to determine the likelihood of a quality child care program. Generally speaking, parents should be on the lookout for a center that provides a safe and nurturing environment, while still providing a stimulating learning experience. Knowing what to look for specifically makes choosing a center much less stressful for parents and much more rewarding for the children who attend. Some of the most important factors to consider are:
Small Class and Group Sizes
Small group size and class size mean more one-on-one time between teachers and students. It also allows teachers to create a stronger bond with the children in their classes, which in turn makes the children feel safe.
Staff with Higher Education and Continuing-Teacher Training
Centers that employ staff with prior teaching experience in early childhood development means that they know how to tailor the curriculum in developmentally appropriate ways. It’s also beneficial to be a part of an education program that encourages its directors and staff to further their skills, providing them the opportunity to evolve within the ever-changing landscape of the educational system.
Low Staff/Teacher Turnover
This is beneficial for a few reasons. It allows the staff to stay familiar with the children and build stronger relationships. It also means that the team is well cared for by their employer and enjoys their job, making it far more likely for them to put extra time and effort into their teaching.
Positive Teacher/Child Interactions
It’s essential to observe how the teachers at a child care center interact with their students. If the teachers seem stressed out or flustered, it can be a sign of poor organization or lack of leadership. The children should be in a positive environment where learning looks fun and organic, not chaotic.
National Accreditation and Licensing Standards
Child care centers that receive national accreditation and meet the minimum licensing standards demonstrate both the ability and the intent to provide higher than average care for the children who attend them. It proves that they set the bar high and have the results to demonstrate it.
Good Health and Safety Practices
Young children aren’t known for their health and safety practices. A large part of providing high-quality child care is ensuring that the children, teachers, and families who walk through the doors everyday practice proper safety, hygiene, and emergency protocol. Teachers should know what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency.
What Should Parents Look for When Touring a Child Care Facility?
Try to schedule a tour that doesn’t take place at nap time. This way, they can see what goes on when the energy is high, and the school day is in full swing.
Observe the classroom sizes and how many kids are in each class. This will give parents an idea of the amount of time/attention teachers can give to each student.
Observe the average age of the teachers who are working. If the teachers are younger, it is less likely that they have been there long and is also a good indication that there is probably a high turnover rate at that particular daycare center.
Do the children look happy to be there? If there seems to be a lot of chaos and turbulence, it’s a sign that the teachers don’t have a good grasp on keeping the kid’s attention or performing under pressure.
How do the teachers handle conflict amongst the children? Are they able to access the situation and take control, or are the children controlling them?
Are the students engaged, working on projects, age appropriate activities, and interacting with other children and teachers? Or are they watching a video and entertaining themselves? Early childhood education should be hands-on and interactive rather than through a screen.
Is the facility clean? Parents should check bathrooms, changing stations, and all food prep and dining areas. Things should be kept tidy and spotless when not in use.
Do the teachers at the center know all the students and their parent’s names? This is an excellent indicator of the types of relationships they form with the children who go there and their families.
How Can Daycares Provide a High-Quality Experience?
Provide families with access to knowledgeable, trusted staff
Keep class sizes small, so teachers and students don’t feel overwhelmed
Staff should get to know the families in the program and maintain a close personal connection with each student and their parents
Provide learning opportunities and encourage continuing education for all faculty members
Stay up-to-date and informed on the state and local guidelines for operating a child care facility
Check-in with students and their parents frequently to make sure you are on the same page about the education that is being provided
Make sure all staff is trained to deal with difficult or potentially dangerous situations
Provide teachers with adequate compensation and benefits to help reduce the rate of turnover
Make sure to provide a clean and healthy learning and teaching environment for all who walk through the door
Choosing family child care or an early education center doesn’t have to be a headache and operating one doesn’t have to be either. Follow the above tips and guidelines to create a creative, learning-enriched environment that is both safe and nurturing for all.
With many parks closed due to COVID-19, it is more important than ever to find ways to keep children active. Many times, an abundance of energy, and nowhere to exert that energy, can be misdiagnosed as behavioral issues. In addition, public health scientists are expecting an increase in child obesity due to school closures (Andrew G. Rundle). Even with schools back in session, common recess areas may be closed due to the risk of spreading COVID-19. This can make it tough for parents and childcare workers to know how to properly help kids manage and deal with their energy and emotions in the COVID-19 era. As their caretakers, it is crucial that we find ways to keep children active and healthy. Here are a few ideas Smartcare has compiled to help you implement healthy habits.
Fun workout videos are a way to keep kids active. These can be purchased or instructed by teachers. Encourage kids to jump like a kangaroo, flap their arms like a bird, or waddle like a duck. Next, you can have all the kids gather in a circle in the middle of the room and close their eyes. Once you shout a color, they must open their eyes and run to the nearest object that is that color. These kinds of activities not only stimulate the body but also the brain.
Limiting Screen Time
As if limiting kids screen time was not hard enough, it is even more important now. Kids are already less active than they are used to, so be sure not to add any extra time that will keep kids sedentary. Though it may be hard, decreasing the amount of minutes of screen time pre-covid may even be necessary. Try replacing this with a pre-planned scavenger hunt. Have items in the room that you hide in new places each day for the kids to find.
Take Periodic Active Brain Breaks
Doing anything during COVID-19 is already harder than it used to be, but trying to get kids to learn under a pandemic is a whole different story. There is anxiety and restlessness added to the challenge of teaching. When you see kids start to lose focus, suggest an active brain break activity to keep the kids active. These breaks can reduce stress and frustration, improving concentration. For younger ones, have a dance party! This may not resonate with kids older than toddler age, so for them try 5-4-3-2-1. In this game, you pick an action for each number. For example, spin 5 times, do 4 jumping jacks, give 3 high-fives, 2 hops, and run 1 time around the room.
Keep An Eye On Screen Time Snacking
Frequent screen time can cause mindless snacking, especially in kids. Most children will choose convenience over health. Also, they can easily lose track of their portion size because they are so bored. One way to battle this is to have easily accessible healthy snacks. For example, have a veggie tray in the refrigerator or wheat thins instead of chips on the shelf. Because of the circumstances, there may even need to be harsher rules set in place to ensure eating does not get out of hand. You may need to tell the kids not to eat at all while on a screen. This may not necessarily need to be a forever rule, but it may be helpful during this time of COVID-19.
Parents and teachers around the world are documenting their creative achievements on Facebook, Youtube, etc. Parents and teachers are creating indoor putt putt courses, doing 5 year old yoga, inflating bouncy houses inside the house, things that would normally deem someone certifiably insane. Take notes from these parents and teachers because these activities may seem extreme, but they are keeping kids interested and active.
Kids are never too young to begin learning about diversity. Little minds are sponges to what they see and hear. There is no better time than now to fill your classroom with books that teach the value of diversity. Here are some books about diversity along with their Amazon links:
Smartcare believes strongly that education in general and childcare in particular are entering a “new normal”. What this means is that many of the common practices in place before COVID-19 will need to be replaced with practices better suited to current challenges.
One of the first things that we think the student will change is the check-in process.
In the pre-COVID era, the process typically involved a parent entering a common space like a lobby, interacting with a fingerprint scanner to authenticate themselves, and then handing off a child to a staff member.
Before COVID, Smartcare modernized this process with the use of touchless QR codes, and while removing a fingerprint scanner dramatically reduces contact points, we think the process can be better.
We think the best practice in the new normal will look something like this:
Families will queue in socially distanced location such as the family’s car in a drop-off line in front of the school.
Either the parent or the student’s teacher will complete a pre-drop-off health-check. The CDC has provided guidance and we anticipate that guidance will evolve over time. At this time, those guidelines include:
Temperature checks for fevers over 100.4 degrees.
Signs of illness including coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, extreme fussiness, nausea
Technology can automate validating the health-check to ensure it meets regulatory requirements and the school’s own preferences. A child who poses a risk to others never enters the facility, and so that staff and parents have the peace of mind that their child is a in a safe environment.
The student’s teacher can take custody of the child in a well-ventilated, socially-separated space such as directly from the child’s car in a drop-off line, and escort the child directly to a classroom. From here, the child will stay with classmates and remain isolated from other classes in the school, minimizing contact points along the way. This ensures separation from other students in other classes.
Within a school, classes should be kept as separate as possible. Where common areas must be shared, to the extent possible, those areas should be used by only one class at a time and disinfected between uses. All areas and toys should be disinfected regularly.
Where the above procedure isn’t possible, we recommend the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and barriers to minimize the exposure to staff and families.
Smartcare has functionality to support the new normal in your center and our team of customer success managers can help you update your procedures for the new normal. We have a report to help you track health checks and our teacher app allows for touchless check-in wherever its best suited for you to do so. You should expect improvements from us over the summer as we get more feedback.
We are committed to be your technology partner as we navigate into the new normal together.
This series of blogs covers ways to help childcare businesses navigate this confusing time. Right now, many parents and staff may be especially concerned about the cleaning and disinfection of your facility if you are still open. If you are one of the many childcare businesses who’ve had to close their doors, you might be concerned about how to properly disinfect prior to re-opening. The CDC offers some great resources and tips, which we’ve compiled for you below.
If Someone Suspected/Confirmed to Have COVID-19 Has Been in Your Facility
This article from the CDC is specifically written for community facilities. It includes how to clean and disinfect in general, but also gets into specifics for COVID-19, such as how to disinfect if you know an affected person has been in your facility. Additionally, it covers PPE equipment.
What to do Before and During an Outbreak
The CDC has specific guidelines (read here) for schools and child care programs. You can then assure your parents you are following all of the recommended guidelines. These recommendations are broken down by ‘at all times’ and ‘during an outbreak’, so you’ll know which actions to take, regardless of your center’s situation.
Directory of Local Health Departments
Check out the Directory of Local Health Departments to find contact information for your local health department, should you have any COVID-19 specific questions. Many of the other articles linked here also address when you should contact your local health department.
EPA: Disinfectants List
It’s important to know which disinfectants are appropriate and effective. Check out the recommended list from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) here. All products on this list meet the EPA’s criteria for user again the virus that causes COVID-19.
Cleaning and Disinfection for Households
It’s just as important to keep your home disinfected as it is your facility, so you aren’t transferring germs between locations. Read this article, for tips on the following:
Includes general recommendations for routine cleaning and disinfection of households
Cleaning and disinfection of households with people isolated in home care
How to clean and disinfect
Hand hygiene and other preventive measures
Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility
This resource contains specific information for facilities on how to disinfect:
You’ll also find:
Tips when someone is sick
Considerations for employers
We hope you find these resources on cleaning and disinfecting your facility and home helpful. During this unsure time, it can be very reassuring to know we are doing the best we can, to provide for the safety of others.