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.