School will be out soon for the summer. For parents who have jobs to go to, despite summer vacation for the kiddies, this can create a problem of making sure the children are safe and properly cared for while Mom and Dad are at work. Putting the children into a day care center for the summer is one option. If you, as working parents, choose that option, there are some tips you should know to help you choose a good day care facility.
There are commercial day care centers and day care services that are provided from homes. Regardless of whether the day care center is a commercial one or a home facility, the quality of the center, the staff, and the services must be carefully inspected and investigated.
Here are some things that parents, when choosing day care for their children, should do:
· Ask about the child to staff ratio. The fewer children each staff member is responsible for, the safer your child will be. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ratio of one staff person for 3 to 5 small children and one staff member for 7 to 10 older children. Also check to be sure younger and older children are separated.
· Ask about the facilities policies on discipline, visitation, pick-up and drop-off, and other important issues. Ask if the policies are in writing and, if so, ask for a copy.
· Ask about the training and experience of the staff. Are all staff members certified in basic first aid? Are all staff members trained in child development? Are all staff members trained in identification of abused children? Are all staff members trained in preventing and treating illness and injury?
· Ask about the rules regarding frequent hand-washing. This is important in order to reduce the spread of illness among the kids. All staff members must wash their hands each time they diaper a child and before fixing meals or snacks. Staff should monitor that children was their hands after bathroom breaks and before eating food.
· Inspect for building and playground / play area safety. Are poison control phone numbers and ambulance phone numbers clearly posted? Does the playground have impact-absorbing surfaces, such as wood chips, under the swings and slides? Are young children able to get to high places? Are the children protected from strangers? Are fire drills held at least every month? Are there smoke alarms throughout the building? Does the center use space heaters? If so, are they being used properly? Are safety gates used in areas for small children? Are electric outlets covered? Are sharp corners of furniture covered? Are the toys kept clean? All washable toys should be cleaned daily with a disinfectant cleaner.
· Better ensure the safety of your children by looking for red flags that would indicate a particular center may have some problems. Here are some red flags: The staff fails to answer your questions and address your concerns. There is no way for parents to be involved in the day care practices. Your child tells you about problems or is not happy with his or her day care experience. Unexplained accidents happen more than once. There is a high rate or frequency of staff turn-over. The center can't offer you a written copy of the day care policies. Other parents tell you about problems or concerns with the day care center.
Picture credit: Afonso Lima