Seven Considerations When Choosing Childcare

  • General Sanitation: For infants less than 12 months of age, all toys and play equipment should be sanitized at least once daily. This age of infant tends to put many things into the mouth, increasing the risk of spreading infections and illnesses. A simple solution of bleach and water (or other disinfecting cleaner) is adequate.

  • Outside Play Area: Any outdoor play area should be equipped with only age-appropriate equipment. Slides should not be over 4 feet high and swings should all have safety belts that are in good working order. Sand boxes are fine but do need to be kept clean either by raking daily or covering when not in use. The baby area should also be fenced to prevent mobile infants from wandering into the play area of older toddlers and children.

    Outside play time should be limited according to the weather. Most states have minimum and maximum temperatures governing outside play time (and if the states do not, the centers may). During extremely hot or cold weather (generally below 50oF and above 90oF) time outside should be limited to less than 15 minutes at a time. During cold weather proper clothing should be worn anytime the children go outside (coats, jackets, shoes, long pants). In hot weather children should be offered plenty to drink in order to stay hydrated and sunscreen (typically supplied by the parent) should always be used.

    Some centers do not require that walking infants wear shoes, so you might want to check on this policy as wearing shoes can prevent injury to those tiny toes.

  • Ask About:

    1. Illness Policies: Most states require that children with a fever of 100.4oF or higher be sent home This temperature guideline may vary from state to state. Typically children with fever, vomiting or diarrhea should be kept out until they are fever free for 24 hours. Your state may be more lenient or strict, but no matter the law, be sure the center you choose follows the rule for children as well as staff. Check on policies concerning different illnesses, such as rashes and colds, which are common but still contagious.
    2. Open Door Policy: This invaluable for parents allows them to visit at any time during the day without warning. It is a wonderful policy for the parent because the caregivers must always be on alert to visitors and parents dropping in unexpectedly. Caregivers have extra incentive to do their best and be at their best every single day.

    Classrooms should be equipped with windows into the room. This will allow the parent, director, or even inspector to watch the caregiver and children interact without disruption, giving you a good idea of what normally happens in the room and how the caregiver interacts with the children when no one else is watching.

    Like most of the tasks of new motherhood, selecting a care provider is daunting and not always painless -- but it also is rewarding. When you find a center you feel comfortable with, your return to work will be bolstered by the knowledge that your baby is getting the best possible care.

    Carol E. Jordan is the mother of 2 children. She has been a preschool teacher for 9 years and is working toward a CDA (Child Development Associate) an Early Childhood Education professional credential.

    Copyright © Carol E. Jordan. Permission to reublish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.