How I Chose My Son’s Daycare: Tips from a Reluctant Mama

If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking about finding good quality care for your child and you’re wondering how to go about it. Everyone has their reasons for putting their children in daycare- you could be going back to work or school, you may have another child on the way, or just simply need a break for your sanity and want your child to engage and interact with others. Whatever the reason may be, I will share some tips that have helped me choose the right daycare for my son. It was quite the process but believe me-it’ll be worth it in the end!

Things to look for when trying to choose a daycare:

  • First and foremost, it helped me to have the realistic expectation that no childcare provider is perfect. Even a child’s own parents will still have their moments where they don’t act/talk in the best manner possible. We can’t expect the people caring for our children to be flawless and to always have their composure and be Mary Poppins all day long around our children.
  • Tour as many daycares as you can and have a list of questions prepared (you can use the following tips to guide you as to some questions to ask).
  • Once you’ve chosen a daycare, visit the daycare as many times as you can and start your visits a few weeks before your child is supposed to officially start daycare. The more visits you do, the easier the transition. Some daycares support parents in leaving their child for small increments of time. I started my son with just one hour a day then gradually increased it to half days then he did a full day before I went back to work.
  • Drop by at random times and see how things run at various times of the day. Most daycares are perfectly fine with this and invite parents to come whenever they want.

Try to go for a visit near the end of the day when parents typically pick up their children. Observe how the caregivers interact with the parents and what kind of information they pass onto them as to how their child’s day was. I personally love getting a nice long report on what things my child liked/disliked, who/what he played with, and what they learned that day.

It took me a really long time to become more comfortable with leaving my son at daycare. I used to drive every day to work feeling immense guilt and swallowing back tears. It’s definitely one of the hardest things I have ever had to do; however, knowing that he was at a good daycare with nurturing caregivers made it easier on me. It reassures me when I pick him up and find him happily playing with the other kids. Daycare has been beneficial in that my son has learned positive things such as waiting his turn, playing with others or alone, forming trusting relationships with others, and his vocabulary is expanding each day!

Reach out to other mothers who are currently in the same boat or have experienced putting their children in daycare before. I had a wonderful friend who gave me a lot of encouragement and reassurance and made the whole transition back to work and away from my son much easier!

It will always be difficult leaving your child. I still miss my son everyday when I drop him off but knowing that he’s happy and safe and in a stimulating, engaging and nurturing environment is reassuring!

List of Questions to Ask

  • Class layout: are there activities/toys that seem in relatively good condition? What kinds of things are available for the children to play with? Ask the daycare about their philosophy and if they encourage mostly free, unstructured play or if they have planned activities with the children, or both.
    1. Toys-do they get sanitized/cleaned regularly?
    2. Do they rotate the toys?
    3. Do the toys appear to be safe for your child’s developmental level?
  • Food: ask to see a menu and ask about portions. Most daycares are accommodating of halal meat/chicken.
  • Breastfeeding: If you are still breastfeeding and would like to continue breastfeeding your child while they’re at daycare, discuss this with the daycare from the start. Just be prepared that if you do go in at mid-day to breastfeed your child, leaving him/her again might be very difficult- I talk from experience!
  • Caregivers: The caregivers can make or break the class so get to know them and observe their interaction style with the children. Do they seem disgruntled and easily frustrated by the children? Do they complain about their job to you? Do they seem warm and nurturing? I actually switched my child from one daycare to another as I noticed that the caregivers were distant from the children and fell short in regards to communication with parents about how their child’s day went.
  • Biting/hitting policy: it’s important to know this ahead of time so you know what to expect in case your child gets hurt or hurts another child.
  • Sick policy: most daycares have a policy regarding when a child has to go home after exhibiting certain symptoms and how long they have to be symptom-free before returning.
  • Photos/updates: Does the daycare have more enhanced technology in that they provide parents with pictures/updates throughout the day? Some daycares have Ipads that the teachers use to take pictures and email to the parents, which most parents find reassuring.
  • Trust your instincts: This is where your child will be spending most of his/her day. If you walk in and you don’t feel welcomed, or if you feel that everyone seems stressed/overwhelmed and that you just don’t have a good vibe, chances are you’re right.
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