Most home daycare providers are moms, so you know you’re leaving your child with someone who is comfortable caring for babies and children who probably has a strong mothering instinct. You two may differ on some issues but so long as you find someone who shares your basic philosophy, this “mom” factor can be a clear advantage. Home daycare is one of a few choices parents can make when deciding where to have their child(ren) cared for by someone else. Most home providers have made a conscious decision to do this as a career since they get to raise their children, take care of the house, make an income, and have a direct impact on their community. Home daycare has a mix of ages which mirrors their regular home life. This may help your child feel comfortable around older kids as well as help them learn new skills from observing the older children. Additionally, older children can look out for the younger ones, thus fostering a sort of new “family”. Providers should be responsible, enthusiastic, and well-prepared. If you see her getting down to eye level to talk with children as individuals, consider that a promising sign.
The search should begin 4-8 weeks before you anticipate needing care. This is to ensure a spot as well as let you make an informed, appropriate decision versus it being rushed and not a good fit for your family’s needs.
Many decide on home daycare because they want their children to be in the same type of environment they offer at home- cozy, happy, and loving. Others may pick this because they want their child exposed to less germs and diseases. Some like the cheaper cost of a daycare home. Ratios are often smaller in a daycare home than in a center which lets parents know that their child is being given the most possible attention and care while at daycare. Home daycares are willing to accommodate your needs and be more flexible in ways that a daycare center cannot or will not.
It’s important you find a provider that shares a similar philosophy with you. Ideally, this person will be spending years with your child if they are a suitable fit and you want to make sure you get as many of your needs met as possible on the first try. It doesn’t always happen that way, unfortunately. Some caregivers may have experience handling babies but may just tend to the physical needs of the baby and not the emotional/holding needs. It’s better to find someone who is going to give baby all he/she needs and is sensitive to the cues a baby gives.
You can call the Childcare Aware Hotline (800) 424-2246 and they will get you in touch with your local Resource & Referral Agency (Local R&R) who can give you the names, phone numbers, and general information about home daycares in your area. These are not referrals, they just give out information and leave it up to the individual to check into the quality of care provided at the given daycare.
When you are interviewing in person, go with your child and your partner. That way you can see how the caregiver treats and talks to the child as well as if the child seems to like the environment. Ask about her hours, fees, vacation schedule, her take on discipline/guidance, feeding, and sleeping. Get a printout of her schedule and policies. If she has a Parent Handbook then you know she’s organized and has policies firmly in place. Pay attention to your gut feeling and how the caregiver handles the questions.
Ask your friends, family, and coworkers if they’ve ever heard of the daycare of if they have any information about it. If someone likes it, ask specific questions and find out why it was so wonderful. Ask what the good and bad points were. If their child is no longer attending, ask why. It could be simply that they moved or that their child went off to a formal preschool- don’t always assume it was a bad ending.
It’s a good idea to : check the caregiver’s license, references, and testimonials.Talk with other parents that know the caregiver or have had their children in her care before. Ask a lot of questions to see if you are on the same wavelength for child-rearing and personality (or if you can at least tolerate her approach). Ask what her ground rules are. See what all she offers in terms of amenities, programs, field trips, activities, food/snacks, discipline, comforting, etc. If you are more the type to need to “see” if it’s a good fit, arrange an interview with the provider to tour the home, meet any family members or pets, and get a sense of what she’s like in person. This is probably the easiest way to tell if you’ll like her long-term if her policies and regular doings are already on your approval list.
- Do you feel at home there ?
- Do you think a child would like it ?
- What kinds of toys does she have for different ages ?
- Does it seem like a warm, inviting environment ?
- Does she have a strict sick child policy ? (you WANT this !)
- Does she have an open-door policy ?
- What kind of food does she provide ?
If you’re still on the fence about deciding, why not give it a whirl for a day or a week and see how your child likes her, how you like her, and if your child seems happy about going there. It usually takes some time to adapt so don’t be quick to judge if your child has separation anxiety when you leave. Or you can be there while your child is, but the caregiver is handling most of the work. This way you can see how they get along, if the caregiver is willing to try multiple things to soothe a baby, and if she does everything she says she does (schedule, diaper changes, feeding and napping times, etc).
- Does she seem like she enjoys her work ?
- Does she play and cuddle with the children ?
- Are infants comforted as soon as possible ?
- Is her home clean and spacious enough to accommodate the amount of children she has ?
- Does she have a fenced backyard so the kids can burn off some energy ?
You want to look for an “attachment caregiver” and the best questions to ask in order to tell are
- How do you calm a baby who is crying ?
- What’s your technique for getting infants to sleep ?
- Do you use slings/carriers to hold a baby ?
- How do you feed infants ?
- What kinds of discipline/guidance do you use ?
- What do you do with a child while they are awake ?
- Are you certified in First-Aid, CPR, and choking ?
- Are you physically in good health to be doing this kind of work ?
Children need consistency, a schedule, and strong relationships with their caregivers. Pay attention to the caregiver-child ratios- a 1:3 caregiver-baby ratio loses its effectiveness if one of the babies is colicky or has special needs. The best home daycares have structured schedules that include plenty of time for physical activity, quiet time (including daily story time), group and individual activities, meals, snacks, and free time. Television and videos should play little or no part in what your child does all day. A well-thought-out curriculum stimulates your child’s development and makes daily life more fun.
If the daycare is full when you inquire, get on their waiting list. Generally they will have some sort of idea when they will have an opening. Sometimes you may get lucky and get it sooner if the people above you on the list chose care elsewhere !