I have to admit -- we visited one daycare. One. I had contacted a few others, and viewed the websites of most in my area. For many, I had my decision formed based on their website and information on it, others I formed a decision based on email or phone contact. But one daycare center fit the bill nearly perfectly and both Mr. Pen and I had a gut instinct that it was the right place when we visited.
These are the qualities that influenced me to either accept/reject, in no particular order:
- Mr. Pen and I had to crunch our numbers and come up with the maximum amount we would be willing to pay for a daycare we loved. We had an ideal price as well. I work part-time, and will be paying for full-time daycare, so budget was definitely important as we have a price we definitely could not go above. But I didn’t want to compromise quality for price either.
- Our first preference was a location within walking distance because Mr. Pen and I share one car. Mr. Pen walks or bikes the one mile to work most days, and if daycare was close enough to allow him to participate in daycare drop-offs and pick-ups, it would help us both immensely, as well as reducing the number of hours J would actually be in daycare.
- This wasn’t a consideration until I was knee-deep in “researching” daycares. But the schedule that daycares set is so important to the children, staff and well-being of both. One daycare I looked at was significantly cheaper, which was appealing to me, but their daily schedule included some activities I wasn’t completely comfortable with.
- The center we ultimately ended up choosing has a wonderfully varied staff; the lead teachers all have degrees, mostly in childhood education. The associate teachers mostly have degrees and much experience in childcare, and they also employ aides who are either high school or college students gaining experience under the leadership of the more experienced staff. This staffing model was very comfortable to me.
- Another area I hadn’t considered until the director of our daycare brought it up. As a director, she said she has seen children have to adjust to many transitions, and she doesn’t want childcare to have to be one of them. She wanted us to be 100% sure that where we send our son is where he is meant to be, and will stay through until kindergarten. The center we chose has a preschool program that J can transition to next fall, and that means he can stay somewhere he loves.
- How were the rooms divided? What types of amenities did the facility provide for the children? Was there a safe outside play area? What are the safety parameters of the daycare? The daycare we chose keeps their doors locked during the day, have an onsite play area with sandbox and plenty of toys that is fenced in and additionally have an indoor gym for days that are too cold or rainy for outdoor play. That was a huge perk for me!
- Initially I was concerned about the meals the center provides, but the director reassured me that all meals are prepared on-site from scratch, and they have a kitchen staff that takes care of it. In addition, every meal is served with a fresh fruit or vegetable. Parents aren’t allowed to bring in food because of food allergies, except in the case of severe diet limitations, in which case the cook tailors the meals.
- We didn’t actively search for references, but they kind of fell in our lap! The personal stories and references from people who do or have sent their children to this center is really what affirmed that this is where he is supposed to be! We found out that two of Mr. Pen’s colleagues send their children to this center and gave it the highest praise!
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Overall we could not be more thrilled with our daycare choice and I am really looking forward to when he starts in August because I have no doubts that he will love it. Because the center is right next door, we often see them taking walks around the house behind our apartment – I love that even before he has started there, we are building relationships with the teachers and staff – I love them more each and every time I see them.
What factors led you to choose a daycare?