Choosing who will care for your child while you’re at work or away can be a daunting task for both new and seasoned parents. It’s important to know when to start looking for a daycare center, what questions to ask, red flags to watch out for, and the price range you can afford before you begin your search.
Every city is different, and every parent has a different set of needs and expectations for their daycare center. Here are some tips that can help you research and select daycare centers and ministries right here in Bloomington! However, these ideas may translate to daycare searches wherever you may live.
When to Start Looking
Hint, if you’re more than a few months pregnant, you might be running out of time! Many parents assume they can start touring daycare facilities a month or two before they might need them, and land a spot at their preferred location. It can’t be that hard to get into a daycare center, right? Wrong.
Wait lists are common in the majority of Bloomington daycare centers, especially for infant care. If you are hoping to enroll your child as an infant, plan to start looking early in your pregnancy. Touring facilities and weighing the pros and cons of each can be time consuming. Start your search early and give yourself plenty of time to find the right fit for your family.
It Costs How Much?
Prices in Bloomington vary a lot depending on what you need – full-time versus part-time care, your child’s age, whether or not your child is potty trained, and what is included in the cost (e.g., diapers, meals, etc.). For full-time daycare centers and ministries you can expect to pay anywhere between $115-$250 per week, or more.
Infant care is more expensive, and prices can flex depending on if you have siblings also attending. Write down prices along with pros and cons, and then start your tours.
Questions to Ask While Touring Daycare Centers
Figure out what is most important to you and ask those questions first. Time is limited, especially if you’re doing your tour during a normal business day. While centers are often more than happy to offer tours to new parents, especially nervous first-time parents, it helps them and you if you’re prepared ahead of time with your questions.
- What is included in the price (e.g., meals, diapers, wipes, curriculum, etc.)?
- What is the daily schedule for your child’s age group, and are there set learning and play times?
- What are the sleeping guidelines?
- How are food allergies/restrictions handled?
- Are all staff CPR/First AID certified?
- Does the facility have a current state license?
- What is the visitation policy and can family members come to visit during the day/pick up?
- Are doors left unlocked during the day?
- How is sickness handled and what is the policy for returning after sickness?
- What age groups are together?
- Do they assist with potty training?
- Is there an outside play area?
- What is the teacher/student ratio?
- Will my child’s day be tracked (e.g., diaper changes, eating, naps, mood, activities, etc.)?
Also, ask if there is a current parent you can talk to about their experience. Often other parents are the best judges of what is really happening in a daycare center. Get contact information from your tour guide for follow-up questions as they pop into your head later.
Red Flags to Look for
While every daycare center will be different, and place their emphasis on different things, there are some warning signs to look out for when you’re touring and observing. These include:
- There is no clear daily schedule. Schedules vary depending on age group, and sometimes even the day. However, there should be regular times for meals, diaper changes, and naps.
- The person you are speaking with is not sure about safety guidelines or licensing.
- Teachers are not interacting with the children, or seem to not have a connection with the children in their class.
- Unsafe outdoor areas. The play equipment doesn’t seem age appropriate, clean of trash, and clear of potential hazards. Children are not secure behind a fence.
- The building seems unclean or unsafe. Kids (and therefore daycare centers) can be messy, but there is a difference between messy and dirty.
- There are too many children and too few adults.
- Feedings and diaper changes are not tracked for younger children.
- Unsafe sleep environments and practices.
- It just doesn’t feel like the place for you. Listen to your gut.