Now that your list of potential child care providers is shorter, you should prepare to visit these programs.
There are three main things to be looking for when you visit a child care program:
- The Providers
- The Children
- The Space
- Can you talk easily with the provider? Are you comfortable with the person or the staff? Do you feel you can trust the provider?
- Does the provider seem to enjoy being with the children? Is she/he really listening and responding to them?
- How does the provider discipline the children? Be aware that Maryland law forbids corporal punishment.
- Does the provider use a calm voice? Does she/he speak to the children on their own level?
- Does the program have written policies and procedures? If so, do parents receive copies?
- Do the children appear happy? Are they engaged by the activities?
- Are the children given a chance to make choices? Are they able to "explore" on their own?
- Do the children seem to understand and follow the program's rules and routines?
Look at the Space
- Is the provider's child care license or registration displayed?
- Does the program area look clean and safe?
- Do the children wash their hands before eating and after using the toilet?
- Are cleaning supplies, sharp objects, medicines, and other dangerous items put away out of the children's reach?
- Is there enough space indoors and outdoors so all the children have room to play? Is the outdoor play area safe?
- Is there enough heat, light, and ventilation?
- Are there fire extinguishers and smoke detectors?
- Are all toys and materials in good condition? Are they suitable for the children's ages? Can the children reach them easily?
- If meals and snacks are provided by the program, are they nutritious? Are they the kinds of food you want your child to eat?
- In general, does the program have a safe, healthy, and happy "feel" to it? Is it a place where children can be children?
Even in a group of same-age children, each child is unique and has his or her own needs. When you visit programs, watch to see whether the providers are responsive to the various needs of the different children. Do they individualize their care for each child? You want to ensure that your child is going to be treated as the individual person he or she is at the program you choose.
It can be helpful to bring this list and/or your own list when you visit programs. Make sure you get answers especially about the issues that are most important to you. If you feel like it would help, do not be shy about visiting a program more than once. You are gathering information to make an important decision. The ultimate questions you are trying to answer are these:
- Would your child feel happy and comfortable attending this program?
- Would you feel happy and comfortable leaving your child at this program?
Those questions lead to the next step in the process - Choosing A Program.