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How to Find the Best Child Care



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It’s official: Child care providers play an integral role in setting the stage for children’s future success. 

HELP WANTED: The perfect child care provider

  • Background — child-centered philosophy of education/community involvement/college-educated/state-accredited/emergency training with policies and procedures in place
  • Experience in early childhood field
  • Ability to communicate with both child and parents
  • Ability to discipline, comfort and teach conflict resolution and self-regulation
  • Intangibles — provide nurturing environment conducive to learning   

“In the past 20 years there has been a huge influx of preschool studies that have honed in on the science behind education and improving child outcomes,” says Shannon Riley-Ayers, an early childhood research professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. In looking at how teachers provide emotional and instructional support, enhance cognitive development and approach educating the whole child, one thing became abundantly clear: “Teaching quality is a big component” toward long-term student success, she reports. 

That’s why it’s imperative to select just the right child care provider for your preschooler. As monumental as the task is, however, the search doesn’t have to be stressful if you know what to look for.

Interpret the care environment

As a mom of three, Crystal Valentine-Gwynn has become something of a pro at vetting home care providers as well as local daycare centers. In addition to certain musts — the facility needs to be safe, pass Department of Public Welfare inspections and be state-accredited, meeting certain academic and professional standards — the Montgomery Co. resident looks for “things that can’t be taught.” 

Such as? “The greeting my child gets when I drop him off, the TLC when he falls and gets a skinned knee, the special projects, the structure of the educational component, the little extra that they do just because they care,” Valentine-Gwynn enumerates.

Riley-Ayers agrees that upon entering a classroom, you can tell right away if the children care about their teacher, setting and each other. Just look for the clues, the way she did in the following scenario: “When I walked in it was hard to find the teacher at first, because she was down engaging with the children at their level. I saw her have great interactions with them. Later, after snack, the students cleaned up their area. Some of them got a dustpan and swept under the table. That showed me that they have responsibility in the classroom and that they value their place.”

Next page: Planned preK activities to set the stage for Kindergarten success 

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