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13 Things You Should Know Before Choosing a Daycare

As your little ones grow up (or if you’re expecting your first), you’ll want to consider signing them up for daycare. Here are 13 points to keep in mind when making your big decision.

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Get on That Wait List ASAP

Congratulations, you’re expecting! Time to think about daycare. Waiting lists are long, so get on oneor, better yet, several. It’s common for parents to sign up as soon as they know they’re going to have a baby.

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Check Out the Facility

All centre-based and some home-based daycares are licensed and will have the documentation to prove it. But not all approved daycares are created equal. While the oversight body in each province regulates and monitors them–including doing spot checksequally important is how you and your child feel at the daycare. Consider the staff’s demeanour, the facility’s cleanliness and whether the environment is warm and welcoming. “Look, listen and feel,” says Don Giesbrecht, CEO of the non-profit Canadian Child Care Federation. “And ask probing questions.”

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Check the Daycare’s Report

Licensed daycares are scored. Request the daycare’s report if it’s not posted at the centre; it should also be searchable online.

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Daily Fees Vary by Province

Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Quebec all have caps on the daily fees that can be charged by a licensed daycare; Ontario has the highest fees, with British Columbia and Alberta close behind. In Ontario, you’ll pay about $14,000 a year if you have an infant; $10,000 if your child is between two and five. That’s about $38 a day, compared to Quebec’s $7.

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Many Centres Have Age Requirements

Be aware that many centres are only open to children 18 months and upfewer care centres are willing to incur the costs that higher staff-to-child ratios require.

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Are the Staff Early Childhood Educators?

Find out if the staff at the centre are registered early childhood educators, meaning they’ve been trained in the developmental milestones from infancy to age six. Ask about the staff-to-child ratio, whether the centre offers progress reports and if it holds parent-teacher nightsthese are all signs the facility is dedicated to professional child care.

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What’s the Daycare’s Curriculum?

Every really good child-care program has a curriculum,” Giesbrecht says. Ask about it. What is the centre’s philosophy, and how does it educate children? How does it discipline?

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Are They Insured?

If the daycare’s not insured, consider that a red flagowners may not have taken the necessary steps to run a legitimate program. Operating without insurance leaves a facility open to liability in the event of an on-site incident.

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Make Sure Their Safety Procedures Are Up-to-Date

Ensure the centre has fire safety procedures in place in case of an emergency, as well as up-to-date first-aid and CPR training for staff.

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Get Involved

Once your child is enrolled, get involved by communicating any questions, concerns, needs and requests. “Parents are the key drivers of quality,” says Giesbrecht.

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Ensure That They Practice Proper Food Hygiene

Licensed daycares have to meet certain health and food-safety requirements, such as storing and cooking food at correct temperatures, ensuring all appliances are in working order and adhering to expiry dates. They should also have a plan for dealing with allergies and food sensitivities.

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Children Should Have Plenty to Do

An active child is a happy child. Examine the play areas and equipment. Is there a backyard to inspire running around? Is children’s art displayed prominently? Spend a morning or two at the centre to give you a clear picture of the day-to-day activities.

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Can They Meet Your Child’s Needs?

Your child may attend the same daycare in the years leading up to kindergarten. When assessing a potential facility, consider whether the centre has programs set up to meet the needs of various ages.