Daycare Benefits And How To Choose The Best Daycare
Leaving their child in a crèche or daycare centre is now a compulsion for most working parents. Read on to know how to ensure the best care for your baby at a childcare facility.
By Kumudam Berkin and Parama Gupta
Are you a parent who feels guilty about putting your child in daycare? Do you wonder how sending your child to daycare for the first time will affect her physically and emotionally?
Well, you aren't the only parent to lose sleep over such questions. In fact, most parents fret over leaving their child in a daycare centre. With our society changing rapidly, Indians are waking up to the need for childcare services. And, like the West, formal daycare centres or crèche facilities are becoming common in India.
Many of these centres not only provide basic childcare services but also help with early learning. So, they have a significant impact on the overall development of a child.
The article, ‘Current research on childcare effects’, published in the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development', says that there are both advantages and disadvantages of putting your child in daycare. One study found that leaving children less than 4.5 years old for a long time in a daycare centre led to behavioural problems. But, other studies have revealed that good quality crèche facilities promote cognitive development and enhance learning skills.
However, good daycare centres that encourage language learning, engage in activities to promote development and teach basic math skills are very few. And, they have to cope with the problem of overcrowding. So, to find a quality daycare centre for your child, you have to start your search early — at least a couple of months before you actually enrol him. Here are a few tips to help you find the best daycare near you.
Types of daycare centres
While looking for the best daycare centre near you, keep in mind your child's age and the kind of childcare services you need. Here are the different types of daycare centres:
- babycare centres that take care of children who are yet to cross developmental milestones
- long daycare centres for children of working parents
- nursery care for toddlers
- preparatory schools for children between three and six years old
- before/after school care centres for children up to 12 years old; they are also open on no-school days
Most daycare centres in India are either run by schools or even by individuals in their homes. Some daycare chains providing quality childcare services like KLAY Daycare, Footprints and WeCare have also entered the market in recent years.
Sending your child to daycare: Things to consider
We don't live in a perfect world and this applies to daycare centres as well. There are gaps in the policies of every childcare facility. However, here are a few things on which you shouldn't compromise:
- Safety of the child: Before enrolling your child for daycare, check the license and accreditation of the childcare facility. Review the policies of the centre to understand how they ensure the safety of children. This includes matters such as precautions while taking children out for walks or short trips, handing over the child to persons authorised by parents, sick-child policy and so on.
- Teacher/caregiver support: For your child to feel comfortable and develop well, encouragement and support from the daycare centre staff is a must. So, get to know the teachers and other staff well. Ask about information such as teachers' qualifications, how long they have been in service, and their philosophy on disciplining, handling picky eaters and dealing with tantrums.
- Caregiver and child ratio: This depends on the age group of the children. Ideally, an attendant in a childcare facility should take care of 3 to 5 toddlers at a time. At the preschool stage, a single teacher or attendant can take care of 10 to 15 children.
- Daycare centre hygiene: Maintaining hygiene in a daycare centre is important to reduce the chances of children falling sick. Check if the centre makes it a rule to clean the floors with disinfectant every day. Do they tidy up the place after the day’s play is over and clean the toys regularly? Also, check the cleanliness and hygiene of sanitary accessories for children. Verify if the staff stick to hygienic practices while providing food and snacks to children. Ask to know the source of their cooking ingredients and methods to ensure the food is hygienic and nutritious for young children. Also, inspect the kitchens, toilets and the workspace to be sure of the cleanliness practices followed by the staff.
- Child’s comfort levels: Is your child comfortable in the presence of strangers, especially when you aren't around? If left with toys, would she spend time alone? Is she toilet-trained? If the answer to these questions is a 'No', do not rush things. Think of enrolling your child in daycare only when she is fully prepared. Ideally, your child should be at least 1 year old before you consider enrolling him in daycare. By this time, he would be on solid foods, potty-trained, express his needs better, and handle long hours of separation from the parents.
- Daycare fees: The payment policies and amount differ, depending on the type of daycare and the services provided. Some follow a monthly payment system while others have a yearly payment system. Some even charge for a term. The high-end daycare centres usually charge around Rs 7,000 to 10,000 per month, apart from a registration fee of around Rs 4,000 to 5,000. However, it is best to check with the centres to get clarity on their pricing policies. Certain childcare facilities charge on the basis of the number of hours the child spends at the centre. The figure is usually around Rs 100 to Rs 150 per hour. Do these charges fit into your budget?
If any of the above-mentioned factors are out of line with your child's needs and yours, think deeply about whether you would be willing to compromise. If not, then move on to the next childcare facility on your list.
"The three main factors to determine the reliability of a daycare centre are:
Transparency: How much a parent trusts a daycare centre, depends on how transparent the centre is, in terms of its daily operations. Consider these questions:
• Does the school have a live CCTV feed, or provide access to CCTV feed to parents in case of any incidents?
• What happens when a child is involved in any incident?
• What is the escalation matrix beyond the teacher or the daycare coordinator, if parents have issues?
• How open is the school or daycare in taking parent feedback?
Parent communication: Following are some questions you can ask the daycare centre management:
• Does the school or daycare interact with parents on a need-to-know basis or provide a daily update?
• How do they use technology to enable better communication?
• Does the communication focus on how the child is developing as an individual?
Reviews: One of the best ways to know if the daycare centre you are looking at is a trusted one is to check for other parents' reviews on specific subjects like infrastructure, staff, policies and rules."
— Priya Krishnan, Founder & CEO of KLAY and Founding Years Learning Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
Benefits of daycare for children
A good daycare centre not only takes care of your child but also uses various activities to teach and develop different skills. Some benefits of putting your child in daycare are:
1. Toddlers in daycare learn the basics of academics such as letters of the alphabet, numbers, shapes, colours and so on through primers, toys and games.
2. By using various toy-based and group activities, the trained staff can help your child develop:
- cognitive skills
- social skills
- fine and gross motor skills
3. Socialising with other children enhances your child's communication skills.
4. Going to a daycare centre makes your child's transition to preschool much easier.
5. When encouraged by caregivers, your child would be more willing to try new foods and stop being a picky eater.
6. The structured environment in a daycare centre keeps your child occupied and decreases the chances of developing erratic behaviour.
Daycare centre: Tips to choose the best childcare facility
It is always a good idea to ask for references from friends and acquaintances who have availed the services of a childcare centre. They can tip you off on the facilities, policies and efficacy of a centre. But, to narrow down your search and find the best daycare centre near you, keep in mind these criteria:
- Search for a daycare centre that is close to your home or workplace.
- Enquire about the reputation of the childcare facility. A centre with a warm environment will be perfect.
- Read the childcare facility's policy document to understand how safe your child would be.
- Ask about the curriculum to get an idea of how structured and child-centric it is.
- Check if the teachers are qualified and sensitive to the child’s needs.
- Drop by unannounced to get a good idea of cleanliness and safety measures in place.
First impressions speak volumes. During your first visit, make sure you chat with a few parents to get an honest feedback about the centre. It is also a good idea to check if the daycare centre is well equipped with medical facilities.
- Leaving your baby at a daycare for the first time may make you feel anxious, especially when she is reluctant to go. For easy transition to daycare, begin by training your child at home at least a week before the first day of daycare.
- Create situations to keep your child away from you for longer than usual. Give her toys such as building blocks, jigsaw puzzles, miniature play sets and other age-appropriate toys to play with during this time. This can help your child get accustomed to spending time on her own.
- Leave her at a friend’s or neighbour’s house once in a while to help her adapt to new surroundings.
- Show her pictures of daycare centres well stocked with playthings and miniature furniture, and having a colourful ambience. Create an air of excitement so that the child longs to be in such a place.
- While you tell your child all the good things about daycare, also tell her what to expect at the childcare facility. A good understanding of what happens in daycare will make it easy for your child to adapt.
- Let your child take along a comfort item such as her favourite soft toy when preparing for daycare drop-off.
Sending your child to daycare for the first time: Do's and Don'ts
- Ensure the crèche has your phone numbers and also an emergency number as backup.
- Make sure that you inform the daycare about your child's food allergies.
- Get to know the caretakers of your child.
- Talk to your child regularly to find out how her day went and to know if she is happy.
- On the first day of daycare for your infant, acquaint the caregiver with everything your child needs such as the kind of formula, feeding schedule and medication.
- If your child is older, watch out for any unusual behaviour or tantrums.
- Don’t ever feel guilty about double-checking references or visiting and revisiting the daycare centre.
- Don’t rely too much on information you gathered from the Internet.
- Don’t assume that a childcare facility with all the necessary licences means quality care for your child.
- Don’t forget to examine the centre’s policies and procedures.
Apart from these considerations, establish a good rapport with the staff at your chosen daycare centre. This will ensure that your child has an enjoyable experience at the centre and gets the right environment necessary for his overall development.
"If the child develops high fever, vomiting, or is affected by a communicable disease while at the centre, he/she needs to be immediately quarantined (or at least separated from other children and allowed to rest). The parent should be immediately informed about the child’s situation and requested to pick up the child immediately. Until the parent arrives, any necessary medication can be administered to the child, with the parent’s consent through phone or email. The child needs to be fever-free for 24 hours to be brought back to the daycare centre.
In case of any medical emergencies, like the child being unable to breathe, or getting convulsions, or bleeding due to injury, immediate first aid/CPR should be administered by a trained staff at the daycare, before taking the child to the nearest hospital that the daycare centre has a tie-up with. If the child gets a minor injury at the centre, the centre needs to immediately administer first aid treatment, inform the parent, and let the parent take the decision of picking up the child. The centre should also show CCTV footage of the incident to the parent, and if it was another child who caused the injury, inform his/her parents too."
— Priya Krishnan, Founder & CEO of KLAY and Founding Years Learning Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
Childcare outside our homes is now a reality, with a majority of working parents leaving their child in a crèche or daycare centre. While there is no substitute for a parent’s love and affection, the right daycare centre can give you the right support by taking good care of your child.
About the author:
The article was written by Parama Gupta and Kumudam Berkin and published on 22 August 2019.
Parama Gupta is a freelance writer and a higher education professional, with experience in teaching mass communication at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. As a writer, her areas of interest include education (primary, secondary and higher education), travel and children's literature and films.
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