That question answered, through the lens of maximizing your child's natural motor development...
First. Identify your values.
The obvious first step in finding that dream daycare is you nailing down what your values are in a childcare program. Ask yourselves things like: How much adult engagement do I want for my child? How do I want caregivers physically handling my child? How much floor time do I want my baby to have? How much free play or outside time is enough for me? What kind of environment do I want for my child? What kind of communication do you need from the daycare? What do you want them teaching your child, if anything? Do you value stellar reviews from other families? A bright and cheerful environment? Licensed and accredited?
Identify what is most important to you.
Second. Visit multiple facilities.
When you have your list of values, research different options in your area, and then visit them. Heck, visit them multiple times. Make an appointment for a tour, then, show up unannounced. Get an authentic view of what happens there throughout the day.
Third. Observe closely.
As you visit various options, make as many observations as you can. Does the environment provide babies freedom to move? Or are the babies all in containers? Are the babies smiling? Is the staff smiling? Are providers happy to see kids as they arrive? Are providers actively interacting and engaging with the babies? How do they pick up, put down, and move the babies? Does it look child-led, and that the best interest of the child comes before what is convenient for the facility? Do they exhibit your values in a caregiver?
Fourth. Ask all of the questions.
Whether you have 3 or 15, it’s okay to ask all of them. Don't shy away from any. Here is some question-list inspiration: What is the adult-child ratio? How much time is spent outside? How much time is spent on the floor? How much time to babies spend in containers? What is the retention rate of employees? Can I talk to a current family? What are your policies?
As you interact with different programs, take note of the vibe you get. Does the tour feel rote, or does it give off a feeling of genuine love of children?
Grab my full checklist to take with you on a tour!
Fifth. Consider your circumstances.
Think about your own family logistics when choosing a daycare. Consider your routine in the morning and getting out of the house. What would be a reasonable driving distance? What would cause stress? What is going to give you a happy child and happy home life? What is the budget?
The bottom line.
This is a big decision. If you were your child over the next two to three years, at which option would you want to spend large amounts of time? This will be your baby's home away from home, so follow that mama or papa bear gut feeling. We want this to be a good fit!
meet the blogger
Austen is a pediatric occupational therapist with experience in schools, early intervention, and private clinic settings. She now runs her own private practice in Portland, OR specializing in movement based learning techniques. This blog's mission is to educate and empower parents and children by sharing insights into the complexities of learning and development.