Finding a daycare near me was one of the biggest tasks I had to do while relocating to Mumbai. I was very sure I wanted professional childcare while my daughter is still young. I was not comfortable in having a nanny at home while she is still in preschool. So finding a good Creche was the only option for me. It was a long and tedious process and I learnt a few things along the way. Here are my considerations for choosing the right daycare option.
Considerations for Choosing Daycare and Creche
1. Compare Staff Child Ratio at the Creche
I was appalled to find that some daycare centers ran with staff to student ratio of as low as 1:5. Can you imagine your state if there are five kids screaming for your attention? This was the most important thing for me in choosing a good day care. I gave a very high importance to having enough care givers. My school friend said that in US, the ratio needs to be 1:1 or 1:2 by law. 1:5 ratio is just not enough. Another thing to consider is the quality of staff. Most centers would have a split between teachers and maids. You need to ensure that the center is not running primarily on helpers. They need to have enough teachers around throughout the day. Staff who visits for specific activities like Dance, Art, Craft or Martial Arts needs to be extra and not counted in this ratio. This is especially important because in the early years, the children soak up everything around them like a sponge. You want the care givers to be able to teach them the right language and basic manners.
2. Check Infrastructure of the Daycare Centre
The center should be clean and with a high level of hygiene. This is a given! I would also recommend seeing the place after-hours. I found that in some places, the bathrooms were used to store plastic benches and toys after the kids were gone. Another place had a dysfunctional kitchen. They used the overhead kitchen cabinets as shoe racks and right underneath was the microwave where kids tiffins were kept and food was heated. These were complete deal breakers for me. Be careful of how much space the daycare centre has. If it has a secure open playing area, nothing like it! Even indoors, there should be ample place for the kids to move around and play. The toys, furniture, first aid needs to be looked at as well. You must also check if they have a quarantine room. If the age range of children at the daycare goes from infant to toddlers, there needs to be a separate infant area. This is essential for the safety and health of both. I have seen many day cares operate in housing societies and use the common areas like garden, play area etc. for the day care kids. While this is better than not having access to the facilities at all, the security of the children can be a challenge. Kids can run around and even wander off. The staff needs to have a strict process for controlling this. As the kids grow older and start school, they will also have homework and tests etc. If the day care allocates specific time for the kids to sit and do homework and help them study, nothing like it.
3. Inquire about the Daycare Center Communication Methods
These days, most creches and day care centers provide live cctv feed to the parents while others will send them daily updates via Facebook, sms, email or whatsapp. Find out all the forms of communication and check the regularity of feedback. Inquire about the incident reports mechanism. How are parents notified in case the child has an accident or falls ill? What are the emergency procedures they follow? How often are the parents invited to meet the staff?
4. Check the Operating Days and Timing of the Daycare
This was the second most important criterion for me . The daycare center needed to start early and end late for me to beat traffic in the morning and allow for some late evening meetings. I also wanted an option of Saturday. However, the one I ended up choosing did not satisfy any of these. I realised that as long as the timing allowed me spend sufficient time at work, I could be flexible with this. However, the operating days and timing are very important considerations and it totally depends on your work timings and other support system. It is also good to have a Flexi plan where the day care will operate on one or two Saturdays in a month allowing you to complete chores, shopping or an occasional date while the kiddo is at day-care. Another aspect is public holidays. Schools have a lot more holidays than offices. The creche needs to work as per office’s holiday calendar and not the school’s. On the school holidays, they should allow the kid to spend the whole day and not just the post school hours. Also, the annual leaves for the creche itself needs to be communicated to the parents well in advance.
A very important aspect with respect to the timing is also the location of the creche. Should it be close to your office or your home? I feel that while the kid is very young, say 6 months to 18 months, a day care closer to office works better. This will allow you to visit your baby easily and spend some time on the way too. As your kid gets ready for play school or regular school, it is better to have the creche closer to the school. How they go from school to the day care is important too. Does the school bus work out? How does the handover of the kids happen?
5. Interact with the Staff at the Creche
Last but not the least is the attitude of the staff. Interact with the childcare providers and if possible, observe them with the other children. The day I went to visit this daycare, I saw the center co-ordinator cradling a two year old in her arms. He was a new child and was crying for his mother. I saw how everyone was treating him. And realised that the children at that centre are loved! As against another center where we were talking to the teachers and right behind us, in the open the kids were being made to change clothes. You definitely want to avoid such places.
There are other considerations too like whether the provide food, what activities they have etc. I think it depends on what you are comfortable with and how the crèche helps you with your day. What are your considerations?
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