What Is “High-Quality” Child Care?
Enrolling your child in an early learning program can be overwhelming. There is a sea of choices when it comes to actually choosing a care provider, and sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly to look for.
Research shows that high-quality early care is critical to children’s learning and development, social skills and more. Fortunately, there are many high-quality child care options in Indiana — if you know where to look and what to ask. We are here to help you select the best care for your child. Read on to discover the things to look for when seeking high-quality child care.
1) Focus on Learning and Development
Take note of the activities, toys and games available to the children. The materials offered should interest your child and draw them into the learning activity. Listen to the conversations between caregivers and children. Are they engaged in conversations that take multiple turns back and forth? Are there outdoor activities as well as indoor? Are they mentally stimulating? Physically stimulating? There should be a variety of each. Inquire about the curricula and assessments the program uses to ensure they are focused on understanding your child’s growth and development.
Strong relationships are built when your child consistently connects with the same caregivers. Speak with the potential provider about the tenure and turnover of their staff, and ask about their approach to continuous professional development.
2) Proper Health & Safety Procedures
When choosing an early learning provider, there’s nothing more important than your child’s health and safety. Asking about safety procedures is the first thing you should do when visiting a child care provider. Make sure that members of the staff know CPR, first aid and safe sleep practices at the very least.
Furthermore, child care programs are more likely to protect children from harm and illness if they consistently practice standards such as frequently washing hands, disinfecting diaper changing stations, cleaning toys and properly storing cleaning supplies and other poisonous materials.
This will give you peace of mind knowing your child will be cared for in a safe and healthful environment.
3) Group Sizes and Ratios
Another indicator of high-quality child care is appropriate child-to-staff ratios. This means that for every adult staff member, there is an appropriate number of children under supervision. You should always check to see how many adults work at the child care provider and how many children they care for.
These factors can affect the quality of care for children in relation to safety, attention given and daily adult interactions. Depending on the age and personality of your child, take a moment to understand which group size and ratio works best for you. Look for opportunities for your child to be independent, work together with caregivers and other children, and change activities throughout the day.
4) Family Engagement
Quality programs work closely with families to ensure they are informed about their child’s development and are a welcomed partner in their care. They often have an open-door policy, which means family members are free to come and go at any time. Ask to sit in (during appropriate times) or to stop by for visits. Additionally, a program that provides written policies that include and engage families may be signs of true family partnerships.
5) Enrolled in PATHS to Quality™
Paths to QUALITY™ is Indiana’s statewide quality rating and improvement system for early care and education. It consists of four levels and each level builds on the foundation of the previous one. Providers start at Level 1 and work their way towards national accreditation at the highest level, Level 4.
Participation in the program is voluntary, but all Paths to QUALITY programs meet basic health and safety standards. When programs do more to support learning, use a planned curriculum or reach national accreditation, they achieve a higher level rating.