Signs of a good home daycare

For a referral to a licensed provider in NW/SWLas Vegas: 

Choosing a home daycare for your child means asking a lot of questions and being observant. Start your search about six months before you’ll need childcare (the best places fill up fast) — and use the following list as a guide. Keep in mind, though, that you likely can’t have everything. A licensed provider with a safe, clean home who loves kids and interacts well with them, and who offers a wide range of appropriate activities — but who doesn’t have an educational background in early childhood development — is still probably a good bet.Ideally, a good home daycare should have:

A good reputation

A good home daycare should have a welcoming, friendly atmosphere and be well known for its nurturing environment. Ask the provider for names and numbers of current clients and call them for references. Also, your own first impressions definitely matter here.

Bottom line: If you don’t hear good things, and it doesn’t feel right when you’re there, keep looking.

Established ground rules

It’s important for a home daycare to be flexible — letting you pick up and drop off your child at different times, for instance — but it should also have clearly established regulations for everything from operating hours to how to handle emergencies. That way you know the provider takes her responsibility — your baby — seriously.

Along the same lines, look for a provider with a strict sick-child policy. Find out which illnesses mean your child has to stay home and for how long.  A tough policy may inconvenience you if your child is ill, but keeping sick children (and adults, for that matter) away from each other makes sense. A good home daycare helps cut down on illness by requiring all children to have current immunizations and regular checkups.

If the provider doesn’t boast an open-door policy and encourage parents to stop by unannounced, chances are she’s got something to hide. Keep searching.

Bottom line: If a home daycare is poorly organized and has lax or nonexistent rules, it’s not likely to be right for you.

A stimulating curriculum

The best home daycares have structured schedules that include plenty of time for physical activity, quiet time (including daily reading sessions), individual activities, meals, snacks, and free time.  A well-thought-out curriculum stimulates your child’s development and makes daily life more fun.

Look for a provider with a wide range of age-appropriate toys that will encourage your child’s development and, as she gets older, stimulate creative, imaginative play.

Children should also have the chance to play outside every day (weather-permitting, of course) — running, jumping, and skipping are good for them physically, mentally, and socially. As with outings, make sure children are adequately supervised while they play outside. If you live in a city, where many houses don’t have safe outdoor play yards, make sure the home daycare has the next best thing, a spacious indoor area.

If you have to bring your child’s food, find out the provider’s guidelines. Some may require you to pack only nutritious foods; that’s okay — caregivers who don’t restrict candy or other sweets may not have your child’s best interests at heart. If the provider does offer food, find out what she serves at meal and snack times (and make sure she’s aware of your child’s allergies, if he has any). Does she encourage healthy eating habits and cover all the food groups? If not, keep looking.

Bottom line: If your child won’t get a wide range of age-appropriate activities, move on.

A qualified, committed caregiver

Anyone who makes a career out of caring for and teaching children should be educated and experienced. At least two years of college and a background in early childhood development (though many states don’t require this) are ideal, as is CPR and other emergency training. However, you may soon realize that this standard is harder to achieve in home daycare situations than in center care. Home daycare providers do tend to have more hands-on child raising experience than nannies as they’re usually mothers themselves. Ask about a provider’s experience and training when you interview her. If you really like her, but she doesn’t have all the emergency training you’d like, consider paying for a course yourself.

Home daycare providers should genuinely enjoy being with children and love to help them learn and explore. Note how the provider interacts with the children. Providers should be responsible, enthusiastic, and well-prepared. If you see her getting down to eye level to talk with children as individuals, consider that a promising sign. Look for a provider who shares your philosophy on sleep, discipline, feeding, and other care issues. A good provider will ask detailed questions about your child’s health and care requirements to help determine if it’s good match.

Make sure the provider is caring for the right number of kids. According to Nevada laws, home daycare providers can’t take on more than six children.  No more than two babies under 12 months, four kids under two, and two additional school-aged children at once. Any more than that and your child is likely to get less attention than he needs and deserves. Besides, small groups encourage interaction and development.

Bottom line: If the provider seems bored or inexperienced, keep looking.

Clean, safe facilities

A good home daycare is clean and sanitary. Floors, walks, and the kitchen should be kept clean, trash shouldn’t be left sitting unemptied, the caregiver should wash her hands after every diaper change, and the house should have adequate heat, light, and ventilation. A plan for emergencies should also be in place and exits should be clearly marked. Just because it’s a private home doesn’t mean it shouldn’t meet these standards; know your state’s licensing regulations so you can be sure the provider is meeting them.

As far as safety is concerned, toys and play equipment should be in good repair,  all medicines and other hazardous substances should be out of reach, bedding should be fresh and firm (to reduce the risk of SIDS for babies), and the outdoor play area should be level and secure. Smoke detectors should be in place and working, a first-aid kit and fire extinguisher should be close at hand, and all standard childproofing techniques should be followed (covered outlets, safety gates, door latches, etc.). If she’s going to drive your child in her car, make sure your car seat will fit. Keep an eye out for security as well so strangers can’t just walk in off the street.

Bottom line: If the provider’s home seems rundown or poorly kept, skip it.

A current license

A license isn’t a guarantee of quality care (that’s why you have to evaluate the caregiver herself), but you really shouldn’t consider any home daycare that doesn’t have up-to-date state credentials. Unfortunately, many states have less than stringent licensing requirements, especially for home daycares; some require only that the provider mail in a self-certification form or to add her name to a list. Nevertheless, ask any potential provider to show her your license (and call your local social services department to double-check) — it’s certainly better than nothing. Providers must also meet state licensing regulations for health and safety. A very few home daycares have been accredited by the National Association of Family Child Care; if you find one, consider yourself very lucky.

Bottom line: A license isn’t everything, but if the provider doesn’t have one, keep looking.


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