Saturday, April 14, 2012

Child Care

Choosing appropriate child care for your infant or young child can seem as overwhelming as helping your teenager select a college or university. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child is safe and happy in a child care environment that is fun, educational, and nurturing. Here are some tips for making such an important decision.

Your Child and Family

About 70% of parents place their young children in some type of daily care. Whether you choose in-home or center-based care, a preschool, or someone else's home for your child's daily care setting, you should follow some specific guidelines to ensure receiving quality, professional care.
Most important is to know your own child's temperament, likes and dislikes, health, interests, and behavior. For a baby under 1 year old, give careful attention to your child's need to be nurtured and held, any special health needs, and the type of person you want to care for your child during the first year of life. For an older child, developing play and learning styles, interaction with other kids, intellectual curiosity, and need for individualized attention should be considered.
The family's own values and emotional needs also come into play. Some parents are overly anxious about leaving their very young child with one person, while others prefer this individual care. But by age 3 or 4, it's good for kids to have at least some exposure to other kids and participate in a structured program like preschool or daycare.
Before choosing a care setting, you should be aware of the options available and consider cost, location, and reputation

The Fine Print

Once you've hired a caregiver, draw up a specific contract outlining expected duties, hours, salary, paid vacation, and sick leave; include parental obligations as part of that contract. Establish a review date within a few months to discuss how the arrangement is working and to fine-tune the agreement. Observe the caregiver's interaction with your child routinely and unexpectedly.

Warning Signs

Here are signs to look for if you suspect that your child is being mistreated:
  • The caregiver has lied to you or stolen from you.
  • He or she does not answer questions about the daily routine.
  • You come home to find your child unsupervised.
  • The caregiver does not respond to your child.
  • Your child becomes moody or withdrawn or has problems eating or sleeping.
  • Your child suddenly becomes upset when left with the caregiver.
  • You simply have a bad feeling about the caregiver.
Parents should be sure the nanny or au pair has the support needed to be a positive caregiver, including adequate time off and opportunities to meet other caregivers in the area. Parents should always be available by phone or pager to answer emergency calls. In other words, work together and form a partnership for your child's care.

Preschools

Preschools, as the name indicates, provide an educational program for young children before starting kindergarten or elementary school. Many day care centers now also incorporate early childhood curricula into their programs. The NAEYC lists these 10 signs of a great preschool:
  • Children spend most of their time playing and working with materials or with other kids.
  • Kids have access to various activities throughout the day.
  • Teachers work with individual kids, small groups, and the whole group at different times during the day.
  • The classroom is decorated with children's original artwork and projects.
  • Kids learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences.
  • Children work on projects and have long periods of time to play and explore.
  • Worksheets are used rarely, if at all.
  • Kids have an opportunity to play outside in a safe play area every day.
  • Teachers read books to kids individually or in small groups.
  • Curricula are adapted for those who are ahead as well as those who need additional help.
  • Children and their parents look forward to school.

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