7 tips to pick a quality child care program in North Carolina

7 tips to pick a quality child care program in North Carolina

While daycare may be mostly fun and games for tots, finding the right child care program for youngsters in North Carolina is anything but child’s play.

Parents consider many things when choosing who will care for their kids, including a daycare's hours, location and cost. But the most important consideration — quality — is harder to measure.

You can find reviews from other parents of Charlotte-area child care programs on Angie's List, but you'll also want to visit the potential child care center or daycare provider for a tour.

Checklist to find a good daycare

It may be hard to assess every aspect of the child care program, but here are seven things to pay special attention to, according to Denise Squier of Charlotte’s Childcare Resources Inc.

1. Star rating: North Carolina has a star-rated child care licensing system with a range from 1 to 5 stars. One star means the program meets basic licensing requirements. Child care programs that choose to meet higher standards can apply for a two- to five-star license.

2. Staff education and training: Daycare staff with a college degree in early childhood education tend to provide higher quality child care because they are more knowledgeable about young children’s development. All staff providing care in licensed programs are required to have annual training.

3. Staff and child interaction: Child care providers should consistently treat children in a warm and caring manner. Adults should use age-appropriate guidance techniques, such as positive reinforcement and redirection.

4. Staff-to-child ratios: Pay close attention to the staff-to-child ratio for your child’s age group. Child care programs are required to maintain specific staff-child ratios based on the age of the children in care. Ask how many children are enrolled in the daycare and how many teachers are present in the preschool classroom.

5. Health and safety standards: The space should be clean, free of items that are potentially harmful to children, smoke free, well lighted and a comfortable temperature. Toys and equipment should be safe, clean and in good repair.

6. Developmentally appropriate activities: Child care programs should have a variety of materials and books available for children based on their age. Higher quality programs use a curriculum to plan for daily learning activities that align with early learning standards. Ask what curriculum is being used and what a typical day looks like.

7. Parent and family involvement: An open door policy is important. Parents should be able to visit the daycare at any time — unannounced! After selecting and enrolling in a child care program, stay involved and become informed about what is happening on an ongoing basis.

These highlights can get you started. You also can take a downloadable checklist with you to make the most of your visit. Additionally, here are eight questions to ask a provider.

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