Childcare Settings: Making the Best Choice for Your Family

Whether you work full-time or a few hours a week or have other commitments, choosing a child care setting is an important decision. You want to make sure your child is in a safe, nurturing and empathic environment where he or she is exposed to a host of opportunities for learning and growth on a daily basis. You will also want to have an open and positive relationship with your child’s educator.

Good educators:

a) Know the stages of growth and development of children.
b) Offer children a stimulating environment and many learning opportunities.
c) Know how to meet the emotional needs of children.
d) Collaborate with you and listen to your concerns.
e) Want to help your child achieve the goals you have set.

A good care environment:

a) Clean, safe and accepts a small number of children in relation to the number of staff.
b) Relies on trained, fully vaccinated staff whose criminal record has been verified.
c) Has indoor and outdoor play areas.
d) Has a quiet place for rest or naps.
e) Without tobacco, both outdoors and indoors.
f) Offers regular, flexible schedules that include a variety of activities tailored to your child’s age.
g) Offers a variety of safe games and equipment, in good condition, cleaned regularly.
h) Serves nutritious meals and healthy snacks.
i) Allows you to see your child for short periods of time without announcing.
j) Excludes from its usual activities inactive time spent in front of a screen.

What is the difference between an on-call day care service and a home child care service?

Provinces and territories regulate and license home and facility-based child care in Canada.

Installation services must be licensed and, depending on the province or territory, employ trained personnel. They must meet the qualifications and health and safety standards established by the province or territory.

Family-based services do not require a permit. Some daycare educators, however, choose to be licensed and supervised by provincial or territorial child care agencies. Often these agencies are run by municipalities. They provide a more flexible, less structured environment that can be located next to or near your home.

Licensed home-based services are often just as good as those licensed, but your child is not protected by provincial regulations, such as meeting fire protection standards and playing equipment. To make sure that your child will receive quality services, it is best to visit the premises during opening hours and talk to other parents whose child is already in the community. You will need to do what an agency that licenses would do, such as requesting a valid criminal record check and making sure the provider has taken security precautions in the child care setting.

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What about part-time services?

Many centers and family settings provide part-time care. However, if you need services for part of the day or week, you may consider other possibilities.

Some families opt for various types of child care. For example:

a) If you work part-time or have a flexible schedule, you may consider a kindergarten or a day care center.
b) You can share a babysitter with another family.
c) You ask a family member to take care of your child for part of the day, and you send him or her to a day care center the rest of the time.

If you decide to go for more than one day care, consider the following factors:

a) If your child has to go to several places every day, you will all become exhausted.
b) Avoid integrating more than a few services into your child’s schedule.
c) Try to avoid frequent changes to your child’s daily schedule.
d) Wherever your child goes, make sure he receives quality services.
e) Observe your child. Is he comfortable and happy in every situation? Does he seem to be learning well and  growing well?

How to find the right childcare?

Start your search quickly, several months before returning to work or (in some places) even before the birth of your baby. Here are a few inquiries to pose to yourself before you begin:

a) What type of service would best fit the age and temperament of your child?
b) At what times of the day do you need services?
c) Do more than one of your children need services?
d) What price can you pay? Are you eligible for a government grant?
e) Do you prefer a facility or home service?
f) Would it be more convenient for the community to be near your home or work?

To find the care settings in your community, see:

a) Your provincial or territorial government’s website about child care settings
yellow pages under Childcare or Early Childhood Centers;
b) The website of your municipality;
c) Local child and family services offices;
d) Non-profit organizations and community information centers;
e) The friends of your neighborhood.
f) Your employer, your co-workers or your child’s doctor.

When you have found educators or potential care settings, call or visit the website for answers to some basic questions. Plan to visit those that match your criteria.

When visiting a childcare center:

a) Examine the site carefully to see if the facility or home environment is clean and secure;
b) Observe and listen to the activities happening around you. Do children move and play freely?
c) Observe if the children seem to feel comfortable in their environment;
d) Observe the interactions of educators with children;
e) Ask to see places where children eat, play and sleep;
f) Ask to see the outdoor play areas;
g) If it is a family environment, ask to meet other family members who may have contact with the children.

Before making a decision, check references and talk to other parents whose child has been in child care for some time. When you have made your decision, ask to sign a contract to clarify fees, receipt of receipts, mode and frequency of payments, hours of care, vacations and sickness policies and other issues to be relevant.

How can I prepare my child to start attending a daycare?

a) It may take a few days or weeks for your child to adjust to a new situation. This is normal, but you should be on the lookout for signs that indicate that your child is not compatible with the environment or has unusual fears about the child care setting.
b) Plan for a gradual transition to the middle of care a few weeks before you return to work, so that your child will feel at ease there before his first full day.
c) It will be an emotional time for you and your child. Give yourself and your child time to get used to it.
d) Each day, talk to your child about his experience to get an idea of ​​how he fits.

How can I maintain a good relationship with the educator?

a) Tell your educator about your favorite way of communicating (by email, in writing, in conversations).
b) Inform the educator about problems your child is experiencing at home (e.g., sleeps poorly, does not eat well or has behavioral problems). Tell the educator if changes are likely to stress or worry your child.
c) Express your concerns quickly to keep the lines of communication open and your expectations clear.
d) Ask for the calendar of the menus so that your family’s meals complement those of the daycare.
e) Respect the policy of your health care setting. If your child is not feeling well, stay at home or make other arrangements for child care.
f) Respect the personal time of your educator. Do not be late to pick up your child.