It’s time to go back to work, and you’re searching for a new childcare facility for your little one. So what should you look for when selecting a childcare center? A friendly environment with happy kids, to be sure. But what about the things that aren’t necessarily evident to the naked eye, like health and safety concerns?
Read Related: How to Find the Best Childcare for Your Baby
Child Care Aware of America provides excellent overall guidance on selecting a childcare provider. Check out their Child Care 101 for information on how to get started with your search. Be sure to plan some time at the center so you can observe the childcare providers with the children. In addition, when visiting centers you are interested in, be sure to ask about their written policies on nutrition, media and outdoor play. For example:
- Do they have routines that include rest, nutritious meals and snacks and time for active play, including outside time?
- Do the meals include fruits and vegetables?
- Are water and milk the main (or only) beverages served to children?
- If you’re still breastfeeding, find out if the center is able to accommodate this.
Remember that centers should be striving towards the five goals of Let’s Move! Child Care which provides 1-2 hours of physical activity a day, no screen time for children under the age of 2 and screen time for older children limited to no more than 30 minutes a week. The centers need to serve fruits or vegetables at every meal, eating family-style when possible, with no fried foods or sugary drinks. When looking for infant care be sure to look for a center that supports the way you prefer to feed your baby—whether breastfeeding or formula.
If your child is already enrolled in daycare and you’re concerned that your center isn’t providing healthy meals or offering active play, be sure to talk with your center’s director and share the concerns you have. Be willing to listen and offer to be part of the solution. You have to remember that you and your chosen center are partners in providing a safe and nurturing environment for your child during the day.
Today, 60 percent American children are spending a majority of their day in childcare. To help guide parents on the right track when choosing a childcare center for their little ones, the American Heart Association and Nemours, with inaugural funding from the William G. McGowan Fund, have launched an exciting new childcare technical assistance program called Healthy Way to Grow. This program aims to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by supporting childcare centers for ages birth to 5 in improving practices and policies in their center to help children grow up healthy. The Healthy Way to Grow program is free for centers that want to participate and centers that choose to do so receive resources, tools and hands-on technical assistance to help improve center practices and policies to achieve program best practice guidelines.