When it is time for parents to send that little piece of their own heart to a crèche, it is a time of great concern and worry. There are a lot of fears, anxieties and apprehensions about leaving the little one in the hands of someone else. Choosing a crèche indeed does merit consideration and thought because it is most often the first environment that will replace the security of home for the child. It is a place where the child receives day care while both parents work. In one sense we are looking at the best possible replacement for parental love and that can be a tough task.
Crèches are now beginning to take in children as young as 3 months, to cater to the needs of dual career couples. Crèches that cater to children around the age of eight years and above seem to be fewer. This article is about the needs of infants to school-going kids who may be going to day care after school.
While it is natural to feel anxious about this step, do remember that there is a positive side as well. Children who spend some time in a crèche learn to be independent and eventually more responsible. They also learn how to interact with children of a varied age group and learn the skills of survival and protecting oneself. They may have more stimulation and discipline at a crèche than with a maid at home. The sense of responsibility of an organization also makes parents feel more secure unless they have a highly trusted household helper with whom they can leave the child.
Factors to be considered:
How Long it has Been in Existence
A well-established place is more likely to have processes in place than a new place. It is also a good idea to look at the staff turnover in the crèche. For young children, the caretaker is very important to their emotional development and constant changes in them could lead to insecurity in a little one.
Health and Safety Aspects
You could check on these aspects: Do they follow strict rules about whom they let the child go home with? Are electric sockets sealed or placed out of reach? Are balcony railings high enough and are windows grilled? Do they have inflammable objects? Is there sufficient ventilation and light? Most reputed organizations have all these checks in place and yet having examined it all for oneself makes a parent feel more secure.
There may be a time soon that your child will have to be toilet-trained; He or she may perhaps be going through this process already. It is important to know how the caretakers will handle it too. For infants, you may need to know the nappy changing rules in the crèche.
Routine and Facilities
A very tight and strict routine is very stressful and not recommended for children; one definitely needs structure BUT with flexibility. You could find out about suitable sleeping facilities away from the general play area for children who are less than three years old. In most crèches the parents have to send the food and milk etc. You might want to check these points: What are the facilities for storing and heating food? In case food is being supplied, is it of good quality, nutritionally balanced and hygienically prepared? Check the language spoken in the crèche, so that your child will be able to communicate and learn comfortably in the new environment.
Number of Children
It would be important to know how many children there are at the crèche at a time. A large number of children would mean that the staff is likely to be overworked and quality of care may be compromised. You would want caretakers who are not just talking and communicating with the children, but listening and responding too.
Interaction Between Staff Members
If possible, try to observe the interactions between the staff. If adult relations are strained and staff is overworked, staff may not be responsive to children. When this happens, people move into efficiency mode and there's almost a "factory-like" atmosphere in the crèche.
Do they have a doctor identified close-by for emergency assistance? Do they have basic emergency supplies? If possible, find a crèche that is close to either you or your spouse's workplace. This way you can get there soon in case of an emergency.
Timings and Policy on Emergencies
Of course, the timings of the crèche should suit your office timings. It helps to know their policy in case you are late to pick up your child. Circumstances could be out of your control at times, so it is important to know how they would handle this situation.
Openness to Suggestions and Parental Involvement
Day cares that are run by people who are secure and confident that they do their best and want to continue doing their best are likely to be open to suggestions and also to observation. Start by making sure where would your priorities lie: education, healthy diet, experienced staff, hygiene, outdoors play area etc. This would be a good time to remember that you might not get all that you want and you might need to compromise on something less important. For e.g. you may find a clean and friendly place but a little distant from home. Knowing what you need most for your child, and what can be negotiated on would help you zero in on a suitable crèche.
Steps to begin with:
1. To begin with, make a list of the crèches you are interested in and call to arrange a visit during working hours. It is best to schedule an appointment, as this will ensure that the manager will have plenty of time to speak with you personally.
2. Take your child along with you to visit the crèches (at least the short-listed ones), even if he or she is an infant. This way you can watch how the manager and other staff interact with your child.
3. Find and talk to parents whose children actually go there; they are usually the best people to take a reference from.
Once you have taken these steps, we hope that you will find a place where you can safely leave your child and where you can be content that he or she will be well looked after.