Elements to look for in high-quality child care | PostIndependent.com

Elements to look for in high-quality child care

Eleanor Reynolds
Early Childhood News
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

According to studies, few programs across the country really offer the high-quality child care you envision for your child. As you begin to investigate options, you are likely to encounter overworked, underpaid, and untrained staff operating under difficult conditions.

Quality child care matters.

Acknowledging that parents are always the primary teachers, it is important to ensure that those who are with our children when we aren’t are doing a good job.

The ideal child care program might have a motto that says, “We let kids be kids. We focus on play and encourage age-appropriate responsibility.”

The most important lesson for any child to learn is how to get along with other children. Academic, teacher-directed learning should occupy the least amount of time in a young child’s day.

The following are some broad guidelines for measuring the quality of any children’s program. These guidelines incorporate two major concepts: being child-centered and problem solving.

Child-Centered: A child-centered program is one that makes every decision on behalf of the children. Many programs claim to be child-centered, yet their policies address the needs of adults, whether parents or staff.

Every aspect of a program, no matter how routine or trivial, should be based as much as possible on the needs and best interests of the children.

Problem Solving: Problem solving is an approach that allows children to develop their inner strengths and critical thinking skills. Problem solving permeates every area of behavior: expressing feelings, resolving disputes between children, setting limits by teachers, and affirming the self-worth of each child.

For example, one child hitting another is a problem that is solved by the victim saying, “Stop!” and the teacher making sure the hitting stops. The problem-solving approach is an integral part of a child’s normal development because it allows children to solve problems on their own level and take responsibility for their actions without criticism, blame, shame or punishment.

After your initial guided tour of the program, make some surprise visits with your child. Take your time and evaluate a program’s three main components: the staff, the environment, and the program’s philosophy.

Staff: Every high-quality program begins with strong leadership. The program’s director sets the standards and implements the goals of the program. The director’s leadership is demonstrated by the choice of employees, the ratio of teachers to children, the training provided, the wages paid, and procedures for dealing with problems. A good director knows every child, knows what is happening in the program, and is capable of caring for children in any classroom.

Environment: The environment in which your child spends the day should send a clear message: this is a great place for children. Every corner of the physical setting should echo that message.

You and your child should feel safe, curious, and welcome. Areas should be organized to facilitate safe and active play, socializing, and include semi-private spaces for reading and quiet daydreaming. Toys should be organized on shelves so that children can put them away quickly and easily.

There should be some type of indoor play equipment, such as an indoor climber and riding toys to meet the need for active play.

Observe the number of children in the teacher’s care, the teacher’s ability to supervise the children safely, and the type of interactions – are there extension questions asked? Is there attention to individual needs? Is this person modeling the kind of examples you want for your child?

Philosophy: The philosophy of any good program should be clearly stated in a parent handbook and diligently taught to teachers. A program based in teaching children to solve their own problems will use terms such as active listening, negotiation, setting limits, giving affirmations, and modifying the environment. You should see this in action as your observe in the classrooms.

– “Parent Talk” appears on the first and third Saturdays of the month. The column is the result of YouthZone, The Buddy Program, Family Visitor Programs, Kids First and Roaring Fork Family Resource Centers teaming up to provide parents with information and resources about strengthening family relationships. This article is excerpted, with permission from the publisher, from “What is High Quality Child Care” by Eleanor Reynolds, and appeared in Early Childhood News.

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