Before you start thumbing through the Yellow Pages or driving down streets in your neighborhood looking for signs, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when you’re looking for an early childhood center. These things will let you automatically eliminate day care providers that you know just won’t work, and help you create a list of day care names to look into further.
First, think about how many hours and days each week you’ll need childcare services. If you need care for more than 7 hours a day, you will need to find an early childhood learning center that has early and late hours.
The next thing you’ll want to think about is whether or not your child has any special needs. If they have a disability, you’ll need to make sure that any day care centers you’re looking for are equipped to handle it.
Lastly, think about whether you need the day care to be near your home, work, or school. While a convenient location shouldn’t be the deciding factor in what early childhood center you ultimately choose, it is important – and will be when you’re driving half an hour one-way every day to drop off or pick up your child.
Once you’ve taken these things into consideration, you can then start gathering names. Here are a few places to start looking:
- Yellow Pages
- Local newspapers
- Bulletin boards in: stores, community centers, libraries, and churches
- Friends and relatives
Once you have a list of names, call each early childhood learning center. Have a list of basic questions on hand to help you narrow your list down further. These will be things such as asking if they’re licensed, what their operating hours are, if they have a curriculum (no need to go into detail during the phone call), and if they take children that are your child’s age.
Don’t worry too much about going into too much detail on any of these questions. All you’re really looking for are signs that it’s not the right early childhood center for you, such as if they can’t take your child during the times and hours you need. These initial contact phone calls are really just to help you whittle down your list.
Do make sure when you call that you speak to the supervisor or the person in charge. If they are unavailable, ask when a good time would be to call back. Make sure you speak directly to the person in charge though to avoid a lot of “I don’t handle that” answers. A supervisor will be able to tell you whatever you need to know, and will also have the authority to do so.
As you’re speaking to different day care providers, try to get a general feel for whether or not you like them. If you do, set up a time when you can go in and have a tour of the facilities, and speak to the supervisor further about enrolling your child there.