Research & Touring
"Start your research early and go with your gut when making your decision. Do your research - take tours, question teachers, speak to families who attend/attended, ask to see the types of communications they send to families, safety protocols, etc."
"You seem to find out about most openings through word of mouth (that's how we've found all of our programs, for both daycare and preschool)--talk to other parents about their experiences."
"Tour as many facilities as you can to get a sense of each program and to be able to compare and find what qualities are most important to you."
"Visit the actual space and meet in person with teachers if you can. Talk to parents who are already in the program."
"It's really hard to get a sense of a school without being able to tour it. Your next best option is to watch the virtual tour and look for cues from presenters about the kind of community you can expect to find at the school. You can and should contact the school's parent coordinator if you have questions or want to chat with someone about the school or community."
Staff & Admin
"If teachers have been at the school for a long time, that's a good sign!"
"Choose a program that your child will thrive in holistically. Don't just look at curriculum but get a feel for the staff. If it feels like they're not happy to be there your child will sense it and won't be happy either."
"Have empathy for the operators doing 1000 logistic things to make programs run safely and smoothly - often that goes unnoticed. Your kid will learn something great from most people and most places and you can compensate with a different program down the road to build out other interests and skills."
"'Tone at the top' matters - the CEO / founder / head of school who makes the key personnel decisions drives the entire culture of the school. If you feel good about them - then you can typically trust that they will hire well and operate in a way that works for you."
"Proximity! We appreciate a short walk and ease of play dates since all her buddies are in the immediate neighborhood."
"For daycare early on (before 2), do what is most convenient for you- it’s not a forever decision and you have to consider your sanity as a parent as well!"
"We chose the best option that was super close to our apartment which ended up being the right decision. Convenience adds so much to our enjoyment of these locations."
"Think about what type of programming would be best for your child. We toured facilities that were smaller in-home daycares with less of a set schedule and more school-like programs with lessons and activities planned every 30 minutes. Every one had a completely different feel and focus. Also ask about vacation days, COVID policies, and food policies. Preparing a baby or toddler snack and meal is a big time sink in the morning so we were happy to find a program that had a catering service."
"Consider how much outdoor time you want your child to have and how big or small of a class size you prefer."
"Take Joyce Szuflita's advice! Go to the program where *you* would like to quit your job and spend all your time :) If you vibe with the teachers and the space, you will feel confident going in, and that will make your kid happy (probably?!). Also, I heard from many parents to prioritize location above almost everything else. I get that, but will say that for our family, the 12-minute walk to preschool has not seemed like a hardship. There was another school we liked that was a 3-minute walk away, but honestly I like taking a "long" walk home with my kid. It gives us time to decompress and talk about our days, look at trees and dogs, etc, before being home and getting immersed in all the routines of washing hands, eating dinner, etc."
"Do not stress about your child's at home schedule vs the daycare schedule too much, the child will adjust to the daycare schedule and will keep their at-home schedule with you on the weekends. Going back to work can be stressful. I found that deciding on childcare while I was pregnant greatly helped to relieve that stress and was one less thing on my mind during the newborn stage."
Final Wisdom: Relax and go with your gut!
"There are a lot of options, and kids develop and change so much between the time you have to sign up and the time they end up actually going to the school/program. Don’t stress too much, especially things you can’t control (ie. Lottery system). You can always change later."
"Do your research and ask questions, also don’t stress too much about it. If you feel happy and comfortable with a particular center, then trust your instincts."
"Go with your gut. For tiny kids, it’s about love!"