The school year is rapidly coming to an end.
Children are being released for their three-month vacation.
For most parents, a vacation for school children does not necessarily mean a vacation from work.
With the changing family composition and lifestyles today, the question, "Who will watch the children?" is often answered by the words, "day care."
Placing children in the care of others outside the home has become a necessary choice for many parents today.
When the day care option is considered for child care, experts at the Child & Family Services of the Upper Peninsula say parents must answer the question, "What is good day care?"
When choosing a day care environment, experts say parents may contact local 4C's, which stands for Community Coordinated Child Care, by calling 1-877-614-7328, or checking the web site 4c-up.com.
Parents need to inquire whether or not the child care facility they are researching has an up-to-day license.
Experts say parents also should check the references of the day care center they are reviewing.
Ask the supervisor for names and telephone numbers of three other parents who currently have children enrolled in the center's program.
Call them and ask what they like and/or dislike about that particular provider. It's also a good idea to contact a former client or two.
Third, parents should observe the care givers interacting with the children they are in charge of supervising.
This will give parents a general feeling about the care givers' attitudes towards kids and their ideas about proper discipline.
Finally, parents should show up at various times during the day to observe their child receiving care in the facility's setting until the parents feel confident with the provider.
The following are some suggestions to use when selecting day care for infants and children.
Babies and children under three-years-old need the same care givers over a long period of time to develop trust in, and bond with others. Parents should find out how long the individuals plan to work in the day care center. High staff turnover, or any turnover at critical points in development can distress a child.
Infants and toddlers also benefit from a care giver who will play and talk with them, praise them for their achievements, and enjoy being with them. Parents should seek a person who is self-confident, affectionate, and comfortable with children; as well as someone who is able to encourage social skills and positive behavior, and can set limits on negative behavior.
In addition, infants need a clean environment with individual bedding, toys, diapering supplies, etc. The diapering area should be a hard, non-absorbent surface, and should be cleaned with a disinfectant between each diaper change. Bottles should be marked for each child, stored properly, and reheated for use. A parent should ask how often toys are sanitized, by whom, and with what; who cleans the center, when, and how often. (If it is the teachers' responsibility, then they may spend less time with the children.)
Parents may also want to question about napping policies, for example, does the facility offer individual naptimes, or does it schedule naps all at the same time? Also, what do the care givers do when one infant is crying, and the others are trying to sleep?
Another consideration is how does the center handle teething and biting, as this can be a big problem in infant and toddler classes.
According to experts, there should be a staff-to-child ratio of no less than one adult to three infants; one to four for two-years-olds; and one to eight for ages three to six.
Older children can have fun while they learn how to interact with others in a group setting. Parents of children three years and older should seek day care services with trained, experienced teachers, who enjoy, understand, and can lead children.
The center should provide the opportunity for creative work, imaginative play, physical activity, and space to move indoors and out.
Drawing and coloring materials, toys which lend themselves to learning, like puzzles, blocks, counting, alphabet, and educational games; and equipment such as swings, wagons, and jungle gyms should be available for the kids' use.
In this age group, children should be cared for in small, rather than large groups. Studies have shown that five children with one care giver is better than 20 children with four care givers.
If a child seems afraid to go to day care, parents should introduce him to the new environment gradually.
At first, one parent can go along, staying nearby while the child plays. The parent can stay each day until the child wants to become part of the group.
Though parents may worry about how their offspring will do, they should show pleasure in helping their child succeed.
If a child shows unusual or persistent terror about leaving home, parents should discuss the problem with their pediatrician.