Figuring out when to start your child in childcare can feel overwhelming, but quality childcare can provide a range of benefits. Here’s what to look for when you’re starting this process.

Factors That Influence When Kids Should Start a Childcare Program

A baby chews on a toy while at day care

selective focus photography of baby holding wooden cube” used with permission via Unsplash by invent

The “right” time to start your child in a childcare program is a personal decision. A variety of factors can play into this decision, including:

  • Availability of other childcare options, for example family members.
  • Length of your parental leave and your partner’s ability to take parental leave.
  • Financial responsibilities.

Infants can typically begin daycare programs at 6 weeks old, though there are certain benefits to waiting a bit longer if your situation allows. Starting your baby in a childcare program when they’re a little older will bolster the development of secure attachment and allow you to figure out sleep and feeding patterns while adjusting to your new life together. However, many reasons exist why parents need to start a baby in childcare as early as possible, such as financial considerations and unpaid leave.

When to Start the Search for Childcare

If possible, you should start looking for childcare providers as early as during pregnancy. Childcare centers often need a longer lead time as they need to maintain strict limits on the number of infants they can serve at a given time.

You’ll find many childcare centers that have waiting lists because they fill up so quickly. Depending on where you live, you might need a longer lead time. Residents of big cities are often advised to start looking at options before the baby arrives. A good rule of thumb is to start investigating possible childcare options at minimum two months before you’ll need to go back to work.

If you know you’ll need to start work again within a given number of weeks, try to scout out your options early. Doing so will let you focus on arranging your childcare before you’re also taking care of a newborn, getting ready to go back to work, or recovering from birth. But don’t panic if you haven’t started yet! You can still find quality options if you do your research.

How to Choose Quality Childcare Options

When you’re ready to start looking for childcare, you can take a few steps to find a quality choice. Some tips for looking for childcare include:

  • Do the research: Finding quality childcare takes a lot of work, but you can do research in a variety of ways. Ask for recommendations from other parents you know among your friends, family, and workplace contacts. You can also ask your pediatrician for recommendations. You might even simply ask parents you meet in the waiting room at the OBGYN or pediatrician’s office. Plenty of online resources are also available, including childcare referral services and your state’s regulatory agency.
  • Communicate with potential candidates: Interview centers and do some screening. You can ask questions over the phone and speak with the team to see if a place you’re considering fits well with your needs. For example, you can ask about the staff’s qualifications, the structure of the day, and the ratio of children to care providers.
  • Check references: Speak with former and current clients of a childcare option to learn about their experiences, asking how happy they (and their kiddos) are with the experience. Hearing what other parents have to say can give you a sense of what you can expect.
  • Visit the center: Schedule a tour with a childcare provider so you can see firsthand what the facility is like. Seeing the staff and kids in action can go a long way.

Benefits of Quality Childcare

A quality childcare program offers significant advantages for kids and parents alike. Quality programs mean your family can enjoy:

  • Continuous care: Many centers offer care starting from the early months of infancy into toddlers years and beyond. Once you find the right fit, you won’t have to search for a new provider as your child gets older.
  • Cost benefit: Parents who need to go back to work often find that childcare programs are less expensive overall than hiring a nanny or another at-home caregiver.
  • Education and socialization: A well-organized curriculum geared to a child’s development and growth can set your child up for academic success in the future. At the same time, kids get lots of interaction with their peers at childcare facilities, boosting their social competence.
  • Reliability: Trained and licensed staff means you know what you can expect. Childcare programs also tend to stay open for longer hours to support different parent schedules, and because there’s more than one person on staff, you can count on your child having a place to go even if one staff member gets sick.

What to Look for When Researching Childcare Providers

You should pay attention to kids and staff behavior as well as the environment itself when you’re looking into different childcare options. You’ll want to see kids that are alert, content, and clean and caregivers that seem patient, energetic, and truly interested in the kids. The facility should provide a stimulating environment with lots of physical and verbal interaction between the kids and staff, allowing for kids to remain engaged constantly.

Look for age-appropriate toys and activities, such as reading, singing, dancing, talking, and playtime. Curriculum that exposes kids to a variety of learning experiences, like the curriculum at Crème de la Crème, helps to keep children engaged throughout the day. Our curriculum includes a classroom rotation and exposes children to everything from baby sign language to coding and robotics to daily active play and beyond.

You may feel hesitant to put your baby in childcare from a young age, and the right time to start childcare is always a personal choice. However, you can rest assured that even infants can thrive in childcare settings as long as they get rich language experiences, playful interaction with caregivers, and plenty of affection and attention. That’s exactly what you can expect from Crème de la Crème.Whether you need a childcare option for your infant or you’re looking for a program for your toddler, preschooler, or kindergarten, Crème de la Crème has you covered. Contact us today to find the childcare and educational team near you.