Congratulations and welcome to parenthood! What an exciting adventure! Whether you are just getting a positive pregnancy test and preparing for what is ahead, (or you’ve got a few years under your belt)—at some point childcare will enter your world. Finding quality and affordable childcare can be a daunting task. There are so many decisions to make when deciding on a program, and when to start a program. Some will choose to start at 6 weeks old, others may wait until the toddler years, and some even still won’t start until school-age years. This is your child and your choice. So the question is this, what do you need to know to make the best-informed decision as possible? This is not by any means a comprehensive list of things to look for, but it will get you started on your way to finding the program that fits the needs of your family!
Look for these L’s:
- Licensing—First and foremost this is essential in making sure the program you are considering is a quality one, are they licensed and in compliance? What kind of license are they operating under? Are they registered only? Do they have any citations? What were the citations for and how recent are the citations? Realize that at some point any facility might receive a citation and that they get a certain amount of time to correct it and remain in good standings. For example, there is a regulation on how much material covers a playground, and back before the time of astroturf most places used mulch as their cover material. Every playground was required a certain measured inch amount of cover on the playground to be seen as safe and in compliance, so let’s say that number was 3.5 inches. This is great but, when the monsoons season would come through and wash some away and you have a pop in DSS visit you might be out of compliance because your mulch was now at 2.5 inches—this, of course, is easily remedied with another load of mulch and all is well. So, understand a mulch citation and a neglect citation are two different ballparks—so dig into what the citations are and know the difference. I can understand and work with a center my child attends if they were short on mulch, but if they left a child unattended or a child was hurt due to neglect or improper procedures—that I can not work with. To get an overview of citations for a center check out scchildcare.org, look under the provider tab and then click on the dashboard. This will allow you to enter a program name or a zipcode to scan an area that you might be interested in. This also gives you information on complaints, ABC participation and ABC quality programs graded in letters like a report card. It is conveniently color-coded green, yellow, and red with the degree of severity of the issues found and when they were remedied. It also provides copies of the DSS licensing worker’s report of their inspection of the incident. This is a very insightful tool.
- Longevity—How long has the program been around? A brand-new program can be just as good as one that has been around 45 years but investigate their stability. Also, look at the director’s longevity. How long has the director been in leadership? How long has the director been in childcare? Was the director a teacher before becoming a director? A director should have several years of experience as a classroom teacher to run a good program and connect well with both teachers and families. A director who can understand the classroom and her teachers will support them as they should be supported, and the program will thrive.
- Location—This is a key piece of advice…take the tour of your potential program at a time you would normally be heading to work or picking up from work. Why? This will give you an idea of how busy traffic patterns are at the time you’d be heading there– if this is the program you go with. You will also see how busy the site is at those times as well. You need to calculate the car traffic to the center, the parent traffic at the center, and again the car traffic to your workplace. Many rookies make this mistake and end up late to work. This puts you in the spot of asking the boss to change your hours or having to change centers and start this process all over again. Along with location, be sure to consider your center hours. Most centers open around 6:30 am and close by 6 pm. Some are now opening later than that and closing later than that, so know what you need and what you can work with because there are some hefty late fees out there!
- Learning—Ask questions but also look around. Is there evidence of learning? Do you see child made crafts or work displayed? Teacher created boards can be nice and attractive but are the children experimenting, exploring, and engaging in learning? What kind of curriculum do they use? Do you get updates on your child’s progress? Is the learning appropriate to your child’s age? Your two-year-old shouldn’t have a 45-minute circle time, they are two…attention span and the need to be active should be worked into the day with plenty of outlets for both at age-specific intervals.
Know what kind of learning format you prefer. Montessori method of learning is more child-led while traditional learning is teacher-led. You have to decide what your child would respond to most, so know their learning style or visit several types of programs to see what each can offer your child.
- Love—Raising kids can feel like wrangling cats at times and teaching them for most of the day can be just as fun at times, so look for love. Listen for the love, and make sure you return the love. You will see the love in the cleanliness of the room, in the cleanliness of the kiddos, and on the teacher’s face and in her voice. A teacher who loves what she does will go the extra mile to keep her kids happy and healthy and it will reflect in her room and face. Are the children covered in dried food, are their noses messy, or does the room look unkempt and smell? RED FLAGS. Can you hear a teacher from down the hall raising their voice? Does her voice sound uncaring or unkind?—no love there. But on the other token do you hear a teacher comforting a child, on their level, or redirecting in a caring tone with gentleness—there’s the love. Make sure when you’ve found that provider who takes care of your child and goes the extra mile to nurture and teach them all day, that you let them know how much they are appreciated! It makes their jobs worthwhile to get positive feedback so share the love!
- Lean and Listen—lean on friends, co-workers, or your pediatrician on who they use or who they would recommend. Listen to what the children attending these programs have to say about them and note how they speak about their teachers. Listen and by listen I mean “read” Facebook community posts or recommendations, but consider your source and take them with a grain of salt if need be!
Realize that this is typically your child’s first exposure to learning and will ignite their love or loathing of their learning journey thereafter, so this is a big decision. It can often be an emotional decision to especially when it is your first child, and that is ok. Remember to give your child (and yourself) a full three weeks to adjust to the new school before making any definite conclusions on how the program is working for you and your child. Crying at drop off (by parent and child) and pickup (mostly by the child) is normal. So be gentle and reassuring with their little hearts—this phase will pass! It does get better! There is no better feeling than being able to drop your child off with people you know will love and care for them so you can work without worry.
To get you started here is a small sampling of programs in our area that you might be interested in. Happy hunting!
Upstate Montessori Academy
109 N Leach St, Greenville, SC 29601
This one of a kind school captures your interest in the building design and its proven results are undeniable. The Montessori method is a child-focused and led program. It uniquely blends the child’s natural curiosity and love for learning into a daily adventure. This program is family owned and operated by SC Certified and Montessori trained teacher, Jennifer Kelly and her husband Chris. A definite on our list to check out!
First Presbyterian Preschool
200 W Washington St, Greenville, SC 29601
First Presbyterian is a long-time standard in early learning located in our beautiful downtown Greenville. The program has other campuses in Greenville to accommodate your child’s education through the upper grades as well. This program is faith-based and traditional in its learning style and is a well-established program. Make sure to look into this program as well!
700 W Georgia Road
This is the newish kid on the block—to South Carolina. The first KinderCare to open in SC just last spring is located in Simpsonville, followed by a sibling center in Greer, and one in Charleston. They may be new to SC, but they are senior when it comes to early childhood education with their origins dating back into the 1970s on the west coast. They have a well-developed curriculum with added classes of interest like cooking, phonics, sports, and music. This program is corporately run, has a traditional learning approach, and aims to be an all-inclusive program. So be sure to take a look at this one as well!
Child Development Center at Greenville Tech
The Margaret Mills Cubbage Child Development Center (CDC) at Greenville Technical College provides a training ground/lab school setting for students enrolled in the Early Care and Education program, while providing quality child care for children six weeks through five years of age.
About the Writer
Melissa Milligan is a busy wife and mother living in beautiful Greenville, SC. She is a southern transplant by way of Washington State over 30 years ago. Before starting with freelance writing and photography, Melissa worked for 19 years as an educator and 7 years in administrative healthcare roles. After a successful career helping in the education and care of young children and healthcare administrative support, Melissa now helps manage a local childcare center while seeking opportunities to contribute to various forums through her writing and photography. Melissa is available for your content writing and photography needs and can provide private consultations on each. You can best reach Melissa by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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