Many parents every day are challenged with seeking and selecting quality child care and want what is best for their child.

Selecting a daycare provider requires more than comparing costs and locations, said Debbie Richardson, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension parenting assistant specialist.

“Take time to visit and interview directors and monitor caregivers,” she said. “It is important to be happy and secure with your choice. The right choice can benefit you and your child for many years.”

Child care providers may range from small to large centers, private homes, church or school programs. The ages of children a particular provider will care for may vary. Some care for infants, special needs children and school-age children. The hours of operation may also be different from place to place.

Richardson said although child care providers and programs are different, all are required to meet the Oklahoma licensing standards administered through the Department of Human Services. Licensing requires certain standards for health and safety, adult-child ratios, training for staff, equipment, nutrition, daily programs and behavior and guidance.

She said Oklahoma licensed child care providers have a star ranking system based on quality standards. These range from one star which meets minimum licensing standards to three stars which require higher standards.

“Many centers meet additional national standards for accreditation by the National Association for Education of Young Children,” she said. “When looking for a child care provider or program, be sure to look for or ask about the license, the star rating and the accreditation certificate.”

Richardson said it is important to see a child care provider or center in operation before making a final decision. Call and make an appointment with the director. Once the director knows you, and your child is enrolled, you may make drop-in visits without calling first.

“When planning a visit you need to talk with the caregivers and children in your child’s group,” Richardson said. “If possible it’s best to plan a visit at different times of the day, such as lunch, nap and outdoor times.”

One of the important signs of good programs is the caregivers.

“The quality of caregivers relates directly to the training they receive,” Richardson said. “As parents, it’s important to observe the specific caregivers that your child will have.”

Other important aspects to consider with child care include:

· Setting – Do teachers arrange learning centers in which small groups of children can work and play together?

· Staff turnover – Have the caregivers been there very long? Be sure your child can have the same caregiver for at least a year.

· Materials – Are toys and materials for children to select available on low shelves and marked for easy storage? This way a child can choose a variety of appealing and testing activities.

· Daily schedule – Each day should allow for a balance of indoor and outdoor play, quiet and active play, small group and large group activity. In addition to play, are there set routines such as snack, lunch and rest times?

· Curriculum – Are there plans and programs for activity and learning throughout the day?

· Family communication - Quality child care programs involve parents. The staff should make parents feel like part of a partnership.

“As a parent it’s important to be sure your child is happy in the day care you have selected,” Richardson said. “Keep checking on your child and be involved in their learning by asking their teacher every day if your child is involved and happy in the program.”