The stroller felt heavier with every turn. I paused at the curb, hauled the stroller around in a U-turn, and headed back toward the fence and the trees. Four toddlers in coats and stocking caps looked where I pointed and listened to my constant chatter.
"Look at the pretty trees. The leaves are turning orange and red."
"Watch the rabbit run under the fence. Rabbits run fast."
"Wow, this stroller is heavy, and the world is so big."
Back and forth, push and pull, I propelled the stroller up and down the sidewalk because my training in early childhood education had taught me that all children learn from experiences like this. The four toddlers were learning language from hearing my voice describe the trees, rabbits, and the great, wide world. They learned about the sensations of the cool breeze and the sound of cars passing on the street. As an early childhood teacher, I wanted the kids in my care to be always learning.
Choosing a daycare provider for your child is an important decision. Every mom wants to know her baby is safe, learning, and loved. Look for childcare center teachers and in-home care providers who:
- Answer all your questions, understand your concerns, and encourage parents to visit the home or facility at unplanned and various times throughout the day.
- Maintain good communication with daily reports about how children ate, slept, and played.
- Do not confine infants and toddlers to cribs or bouncy seats; but instead allow infants and toddlers space to move freely, play on the floor, and explore the environment.
- Provide outdoor play spaces and scheduled play times so toddlers and older children can run, jump, swing, and climb in safe and supervised areas.
- Do not stand around gossiping or checking their cell phones; but instead understand that children learn from being actively engaged with adults and their peers.
- Plan rewarding learning opportunities: read stories, sing songs, lead art and craft projects, and encourage children to question and explore.
- Take infants outdoors in strollers or wagons to describe the scenery and enjoy the blue sky.
Most importantly, always trust your instincts when selecting a childcare provider. Choose the center or provider that feels the most loving and interested in your child. Look for teachers and providers who enjoy spending time with children, seem happy to see your child every morning, and express a willingness to work with parents as part of a childcare team.
I remember those years I spent pushing that stroller as a time of learning for me, too. I learned that children hear and remember much more than we realize. I learned that fall trees look beautiful in the early morning sun, sidewalks are wide and uneven, the world is enormous and awesome, and I am never too old to feel small.
What do you look for when choosing a childcare provider? How did you know when you found the right one?