What to look for in a program that serves babies
All parents want healthy and safe care for their children. But how can you know if a program offers a good environment for your baby? Just looking around your care provider’s infant spaces can give you great insight into whether your child will be safe and nurtured. You can evaluate your child’s caregivers, the quality of the space, and the toys and supplies in it. You can also look for signs of the importance your provider places on communication and family engagement.
Where is the caregiver and what are they doing?
Excellent infant caregivers will be constantly engaged with babies both physically and verbally.
Physically: infant caregivers should spend the majority of their day sitting or lying on the floor with the infants.
Verbally: caregivers talk to infants about their actions, “you have the measuring cup in your mouth. It is metal. How does it feel/taste?” They should also also be talking about what is happening around them, “Aiden is reaching for your hand.”
You should hear the caregivers announce what is coming next, “I’m going to wash my hands and get your bottle warmed up.” Or “your bottle is ready, and I’m going to pick you up so we can wash your hands.” You might also hear a caregiver respond to an infant’s cry with reassurance when they are providing care to another infant, “I can hear you crying, you are safe. I am feeding Sam right now and will feed you next.”
With wiggly little ones, attention is very important — caregivers should be aware of each infant and available to meet each infant’s needs. They can do this by staying near the infants and engaging with the infants.
Need help with asking the right questions for finding quality child care? Read this: Child Care Provider Checklist – asking all the right questions.
Looking for tools for improving communication with your child care provider? Read this: Building a Relationship with My Child’s Teacher.
Are the classroom supplies good quality and age-appropriate?
Here’s a short list of items that compliment your baby’s play and learning:
- baby-safe mirrors
- items to grasp such as rattles
- items that are safe to chew on
- measuring cups
- items to fill buckets that cannot fit in baby’s mouth
- sturdy furniture to pull up on and cruise around
- books that represent the routines in their world
- a variety of colors
Having open-ended toys lets your little one develop problem-solving skills. Make sure none of the items are broken or dangerous for infants.
Are families well represented?
Each child’s family should be represented in the space through photos, favorite books, songs and culture. Photos might be found on cribs, in photo books, on the floor, on walls or shelves — anywhere that the babies might be able to see the photo. Family members should be welcome to stop by or stay for a few minutes at drop off or pick up to show the child that the program is a safe place for exploration.
Although there is an endless list of things a families should look for, this is a good start to feeling comfortable with your child’s care provider. If any of these things are missing in your infant’s room, talk to a teacher in the room and express your concerns.
Search online or call us to find child care that fits your needs.
Indiana families have two easy, free services to help them find care. Visit Child Care Finder online or call the Brighter Futures Indiana staff at 1-800-299-1627 Monday-Thursday 8am-7pm or Friday 8am-5pm. You can also start a conversation in the chat window right on this page during those times.
With so many different options for your child, how do you find the best fit for you? Start with Paths to QUALITY™, Indiana’s quality rating improvement rating system for child care. It is a free resource that helps families make informed decisions — and helps early education providers improve program quality.
Build Your Child’s Brighter Future!
Want to learn about more resources to support your search for child care? Check out the following links:
- Learn About Financial Assistance
- Developmental Milestones, Screenings & Services
- Statewide Family Supports
- Family Guide to CCDF
Cover image by Flickr user Anthony Doudt, Creative Commons license.