Evaluating a Childcare Program

A good childcare program lays the foundation for later success in school. However, it’s important to know that the right program for one child may not be right for another—even for 2 children in the same family. Begin the search by thinking about what kind of setting best suits your child and your family’s needs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll want to be sure that a childcare program has taken steps to help prevent spread of the virus. Check out this info from the American Academy of Pediatrics on what COVID-19 preventive measures to look for and ask about in childcare settings—from cleaning and disinfection procedures to safe distancing during group activities. 

When choosing a program, find out the size of the program, its location, the number of days and hours offered, the availability of extended hours, how different ages are grouped, class size and cost.

After deciding which type of program best meets your needs, visit more than one site so you can compare.

If looking at a childcare center, the following detailed checklist may be helpful.

The Program:

  • Does the program have a clear, written statement of its goals and philosophy?
  • Does it consider a child’s social, emotional, and physical needs?
  • Is the atmosphere warm, nurturing, and accepting?
  • Is there at least 1 caregiver for every 3 babies or 6 toddlers (although requirements for how many caregivers per child can vary)?
  • Does the school offer a balance of individual, small-group, and large-group activities?
  • Is there a balance between quiet periods and active times?
  • Is there a routine to most days?
  • Does the program have an up-to-date state license?

The Teachers

  • What are teachers’ qualifications?
  • What is the ratio of children to teachers?
  • Is there frequent staff turnover?
  • Do teachers encourage and respond to children’s natural interests?
  • Are they cheerful and patient?
  • How do the adults interact with the children and with each other?

The Setting

  • Does it look safe indoors and outdoors?
  • Can you imagine your child in this setting?
  • Are the children happy, relaxed and engaged in meaningful play?
  • Does the setting foster productive interactions between children?
  • Is there a wide variety of materials? Are they orderly and easily accessible?
  • Do equipment and toys encourage individual and group play and improve gross and fine motor skills?

Parental Involvement

  • Is parental involvement welcomed and encouraged? How?
  • Will the school’s administration provide references to parents whose children have attended the program or are attending?
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Both infants and children can be infected with COVID-19. Infants under age 1 and children with underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more severe illness with the virus, so it’s important to take steps to protect them.

So far, COVID-19 has affected most children less severely than adults, with primarily mild cases. Some children have no symptoms, but are still contagious, while a small percentage of other children have been hospitalized with serious symptoms.

If you’re caring for a baby during the coronavirus pandemic, there are steps you can take to protect your little one. 

If you do not have COVID-19:

  • Feed and care for your baby as you normally would.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds with soap and water) or use sanitizer (with at least 60% ethyl alcohol or 70% isopropyl alcohol) before feeding and handling your infant.
  • When out and about, regularly using hand sanitizer on your infant may be too harsh for the baby’s delicate skin. But if a gentle soap cleanser and water are not available and hand washing is necessary, rub a pea-sized amount of hand sanitizer into the baby’s hands until dry.
  • Avoid people who are sick, large gatherings or close contact with others from outside your household.
  • Wear a mask when out with your baby or when around people who do not live in your home. Do not put a mask on your baby; it is a suffocation risk. Children can start wearing masks at age 2. 
  • Have people from outside your household wear a face mask and socially distance (staying 6 feet apart) when around your baby.

If you or others in your home have (or suspect you may have) COVID-19:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from the baby, if possible, except for feedings or to provide other needed care. Isolate yourself from the public (and from others in your household as much as possible) until you have recovered.
  • Put on a face mask and wash hands thoroughly before breastfeeding, bottle feeding and otherwise caring for your baby. So far, COVID-19 has not been detected in the breast milk of mothers who are ill, and breastfeeding with the proper precautions is considered safe. 
  • Wash your hands before touching breastfeeding pump or bottle parts. Clean all parts after each use.
  • If possible, rely on others who are well to help feed and care for your baby.

If you had COVID-19 symptoms, take the above steps until:

  • 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared; you are fever-free (without medication) for 24 hours; and your other COVID-19 symptoms are improving.
    If you had no symptoms, but tested positive, take the above steps until:
  • 10 days have passed since the date of your positive COVID-19 test.

Symptoms to Watch for

COVID-19 has similar symptoms to other illnesses, such as a bad cold or the flu. Symptoms in infants and young children may include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches, soreness
  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Poor appetite or poor feeding

Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child has any (or several) of these symptoms, though some of them may be difficult for you to identify in an infant. If your baby has serious difficulty breathing, call 911.

Important: Don’t delay or skip any medical appointments for your baby due to concerns about exposure to COVID-19. Medical offices have taken steps to help protect children and their families from potential exposure to the virus. If you’re concerned, ask your child’s healthcare provider about these steps. 

Learn more about the virus and how to protect your family.

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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