Every Parent has concerns when leaving their infant/toddler for the first time with someone new. This is a huge decision and there will naturally be questions. Will they be ok? Will they be cared for? Will they get a cuddle? Who will pick them up if they cry?
This section is designed to take you through the steps to choosing the right childcare service for you and your infant/toddler. Whether it is centre-based or with a childminder, it will guide you through questions to ask and things to look for on a visit, when deciding who will take on the momentous pleasure of caring for your little one.
Conducting a telephone interview is a useful way to narrow your search. It is a good idea to contact a few childcare services and childminders in order to see which best suits your needs and the needs of your child. If you are a parent of a child with additional needs, there are a few more specific questions that you should ask, to determine the level of availability for your child and the experience of the people in the service in caring for a child with a specific additional need
TIP: Avoid making the phone call at busy times such as arrival, departure, or lunch time.
Questions to Ask
Visiting the services you have short-listed is a crucial step in the decision making process as it gives you an opportunity to meet the people who will care for your child, ask questions, and get a general “feel” for the service.
This section will highlight the things that you should look out for during the visit and some questions to ask
- TIP: Visit the service when other children are there to get a “true sense and feel” for the service
- TIP: Bring your child with you, to see how the staff/childminders interact with your child. This is particularly useful if you have a child with an additional need as you can determine how comfortable the staff are with your child’s additional need, simply by how they react to them.
- TIP: Bring someone else with you. They can act as a second set of eyes for you on the service and look after your child for you as you talk specifics with the Manager /Childminder.
A quality childcare service/childminder provides a safe, healthy environment and supports the physical, emotional, social, moral and intellectual development of all children. There are certain quality standards that a childcare service should meet that can provide this type environment for infants/toddlers.
The premises should be large enough to offer freedom and space to each child, yet the area should not be so large that it hinders supervision
The premises should have a sense of order and cleanliness that is balanced with a sense of creativity and fun. Facilities to consider for an infant include:
Room Environment and Play Opportunities
At a young age the most interesting play item for infants/toddlers is usually parents – their interesting faces, singing and talking voices. Therefore it is important that young infants/toddlers and children will have the opportunities for this type of play.
Consistent, predictable routines help young children understand the child care environment and feel secure. A regular routine enables children to reduce anxiety by knowing what is coming next. A well-planned routine will also help encourage children's positive behaviour by meeting their basic needs for eating, sleeping, active and quiet play, time alone, and time with other children.
Infants have very particular care needs and this should be available in the childcare service you may eventually choose for them. Infants should be minded by the same person every day, so a special relationship can be formed. This will ensure that they will feel secure and gain trust.
As the most important people in children’s life, parental involvement should be at the heart of any quality childcare setting. A parent should be regularly consulted with regarding their child and be presented with a parent’s handbook with details of the services policies and procedures, mission statement, opening hours, curriculum/programme and relevant fees.
All staff in a childcare setting and childminders is required to have the skills, knowledge and attitudes appropriate to their roles and responsibilities within the setting.
Policies and Procedures/Legal requirements
Most childcare services are obliged by law to implements a range of up to date policies and procedures, which should be reviewed on a regular basis.
Settling on whom to leave your infant/toddler with is an enormous decision so you have the right to be choosy.
- Review the information that you have gathered.
- If there are questions that have not being answered or items you need clarity on, you should call back the childcare service/childminder or organise a second visit.
- If you are not comfortable with the service/childminder or it does not meet your needs, keep looking. Trust your gut instinct.
- If you are happy with the service/childminder, book your child in or put your child’s name on the waiting list, if full.
- Find out when and who will contact you with starting date etc.
When choosing childcare for your infant/toddler, a childcare service provider/childminder should welcome discussion about the quality of the service they provide and the training undertaken by them or their staff. You, as the parent, should feel 100% confident about the childcare service you choose, if not, discuss with your provider/childminder who should work in partnership with you.
Settling into a childcare service /childminders home can be a challenging time for both you and your infant. Be positive and take your time and everything will be fine.
Before the settling-in phase, you will be required to review and sign-off on the relevant policies and procedures outlined in the parent handbook and sign a contract that details fees owed and schedule of fees. It is important to ensure that you are aware of and comfortable with the relevant policies and procedures that could affect your child. Ask for clarification if you do not understand something.
You may also be given a registration/enrolment form. This will gather details including
- Child’s name, address, DOB
- Who the child lives with
- Emergency contact person/number
- Names of people who are permitted to collect your child
- Your child’s doctor’s name and number
- Vaccinations your child has received
- Dietary requirements, allergies, likes and dislikes, settling techniques.
- Feeding and sleeping routine
- Language spoken at home
- Siblings names or people close to your child
- *Specific details about your child’s additional needs – description of routines, medicine required, feeding procedure, handling techniques (you may be needed to demonstrate these procedures for staff also)
Once these details have been submitted you should liaise with the named contact person to work out a settling in period for your infant/toddler. (Most childcare services/childminders may not charge for the settling period, seek clarification if not specified).
- For infants/toddlers, it is a good idea to spend time with them, preferably in the background, before leaving in order to allow time for them to relax.
- When you leave, ensure that you stay away for a short period of time and return exactly when you said you would.
- Bring along a comforter or a familiar item from home.
It is important to not feel distressed if your infant/toddler does not settle right away. Separation from parents can be a difficult time for a child and it is important that this process is not rushed. The childcare service will have settling techniques that they will discuss with you, to help the infant/toddler relax.