Finding quality child care: Will my child be engaged, happy and learning?

Leaving your child with caregivers can be difficult and knowing how to find a safe, engaging and quality center-based or home-based program is incredibly important.

Books play an important role in children's learning.
Books play an important role in children's learning.

Leaving your child to be cared for by someone else is often one of the hardest parts about being a parent. Taking the time to find child care options that are high quality, educational, supportive and safe can make the process a little less daunting.

Ask yourself four questions when investigating a center-based or home-based child care:

This article will focus on the third question, will my child be engaged, happy and learning?

Will my child be engaged, happy and learning?

What kinds of materials and activities are there for my child? Children should have access to lots of different types of toys and materials to play with on a daily basis, including books; manipulatives, or small toys like Legos, small animals and stacking blocks; puzzles; music; and materials for science and math play. Infants and toddlers should have access to balls, toys to chew on and riding toys.

How is the space organized? Look to see if toys and materials are easy to use and can be accessed freely by children. Can they move from one activity to the other without asking for adult help?

Do the adults have a plan? Children should have time to explore and play based on their own interests, but adults should play an active role in providing quality experiences for their child. Ask if they create and post activity plans for their program and how those activities will help your child learn.

How often are the adults talking to and interacting with children? Adults in quality programs should engage and talk with children frequently throughout the day. They might ask questions about what the children are doing, talk to them about their day, talk to babies and they should encourage children to practice their language skills and talk back.

How often are children read to? Books play an important role in children’s learning. Quality programs should include adults reading to children at least twice a day, but more is always better. A range of children’s books should be available for children to access throughout the day.

For more information about finding quality care for your children, check out the following resources:

Also, check out the guide “Is This The Right Place For My Child?” from Childcare Aware, which includes 38 questions to ask any potential child care provider. For more information about Michigan child care rules and regulations, check out the licensing rules for child care centers and family and group homes.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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