There’s one moment in every mother’s life that I’d bet we can all remember vividly, and relate to easily.
No, not labor. I’m thinking of a different, but maybe equally traumatizing experience: the first time you had to leave your baby in the hands of a caretaker.
There is no feeling more unnatural than dropping your child off with someone – anyone who isn’t you, really – and driving away without them. Logically, it makes no sense. My most important job on this earth is to ensure this baby’s wellbeing, but here I am, leaving them behind.
And yet, we all have to do it at some point or another, whether it’s for a few hours to run errands, or an evening out for a date night, or like many of us, a full day at work.
For those of us who had to go back to work after just 6-12 short weeks with our squishy little newborn, the decision of who to entrust with our most precious cargo is a huge, overwhelming, almost paralyzingly hard choice to make.
After touring many, MANY daycare facilities when I was hunting for a place to enroll my oldest, I developed a checklist of sorts for what makes a good daycare center.
Today, I was able to tour Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy of West Allen, one of several centers in Collin County, and was not only validated in my priorities, but can confidently say that KRK checks all these boxes.
Here are the key things to pay attention to when touring a daycare facility:
Daycare Checklist #1: How you get into the building
This is the first interaction you’ll have with the school, and it’s a big one. How hard is it to get into the building? You want it to be difficult. Do you need a code, a keycard, a fingerprint? Do you need to be manually let in by real-life human being (like at Kids ‘R’ Kids)?
I was impressed to see that someone is always at the front desk at Kids ‘R’ Kids, keeping tabs on who is coming and going. And even more impressed to see that they recognized every single person who came in the door immediately, buzzing them in before they even got to the handle. Which brings me to my next point…
Daycare Checklist #2: How the staff interacts with parents and kids (and each other!)
Does the staff know the parents (and more importantly, the kids) who come through the door by name? Do they greet them warmly, and give them their full attention? This is the area that Kids ‘R’ Kids blew me away with the most during my tour.
I watched the director interact with darn-near every child who crossed our path throughout my time with her: from carrying a fussy toddler around on her hip for part of the tour, to complimenting a kindergartner on her outfit, to sharing an inside joke with a pre-K boy as arrived in his classroom.
It was clear that she had a personal connection with each of these kids – not just a passing acknowledgment or vague awareness of who they were. As a daycare mom of 3 years, this speaks VOLUMES about the level of care these kids are getting.
Daycare Checklist #3: How the curriculum is structured
If you’re looking at daycares for a newborn, I know the thought of “curriculum” is probably way down on the priority list (at least, it was for me). It’s hard to imagine the days beyond bottles, colic, and diapers. But, whether you choose to accept it or not, your child will be growing up, and will be ready for actual, real-life learning, way sooner than you think.
It’s important to look at the curriculum the school offers: Montessori-style? Erikson-style? Cognitive-based? What’s really important is that you feel confident your child will thrive in the learning environment.
One thing that jumped out at me about Kids ‘R’ Kids is how well-rounded their curriculum is. They pulled their standard curriculum from all the major child education theorists, so if your child doesn’t thrive under one of the standard methods (and how can you predict that when they’re newborns?!), the teachers at KRK will have the opportunity to reach them using a different method.
Daycare Checklist #4: How they address safety concerns
Obviously, every parent’s worst nightmare when leaving their child at daycare is some kind of tragedy striking while they’re there—fire, natural disaster, lockdown, medical emergency, gas leak, snake bite, werewolf attack…you name it! My list of anxieties knows no bounds.
When I was touring daycares, I grilled everyone I came in contact with at the school about various safety procedures. What do you do if there’s a fire? Where is your tornado safety zone? What if there’s a gunman in the building? Where’s the first aid kit? Where do you go if there’s an evacuation? I paid close attention to how the teachers, in particular, responded to these types of questions. You can probably assume the director knows the protocol, but the teachers are the ones who will be responsible for getting your child to safety; so make sure they know what to do without missing a beat.
Daycare Checklist #5: What your gut tells you
This one’s a little harder to put your finger on, but it’s probably the most important point of all. At the end of the day, if you don’t feel comfortable, confident, and at ease in the facility, keep looking. If there’s a nagging feeling in your gut that something was just off, then it’s not the right daycare center for your family.
Your kids are going to spend a lot of time in this place, so it’s important that it feels right. Best case scenario, the school becomes a second home for your child, and the staff becomes an extended family.
I was pleasantly surprised to truly see that brought to life at Kids ‘R’ Kids. Their policy of “hug first, then teach” really shined through every interaction I saw during my visit. It honestly made me a little jealous – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering make a switch for my own kids (seriously, I took a full registration packet on my way out!).
Choosing a daycare is never easy, and it might never feel like the right thing to do. But with the right facility, the right team of teachers and staff, and the right structure for your child, it can be one of the best things you do for your kid.
If you’re on the hunt, I highly recommend taking a tour of your nearest Kids ‘R’ Kids – there are several in Collin County – Frisco, Legacy West, McKinney, West Allen and West Frisco. I’m sure you’ll be as impressed as I was!