Giving your child the highest quality of care is a primary concern for you – and it also should be a major concern for your child-care provider, according to LSU AgCenter expert Dr. Becky White.
"Parents want to know their children are receiving the best quality of care," White says, adding, "Of course, that involves being happy, safe and well cared for."
One way to ensure those things are happening is to plan a surprise visit to your child’s child-care center to observe the conditions, the LSU AgCenter expert says.
"People in quality child-care centers should not mind that you wish to get ‘a feel’ for the care conditions your child receives," White says.
Here are a few things the LSU AgCenter expert says to consider looking for and inquiring about on such a visit:
- Crib Safety: Cribs should be in good condition, and the slats should be no more than about 2 inches apart. The mattresses should be firm and flat, and they should fit snugly inside the crib. There should be no pillows, soft bedding or comforters used when putting a baby to sleep, and babies should be kept on their backs while sleeping. Cribs should be at least 1.5 feet apart.
- Waking Time: When awake, infants and toddlers should not remain in a crib, baby bed, swing, highchair, carrier, playpen and so forth for more than 30 consecutive minutes.
- Naps/Rest Time: Children 5 years and younger should have a daily rest period of at least one hour.
- Discipline: No child should be physically punished, verbally abused or threatened. No cruel, severe, unusual or unnecessary punishment should be inflicted on children. Derogatory remarks should not be made in the presence of children. No child or group of children should discipline another child. When a child is removed from the group for disciplinary reasons, the child should never be out of view of a staff member. No child should be deprived of meals or snacks as a disciplinary action.
- Playground Surfacing: There should be mats or at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel as a playground surface. Mats should be made of safety-tested rubber or rubberlike materials.
- Playground Maintenance: The play equipment on the playground should be in good condition at all times, and the surfacing should be reapplied or repaired whenever needed. There also should be a fence or other barrier to protect the children from traffic hazards, wandering off or coming into contact with animals or strangers.
- Safety Gates: Gates should be used to keep children away from potentially dangerous areas, especially stairs.
- Window Blinds and Curtain Cords: The mini-blinds or curtains should not have looped cords hanging down from them, and curtain cords should be out of a child’s reach or in tie-down devices to hold them tight.
- Director: The director of the center should be 21 and should have a background in early childhood, education or child development. He or she should have either a two-year associate degree or a more comprehensive college degree. Experience in the field of child care and child development also is important.
- Supervision: No child should ever be left alone or left in any room or outdoors without a staff member present. All children who are sleeping should be supervised by a naptime worker at all times. There should be a minimum of at least two staff with CPR training on the premises and accessible to the children at all times.
- Food and Nutrition: Children should receive food if they are under care for more than four hours. Meals and snacks should be provided at two- to two-and-a-half-hour intervals, and they should be served on individual plates, napkins or paper towels – or in cups, when needed. Infants should be held when they are bottle-fed. Bottles should not be heated in the microwave. No medication of any type, prescription or over the counter, should be given unless authorized in writing by a parent.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.