As a new mom it was really hard to find a daycare that didn’t have a wait-list a mile long. I know that isn’t the same in all areas but where we are we had to wait a full year for an open spot at our daycare of choice. Picking who is going to be a surrogate parent for your child during the day is stressful. Here are the tips that I wish we had before we picked our first daycare:
Compare at least 3 daycares to see what the average rate is
This site has some numbers that show what the average cost is for daycares, in-home daycares, babysitters, etc. You should also ask on your local parents/mom Facebook pages. I know it seems awkward to ask about how much something costs, but I promise you other people are too afraid to ask and end up spending way over market value. If you have friends who had kids right before you did, don’t be afraid to ask them how much they spend on daycare in your area. Businesses win when we stay afraid of feeling uncomfortable.
Compare the cost per hour that they would potentially be at school (example: she could be there for less time if they are only open for a set period of time)
The first thing you need to do is determine how long your child is going to need to be at school. Once you’ve figured it out, you can then look at the cost per hour.
Example: Daycare A is open from 8-5 and charges $700 a month, while Daycare B is open from 6-6 and charges $850. If you did the math and broke down the cost per hour, Daycare B is cheaper but it is only more cost-effective if you have your child there for more than 9 hours a day.
Try to find a daycare close to you or on your way to/from work
We drove our daughter to a daycare across town for an entire year. It was only an added 15 minutes and it wasn’t a big deal at first. Then came the days when we were running late and driving the opposite direction of our 45+, minute commute was a huge inconvenience. Our daycare is now less than 5 minutes from our house and is in the same direction as our commute. It has made our mornings so simple and if we are running late, it’s such a short stop that it’s not an issue.
When touring look for a list of sicknesses (if the list is large you might want to avoid)
Most daycares will have a list of all of the illnesses that kids have had so you can look out for your child having symptoms. It’s not always a perfect indicator of whether the school is a petri dish but it can help.
We didn’t have great luck with a “green” daycare
The first daycare we had P in was a “Green” daycare, which meant they didn’t use harmful chemicals etc. We paid no mind to the fact that they were “green,” until P was sick every week (not an exaggeration). We missed so many days in the office because she had a fever, was throwing up, had pinkeye or whatever flavor of the week it was. Now, kids get sick. Kids in daycare get sick. But the entire point of us having her in daycare is because we can’t be at home with her every day and for a long time we were swapping off who was home with her that week. I’m not bashing on anyone who cares about the environment but what I will say is I’m glad our new daycare uses bleach.
Take into account your commute and your entire workday
Like I mentioned above, we have long commutes and we need to take into account how early we need to be in the office or the airport when we are looking at school hours. A girlfriend of mine has her daughter in a daycare that doesn’t let you drop your kids off until 9 AM. I’m getting to the office at 9 after driving an hour in traffic to get there. I can’t have P at a daycare that won’t let me drop her off until 9. So we looked for schools that have earlier drop-off times. Most in our area let, you drop you children off at six or 6:30 so we lucked out with that. I know other areas it is hit or miss so do your research.
If both parents work, you’ll need a plan on who picks up and drops off
If both parents work, you’ll need to decide who is picking up and who is dropping off. We are beyond blessed that my parents pick P up on their way home from work every day. That means we don’t have to leave work early and continue working in the evening from home. When it comes to taking her in, it depends on what we have going on. If we woke up late then I usually drop her off because my husband needs to be in the office earlier. On a normal day, he drops her off and I pick her up from my parent’s house in the evenings. It’s worked so well for us but we know that it’s a special circumstance that we have additional support so we don’t take advantage of their time.
Look into what holidays and days they are closed
You could assume that daycares are only closed when schools are, but you’d be wrong. Some daycares take full weeks off at certain times of the year for vacations or to deep clean their facility. Be sure you ask when you are touring when they are closed. Ideally, you would plan for the school to be closed for an entire week in the middle of September, but a lot of the time you forget until it’s the Sunday before they are closed.
There are also schools that are only open for 3 days during the week. For us, that was a hard pass. We needed a school where P could go every day that we were at work and only 3 days wasn’t going to cut it. Some folks work it out with their bosses and are able to work from home during the other two days but that is up to you and your boss.
You can’t just look at the stars.
If you are going to look at ratings on a daycare you need to look at multiple sites and you need to read the actual reviews. If you use Amazon or read reviews for products you’re going to buy, you know that people will give something 1 star because it wasn’t what they expected. I’ve seen people rate 5 stars because they were friends with the owners of a business but never actually used the product. If you are going to base decisions off ratings, be sure, the ratings can be trusted and that they aren’t skewed.