How to Find the Right Early Childhood Education Program For Your Family
Originally published in the Spring 2022 Issue of Kansas Child Magazine.
Licensed daycare home or child care center? School-aged program or Head Start? There are so many options to consider and questions to ponder as you look for the right program and the right provider for your family. Here are some key points to reflect on as you begin your search.
The provider you choose will be an extension of your family, because your child will spend nearly half of each day in their care. You want to be able to connect, communicate, and build a relationship with the provider. If there are ethnic or cultural differences, you need to know that your child will feel safe, included, valued, and loved. If you have concerns, you need to feel confident that your feelings will be validated.
Make sure you choose a provider who is more than qualified to have children in their care. Consider how much experience, training, and/or education the provider has. Ask how they handle behavior problems and whether they’re able to check their own personal biases.
Discovering what kind of person the provider is — and then building a trusting relationship with them — is crucial to the well-being and developmental growth of your child.
Consider whether your child would thrive best in a home or school setting.
- Is your child more comfortable in a cozier atmosphere, which a home provider can offer?
- Do they need a more structured curriculum setting, which center-based programs can provide?
- Do you want a program that has a developmental curriculum, which offers developmentally appropriate play?
- Do you prefer a Montessori program, where children move from one activity to the next at their own pace?
- Could you see your child in an outdoor/nature program, where the kids spend most of their time outside exploring nature?
After choosing an appropriate setting, consider the program’s distance from your home, as well as other important locations, like work or school. If your child falls ill, how long will it take you to pick them up?
You’ll also want to consider the space itself — what we call the program environment. Is it clean, welcoming, and safe? If there is an outside playground, and is the equipment safe? Is the playground area fenced or gated? It’s crucial to know the ins and outs of the space where your child will be spending a great deal of time.
Finally, spend some time thinking about whether this is the right time for your child — and for you — to begin the child care journey. If your child is having anxiety, socialization, or separation issues, they may not be ready quite yet.
Once you’ve found the right program for your child, make sure to point out how exciting the journey will be for all of you, especially if this is your child’s first school experience. Be ready to offer patience, support, and love as your little one adjusts to the world outside and begins to lay the foundation for a successful education.