Baby is on the way and you know you will need to go back to work after that magical maternity leave. Time to start searching out daycare, which can be an overwhelming search. There are three options available; day care centers, family home care and in-home care (such as a nanny or relative care). If you decide you are looking to utilize out-of-home daycare, start researching the options available in the area.
To start with, you need to know what you are looking for in a daycare center. How do you know the place you are taking your precious little one is offering a quality program? There are several resources available including Great Start Connect and the MSU Family Resource Center, to assist parents in finding appropriate care. Great Start Connect has a listing of licensed centers that meet your filters. The best search is generally by zip code so you can narrow it by the area you want. By default, the centers will be listed by star rating, which is assigned by the Quality Rating Improvement System. You will still want to check them out yourself.
The first thing you want to do is call the center to get the basic information. Is there a space for your child? What ages do they care for? What hours are they open? And what are the weekly rates for care? If your child is older, you will want to ask if potty training is required.
If what you have heard sounds appealing to you, schedule a visit to check the place out. Most importantly, follow your gut instinct when it comes to the atmosphere of the center. Then check out how the care givers are interacting with the children AND each other. Is it a positive atmosphere? Is the place clean and safe? Are there a sufficient variety of toys/equipment to accommodate the amount of children that will be in the room?
Take time to interview the care giver. If they really want you as a parent, they will take the time to answer your questions. You will want to know about the kinds of activities they provide, education of the employees, how they handle emergencies, their sick policies (though this is usually pretty standard among providers), and their parent visitation policies.
Ask yourself, are you comfortable with this provider, can I afford the rates, is there a balance of child led and teacher led activities available?