When to Start Looking for Daycare: A Parent’s Guide

While parents can feasibly expect to manage their children’s physical needs, their options are severely limited when it comes to their little one’s social development. Daycares provide a crucial service, allowing children to interact and socialize with others in their age bracket.

How do you know that your kid is ready, though? When should you start looking for daycare?

Honestly, you should start looking for daycare options ASAP. Most reputable daycares are popular for good reason and often have long waitlists and limited, highly contested slots. You’re also going to decide who you’d be entrusting with your child’s safety– you don’t want to be pressured into an impulsive decision out of necessity!

There is no “ideal age” to put your baby in daycare. They need to reach a point where they can comfortably interact with others outside of their immediate family. Don’t just drop them into daycare, as this will leave your infant incredibly anxious. They’ll be difficult for the staff to soothe, and your child may even lash out at others!

The idea of leaving your baby in the care of others – even for just a few hours – can be terrifying for parents. Picking out a good daycare for your child shouldn’t be a decision to take lightly, so we’ll go over some key things you need to consider to make the best choice possible.

When Should I Start Looking for Daycare Services?

mom using laptop while carrying baby

We’d honestly recommend that you look into daycare services for your little one a few months before you think you might enroll them. This goes double for high-demand daycare facilities, as they’ll probably have a ton of backlogged “reservations” to go through first.

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Try to look into multiple daycares first, rather than sticking to just what’s recommended or popular. Even if you make an appointment well in advance, there’s no guarantee you’ll have a slot available for when your baby is finally ready for daycare.

Competing daycares also conduct their service differently, varying in caregiving strategies, provisions, values, and priorities. To find the perfect daycare center that fully aligns with your child’s needs, you’ll have to explore all of your options thoroughly. 

What Are the Criteria for a “Good” Daycare

mom playing with baby

A good daycare center should provide a welcoming and nurturing environment for children. It should provide a safe and engaging space for them to develop and socialize with minimal risk.

It should have well-trained and attentive staff since they’ll be the people overseeing your child all throughout the day. They need to have a grasp on child development, but most of all they should be patient and kind. Try to talk with some daycare staff to get a feel for their personalities!

The staff should also be ready and willing to communicate with you – even if they don’t have good news to share. Children can be difficult, and sometimes incidents come up. It’s always better to be told firsthand rather than discovering it after the fact through gossip. Get in touch with other parents using that daycare service and ask them how effectively the daycare team updates them.

The daycare you’re eyeing needs to have a comprehensive meal plan that can accommodate specific dietary restrictions your infant may have. They also need to have protocols in place to safely handle food allergy episodes.

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If your baby has any of these risk factors, be sure to tell the staff in detail. Ask them how they plan to deal with these specific emergency scenarios, and make sure that they can feasibly follow through with whatever precautions they provide.

A good daycare will also welcome your children, making them feel cared for and respected. Problematic behavior should be handled, but not to the point where other children suffer for it. Ask your daycare’s staff about how they handle combative children, and pay attention to their answer – are they still treating the child with dignity as they discipline them?

A good daycare should help facilitate your child’s emotional growth. It should never make them feel threatened. Get a feel for the people who’ll care for your kid and choose your daycare wisely.

Does Age Matter For Daycare?

cute baby laughing

To reiterate, the age of your child doesn’t really matter when it comes to putting them in daycare. It’s a question best decided by the family’s needs and the child’s developmental circumstances. Some parents can afford to stay home and care for their child personally for a time, while other parents need to return to work shortly after their child is born – daycare may not be a choice.

Your child’s temperament is also important to consider. Social, outgoing children could handle daycare at younger ages than their contemporaries. Shy children will have a more difficult time in daycare, especially if they have separation anxiety. For the latter group, it may be wise to postpone the daycare stage of their lives until they can healthily manage without your presence.

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Age should be treated as a rough guideline as to when you should put your child in daycare, rather than a hard metric to abide by. While daycares can take in children as young as six months old, it’s almost always better to wait until your child is ready to spend time away from you.

Final Thoughts

So, when should you start looking for daycare?

Do this as soon as possible – there are a lot of reasons for that.

  • You want to ensure that you’re on the waiting list to even get a chance to avail yourself of their daycare services.
  • You want to go over all of your options properly, as each daycare center conducts itself differently. Find the best fit for your child’s needs first.
  • You don’t want to be forced into making this decision under duress, so look into your choices while you still have breathing room – don’t do it when you need to decide.
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