Expecting a new baby can be both exciting and joyful as well as a bit overwhelming as you plan for the first days, weeks, and months. Between buying new clothing and gear, looking through hand-me-downs from friends and family, and readying your home to welcome your new baby, this time is both important and busy. As you make these preparations, it is also a key time to start considering your childcare plan. Though it seems so far away, it is important to use these months to learn about your options, determine the best fit for you, your family, and your new baby, and ultimately, secure a spot.
Learn About Your Child Care Options
In any given area, there are many childcare centers that vary in size, space, and overall feel. Some have small, intimate settings and only serve a limited number of families, creating a more family-like atmosphere. Others are larger in size, allowing them to deliver a wider availability of offerings and additional resources. And, across this continuum, there are a variety of educational and childcare approaches–from play-based centers, to Montessori schools, to more structured learning environments. It is important to take time to consider which approach aligns best with your hopes and intentions for your child’s early learning experiences.
Determine the Best Fit
Once you evaluate which child care environment is preferable for your family, next think through the logistical considerations that will impact your day-to-day routines and needs. First, assess what days and hours you will need care for your child and whether you will need flexibility in that schedule. The hours that childcare centers provide care can vary from center to center. Additionally, some child care centers are open before, during, and after holidays while others follow local school district calendars and vacations. As you think about the schedules, consider the tuition and pricing structure for the childcare options as there can be a wide range in a given area.
It is also important to take into account the location of a given child care center. You might choose a center near where you work so that you require care for fewer hours each day, or you might select a center that is closer to your home so that other family members can help with drop-off and pick-ups when you need to work a longer day. While a few miles might not seem like a lot, the time driving to and from daycare each day can add up and make for a longer day for all.
Beyond these basic logistics, it is also valuable to consider other details about the center’s operations that might impact your choice. Child care providers that provide snacks and meals give you one less thing to worry about each morning as you head out of the door. Centers that have established methods to communicate about your child’s day can provide you with a connection to your child, even for the hours you are not together. And, while it may seem too far into the future to even consider, selecting a child care center that provides care for multiple ages of children, including before and after school care, can reduce the logistical burdens on growing families.
Secure a Spot in Child Care
Many child care providers begin filling spots for infants months prior to an anticipated start date. Some allow families to sign up more than six months ahead of time–even before your baby is born. And many that do not have openings for your potential start date will add names to a waitlist. With all of this in mind, it is important to get started on this child care search to ensure that you maximize your potential options and are able to engage in the process in a calm, thoughtful manner.
At PreK.com, we’ve made it easy for expecting families to start searching for child care early, by conducting a simple search for centers near you. You’ll find in-depth information on each school, including tuition rates, photos, reviews, programs, amenities, and more.