8 Questions About Daycare You've Been Too Afraid To Ask

Heather Jones answers all the burning questions you've been too shy to ask your daycare provider

There is so much to consider when choosing care for your child. Centre or home? What foods do they serve? How much outside time will they have? How many other kids are there? The list of questions is endless.

As someone who taught in a centre for nearly a decade, provided care in my own home, and had children who attended a centre while I was working, I understand the anxiety parents may have surrounding daycare. Additionally, I have studied child development, including a large research project on daycare, so allow me to put your mind at ease: As long as it is quality care, it does not matter.

No, really. The research overwhelmingly shows that whatever set-up you choose, if the care is good, there is no difference in the development or well-being of the child. 

Phew, exhale.

But even when wonderful care is found, parents often have questions they are too shy to ask their providers. After speaking with several moms, I attempt to give some honest answers to their questions, from a provider’s perspective.

How sick is too sick to go?

The specific requirements will vary by provider, but generally speaking, don’t send your child with anything you wouldn’t want your own child exposed to. Fevers, vomiting, undiagnosed rashes, repeat diarrhea are all definite no-nos. A runny nose, mild cough or regular cold symptoms are fine and expected for children who are strengthening their immune systems. Do not medicate your feverish child and send them in. Providers hate that, and for good reason. We understand that taking time off work can be extremely difficult, but this is not an acceptable solution for anyone involved. Also, please don’t dismiss a fever above 101 as teething. It almost never is, and a provider will likely want confirmation from a doctor if that is the case.

Do daycare providers have favourites?

Favourites wouldn’t be the word I would use, but teachers and providers are people, and they definitely have kids with whom they form a strong connection. It has nothing to do with the child—different teachers connect with different children, and it is often the child who is a “handful.” There are children I taught 17 years ago who I still wonder about. That said, providers care equally and deeply about every child in their care, and treat all children the same. Having a special connection with some children does not lead to playing favourites or differing quality of care.

How well do children adapt to being away from their parents?

Some children walk in like they own the place and never look back, and some children can take over a month to settle in. Some children settle in fine, but give mom or dad a hard time every morning for years (then run off happily as soon as the door closes—we call these children future Oscar winners). I have never once seen a child who did not eventually settle in and start to enjoy daycare.

Are children given plenty of love and hugs?

Absolutely! I have spent many a day with a wee one in my arms. The transition can be hard, particularly for part-time children (and definitely for mom and dad!) But providers will comfort your child and help them feel at home. We love them too and want them to be happy. Plus, we like snuggles. Children who are well settled get lots of cuddle time too. It was rare for me to sit down in the toddler room without a little one climbing into my lap, and kindergartners give amazing hugs.

Do children behave better for providers than for their parents? How do providers manage to keep their cool?

Heck yes! In centres, most providers are not allowed to teach their own children. I always thought that was weird until I wound up occasionally teaching my own child. Teaching him was harder than the other 20 kids combined. He knew every button of mine to push! He was, of course, much more receptive to my colleagues. Your kids love their providers, but you are their safe space and they are far more comfortable “unloading” on you. Providers keep their cool for similar reasons. These are not our children, it is easier to remain professional and not let the little things frustrate us. We are also not trying to make dinner, get housework done, and grocery shop; the kids are our only focus. And we get to go home at the end of the day!

How much outside time and exercise will kids get?
This will vary from provider to provider and is something a parent should ask individual daycares (ideally before signing up with them). Centres will go out as often as mandated by the government. For Peel, for example, that is two hours a day, weather permitting. As a home provider, I was under no such obligation, which means that in addition to different regions having different rules, different providers will things differently too. It's an important question, but it can only be answered by each provider.

How often do kids take their first steps in front of a provider? Do you pretend you didn’t see it?

In all my years providing care, I have only seen it happen once. I would have pretended not to see it except that this child’s mom had expressly asked me to tell her about it. Luckily, I was able to get it on video. We rarely see the very first step, but when we do, there is a lot of cheering. Watching a child learn to read never stops being exciting either.

And finally, the question I see asked most often, do teachers and providers prefer gift cards or sentimental gifts?

Nearly universally, what we like most is a heartfelt letter letting us know you appreciate having us in your life. I have kept them all over the years and they mean a great deal to me. You can never go wrong with a gift card, but sentimental gifts will be appreciated for the effort as well. Mostly, providers just like to know you are thinking of them. It sounds corny, but it’s true.

I hope this satisfies some curiosity, and never be shy to ask strange questions to your provider. They are happy to answer them, and I assure you, whatever you ask, they have heard weirder!

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