Different childcare programs can often look very similar. The toys, decorations, playgrounds, and even staff can all look somewhat alike. However, even daycares that look very similar can have very different policies, and this can make a big difference in how you and your child experience their services. When you're touring different daycares, there are some important questions that you should always ask about their policies.
What Is Your Visitation Policy?
What is the daycare's policy on when parents can visit? If you want to drop by and visit your child during your lunch hour, can you do that? Is anyone other than a parent or guardian allowed to visit your child during the time that they're in care?
If a daycare doesn't allow anyone to visit between drop off and pick up time, that can be a red flag. Ideally, you should be able to drop in and eat lunch with your child or observe them while they play, and if a daycare doesn't allow these visits, you have to wonder why not.
On the other hand, there are some good reasons why a daycare might limit visitation during care hours—if a parent shows up and wants to visit with their own child during naptime, for example, they could end up disturbing the whole class. And while you may want a grandmother or older sibling to be able to visit your child in daycare, you probably also want to know that the daycare isn't allowing just anyone in to visit with the children in their care. Make sure that you choose a child care facility with a visitation policy that you're comfortable with.
How Do You Handle Potty Training?
When a child is in daycare while potty training, it's important for parents and daycare providers to be on the same page because consistency is an important factor in successful potty training. Some daycares begin working with children on potty training once they reach a certain age, whether or not the parent asks them to. Some daycares also don't allow children to continue to attend over a certain age if they aren't yet trained. Others follow the parents' lead and don't push potty training until you request it.
When and how to potty train can be a hot topic, so if your child isn't yet potty trained, it's important to choose a childcare provider whose potty training policies are in line with your beliefs about the subject. If you prefer a more child-led approach, you may not be compatible with a daycare that insists on starting potty training for every child once they reach a specific age.
What Happens If I'm Late for Pickup?
Parents who habitually run late for pickup can be a problem for childcare providers, and many childcare providers have established policies to discourage lateness. Often, this takes the form of charging extra fees when parents run late. Some daycares even charge these fees by the minute. For example, if you're fifteen minutes late for pickup and the daycare is charging a dollar a minute after closing time, you could end up paying an extra $15 for that day.
Most parents don't want to run late when it comes to picking their child up from daycare, but traffic jams, overtime, and other emergencies do happen. You should know what to expect before one of these situations arises, so find out what the policy is. If your daycare charges extra fees, ask if there are any situations where they might be waived, such as a verifiable emergency or as a one-time courtesy. If you know that rush-hour traffic or common workplace situations might make you late occasionally or often, you may want to look for a daycare with longer operating hours or a very lenient lateness policy.
Reputable daycares can have different policies for good reasons. There isn't necessarily a wrong visitation, toilet training, or lateness policy, but some of those policies may not be right for your child and your family. Asking about these policies ahead of time can help you choose the daycare that best meets your family's needs.