With so many child care options available to parents, it is hard to know which one to choose. Daycare center? Nanny? Au pair? Babysitter? Before making a decision, consider your family's specific needs and make a list of requirements. Below are 10 factors to keep in mind when choosing a child care provider for your family.
1. When interviewing a potential child care provider, ask for specific examples of the types of daily activities he or she will engage in with your child. Their answers will give you a sense of their experience level, and also an idea of whether or not your child will enjoy the time they spend together.
2. Choose a care provider that you will be able to get to know on a personal level, rather than just through quick drop-offs and pick-ups with minimal interaction.
3. Consider a live-in child care provider. Live-in providers, such as au pairs, offer affordable childcare with flexible hours you can select.
4. Make sure the provider cares about your specific requests and concerns relating to your family's and child's needs.
5. If you need child care during non-traditional hours or on weekends, find a provider that charges the same rate regardless of what time the care is provided.
6. Make sure you're comfortable and feel secure about the environment where your child is cared for - whether this is your own home, the provider's home, a camp, or a day care center.
7. If you keep a close watch on what your child eats or if your child has food allergies, ask what type of snacks the child care provider supplies or will prepare.
8. Many providers offer discounts and family rates for enrolling or taking care of more than one child. If you have more than one child, look for a provider that offers this.
9. Consider your child's age-specific needs. Infants require constant care from trained care givers, while toddlers require constant stimulation and active discipline. Make sure your care giver can provide the type of care your child requires.
10. Check for proof of First Aid and CPR training before hiring a new care provider.
"High quality, flexible and affordable child care is fast becoming a necessity for American families, where many households depend on two incomes and both parents work outside of the home," according to Heidi Woehl, vice president of AuPairCare, an au pair agency that matches American families with international au pairs. "Parents should research every possible child care option available to them before making a decision, to ensure that they make the right choice for their child and their family's needs."