Tips on Choosing Quality and Affordable Childcare
Kaitlin Mulcahy, Associate Director of the Center for Autism & Early Childhood Mental Health at Montclair State University, offers tips to parents on choosing quality and affordable childcare.
"Welcome back. Anyone who's ever had to find child care for their kids knows that the process can be challenging and downright scary. How do you know if it's safe? Or if your child will be nurtured? Well joining me to discuss this is Kaitlin Mulcahy, Associate Director of the Center for Autism & Early Childhood Mental Health at Montclair State University. Welcome to the program Kaitlin. Thank you. Thank you for having me. This process of finding a child care provider is certainly daunting. Explain what... what are some of the things that parents go through? Sure. So it is one of the hardest decisions to have to make. And sometimes without any information at all. Studies have shown that parents choose their child care, really, by geography. So what's close. What's obviously affordable. And how it feels when they walk inside. Which are good things to be thinking about. But it doesn't necessarily mean that that's a quality choice. How should parents be approaching this decision? Are there key questions they should be asking? Yes. So there's four key questions, I think, that we could keep in our minds when we're walking into a new place. The first is, do they work off a curriculum? So some places will say, "Yes, absolutely" very quickly, and other places might look at you and say, "What's a curriculum?" [laughter] The second one is play. Does play make a part of their day? So we don't want kids in early care only learning ABCs and 123s. We want them to play as well. The third is, do kids have the opportunity to play together? So not just adult directed the entire day. They actually have a choice to make and play together. And then the fourth is, are there predictable and consistent routines in the day that the kids can expect? Let's expound on that routine part a bit. What kind of routine should a child have, adding on to what you just said, right? The play, the play together? Yes. So kids feel safer when they know what's next. And that's generally a good parenting skill as well. So to keep a child on a predictable, consistent routine can really help them feel safe, which helps them learn better. So you often might see, when you walk into an early care and education facility, a visual schedule on the wall that might say, "Meeting time, outdoor time, play time, book time, music time, dance time..." It doesn't necessarily have to say exact times when that happens. But there's a predictable routine through the day that the children can expect. And oftentimes, right at the beginning of the day, one child might have that role that day to walk the whole..."