Last Friday we finished visiting 5 of the 6 daycares I had selected the last time I posted (hence no other postings about anything, not even daycare!). While I won’t identify specific details about each daycare (not by name, anyhow), I will tell you we visited:
- Children of America
- Creative Care Childcare
- Kiddie Academy
- Kinder Care
- Malvern School
I decided not visit the 6th school, the local YMCA, because I hadn’t heard back from them and I kinda had a meltdown after visiting 4 of the 5 schools we actually saw. I was a little overwhelmed as it was and Bug was screaming hysterically and so… we kept our last appointment to visit the 5th school and decided to forget about the Y. We already found 2 places we really liked at that point anyhow; adding a potential third school to that list would only make it our decision more complicated.
We saw a variety of daycares, including an actual preschool, a new facility, an old facility, one we really hated, and one that was in a house turned into daycare facility. We didn’t include any at home daycares because I felt a little weird about it. I didn’t get any recommendations from my friends for any like that in our area, and the only person I know who has one lives in Bethlehem. I’ve heard a few horror stories about home daycares and I know not all home daycares are like that, but I wasn’t comfortable. It was a relief to discover Daddy Bug and I felt the same way about what we liked and didn’t like (we’ve never done anything as important as this). 🙂 We were also relieved to find that the daycares were almost all under $1000/month. The only one that cost more was the place that was obviously going to be super pricey (not naming names!)
To help keep all the important details organized, I went back to our Google Doc and added a chart. For each daycare I tracked the following categories:
- location and hours
- what the daycare provides
- what we would have to provide
- accreditations and teacher certifications
What I didn’t list were our first impressions, general feelings about each daycare and the directors we met, how Bug reacted to being in each daycare, how the teachers interacted with the children, and how secure each daycare felt/the kinds of security measures they had in place. But those characteristics are the ones most present in my mind. The other stuff went in a chart because I knew I wouldn’t remember any of it. 😉
To keep this relatively short (hah!), I’ll discuss the two daycares we liked the most, as well as the one we absolutely did not care for.
We liked the very first daycare we saw but were a little wary since we had nothing to compare it to. We may very well visit it a second time now that we’ve seen the others and now know what to look for. Anyhow, #1 was a newer building, had a great security/check-in system, a safe parking lot set-up, and we really loved the assistant director. She spoke with and interacted with Bug, and answered all of our questions with good details and explanations. It had the nicest outdoor play area as well as an indoor play room. They offer in-classroom security camera access online for an extra fee (not sure if we’ll use it but it has a 2 week free trial). They include breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The lead teachers in each classroom have teaching certificates and their curriculum is based on NAEYC standards. Bug had a great time in the classroom and indoor playroom. We really liked how helpful and detailed they were when we told them we just started looking. When we said we were looking other places too, they said they would match a lower tuition offer (within reason). They responded very quickly to our follow-up questions email that we sent later that day. They had no problem with me visiting the classroom for a few days with Bug to transition him before he officially started there, if that’s what we chose to do. It’s on my way to work which is convenient if I do drop off/pickup.
This was the fourth daycare we visited. It’s the closest to home which means Daddy Bug can do some of the drop offs/pick ups. It’s an older building but has great employee retention as a result. We loved Bug’s potential teacher. She’s been the toddler room teacher for 16 years and not only included Bug in snack time, but changed his poopy diaper too. She was very on top of their curriculum (NAEYC accredited, 2 Keystone Stars) and gave us a big packet of toddler info. The assistant director who gave us the tour started there as an assistant teacher, then worked her way up to lead teacher, and then to her current position. Their security system was good, just not as new as #1. They don’t include breakfast but since its so close to where we live, we would have more time at home in the morning to give Bug breakfast. They cost more than #1, but they do include diapers and wipes, so I’ll have to calculate how much we would be spending on them and compare it to the increased tuition. They offer a music enrichment class for a small fee each week which Bug would really like.
We were actually pleased that we disliked #3 as much as we did – it was the second daycare we visited and showed us exactly what we didn’t want. It proved to be a great basis of comparison for the rest of our search. It was bad from the beginning! When I scheduled our appointment the director didn’t know what she was doing. The parking lot was oddly shaped and not very safe. It was difficult to back out of as it was tight and connected to another business next store. I can’t imagine what busy mornings are like there. Our visit occurred during their nap time so we didn’t get to see Bug interact with the teachers or students. We couldn’t enter the classroom spaces (they weren’t even rooms, more like open spaces with low fences/gates across the front) since the kids were sleeping. They didn’t seem to value teaching degress and even tried to justify it to us, two teachers! We felt like they were trying to explain away all the not so good things about their daycare. It wasn’t very clean and seemed disorganized. Even the office was disorganized – they couldn’t find a stapler to attach their business card to the folder they gave us. They had broken toys in their indoor play room (which was just a really big room they walk the kids through to get outside to the playground). #3 seemed more like a big place to babysit children rather than a place to nurture them and help them grow. They were rated with 1 Keystone Star and weren’t planning on pursuing any higher rating at the time. Incidentally, this was the cheapest daycare we found. I think you get what you pay for! The only thing we liked about #3 was how close it was to where I work.
Next (and final) step: Choose between daycares #1 and #2! I’m thinking pro and con lists for the next post.