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Quality Childcare Is Important Decision for Parents

by Micky Smith

“Who will keep my child when I return to work?” is an important question many new mothers face today. Finding quality childcare should be high on the priority list for parents who must leave their children while they are at work each day.

All children need a safe environment where they will thrive. Angel Fason, project manager for the Mississippi State University Extension Service Nurturing Homes Initiative, recommends these qualities to look for in selecting a childcare facility:

*Caregivers who understand children and are sensitive to their needs.

*Caregivers who are well trained in child development and who understand how children learn and grow.

*Caregivers who are dependable and who have good relationships with the families of the children he or she cares for.

*Caregivers who spend time holding, cuddling and talking with the children in their care.

*A place where parents are welcome to visit at any time.

*Equipment and materials that are safe, clean and maintained properly.

*A place where children are allowed to explore materials in the room.

*Menus in the childcare center that are based on the USDA recommendations and are posted for parents to view. Children are served nutritious meals and snacks at appropriate times.

*Children in the childcare center have opportunities to learn language thorough talking, playing and interacting with teachers and other children.

*Indoor and outdoor areas for childcare are clean and safe.

*Caregivers are adequate in number for the number of children under their care (low adult-to-child ratio.)

When choosing the type of childcare for your child, consider all options. These may include in-home care, family care or center-based care.

In-home care is convenient and flexible. The caregiver comes into the home to care for the child. If you choose this option, be sure to provide adequate playtime with other children. The caregiver will need to provide a variety of stimulating experiences for the child. A disadvantage to in-home care is that it may be difficult to find a substitute if the childcare provider gets sick.

Care provided by family members gives the child an opportunity to be in a family setting and to play with children of different ages. Learning activities may be limited as with the in-home care; parents may have to find another provider if the regular provider is sick.

Center-based care allows the child to interact with other children and to participate in planned learning activities. Make sure the caregiver-to-child ratio is low.

For more information on choosing quality childcare, call your local county extension service.

For Release: Week of 02/02/04

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