I have been mulling over this post for a while. I wanted to create the one stop list for parents to bring with them when viewing a childcare setting. But questions kept occurring to me, the list kept getting longer and I realised the ‘ultimate’ list might not exist! But I guarantee that this one comes pretty close. You will more than likely receive a parents handbook but you will want to ask questions and observe to get a proper feel for the setting. I have created the list based on my experience of answering these questions from parents while working and from parents who pick my brain for pre-viewing advice. They also come from my experience of working in various settings with various age-groups and from my experience as a parent and what I would look for from both sides of the fence…or buzz entry door if you will!!
This list is actually broken down into three parts. The first is what I call the ‘housekeeping’ list. All settings are subject to strict regulations and therefore are all following guidelines regarding issues such as staffing, child protection and illnesses (this list is also endless!). But knowing this does not make these questions any less valid. You need reassurance that these guidelines are being followed and to know that the setting is operating above these standards. This list can also operate on a pick and choose basis; if on-site, homemade food is important to you, ask about it; but if you are more concerned with staff qualifications and experience than focus on this. This list also covers the questions concerning issues that will impact on you directly, for example, will you be able to leave work if your child becomes sick? You will need to be sure that you are comfortable with the illness policy in place in order for this not to add to the stress of returning to work.
The Housekeeping List:
- What are the numbers of children and practitioners in my child’s room?
- What are the qualifications and experience of the practitioners?
- What is the rate of staff turnover?
- What is the open door policy? Can I go into the room or do I drop my child off at the door?
- Are meals made on-site? What is the meal plan?
- What form will daily communication on my child’s well-being and progress take?
- What is your behaviour management policy and strategy?
- How is my child’s daily routine incorporated into the setting routine?
- How much outdoor time is provided throughout the day?
- Are off-site outings organised for the children?
- What assistance is given when we choose to toilet train our child?
- What curriculum/system is used in planning activities for the children?
- Are any extra activities provided such as dance/music/sport sessions?
- What is your policy on: illnesses/biting/photographing children/fee payment/late pick-up fees/complaints/administration of medicine/child protection/positive behaviour management/collection of children/equality and diversity/outings/play?
And, of course, questions about cost will be included here.
The second list is my ‘what practitioners actually want you to ask’ list. This list is based on my experience of wanting parents to know what we do each day with their child, why we do it and how their child will benefit from it. While watching parents doing viewings I was always bursting to tell them and while the ‘housekeeping’ list is important, this list covers the nitty gritty of their child’s day.
The What We Want You To Ask List:
- What will my child be doing all day?
- How is this routine and curriculum developed?
- Why have you chosen this curriculum to follow?
- What choice does my child have within this routine?
- How do you observe my child’s development?
- How do these observations feed into the development of the daily routine of activities?
- How does my child benefit from this routine, being one of many in the room?
- Do you operate a keyworker system?
- What is your evidence of child-led practice and a diverse range of activities?
- Is the practitioner available to talk to regularly?
- The third list is my ‘secret parent ninja’ list, the magic list that the setting won’t know you have but is full of important questions for you to ask yourself as you view the setting. This ‘secret’ list will focus your observations as you move around the setting and allow you to evaluate how this setting operates without being told anything.
This is the list that will give you the information you need in order to be comfortable in leaving your child in a new environment with people neither of you know yet.
Remember, they may be highly qualified and have shiny, new toys but none of this makes for the perfect setting for you and your child.
The Secret Parent Ninja List:
- Is the atmosphere relaxed, welcoming and warm?
- Do the children already attending look content, busy and relaxed?
- How is the interaction between the practitioners and the children in the rooms?
- Is there a variety of age-appropriate toys and equipment to suit all abilities and stages of development? Are they clean and in good working order?
- Is there evidence of a respectful approach to identity and diversity?