One of the latest GEICO car insurance commercials begins with a sharply dressed mother complaining about the cost of child care, and her choice to use robots to care for her children because they “work for free!” While I admit I laughed when the little girl was squirted in the face as the robot tried to give her a juice box, the parent educator and professional in me says “Whoa!”
Choosing a quality provider isn’t about saving money, but cost is a factor for every family. Cost of care, especially in the current economy, is a huge factor parents face when finding a great match for their child. Infant care in our area typically runs around $190 a week, and that doesn’t take into account centers who go above and beyond our minimum state licensing requirements. Their costs can be higher, but the true “cost” of finding care is in the quality of care provided.
When parents looking for care visit a center or family home provider, I encourage you to do what we learned in grade school: stop, look and listen. Stop and be a child for a moment. Get down on your child’s level. Are there things you can get into that you should not be able to reach? Is the floor clean? Is this an environment you want to be in for eight hours? Do the caregivers smile and look friendly?
Really take a look at the space. Is it bright, colorful and inviting? Are you seeing an environment where your child is going to learn? What activities have the teachers prepared for them? Do they have choices to make throughout the day?
Listen to what the children are saying. Are they enjoying themselves? Are they using indoor voices or are they crying and screaming? How are the teachers conversing with the children? Are they encouraging or berating? Are they nurturing and building relationships with the children?
I am a frugal shopper and love to use coupons and get the freebies as much as anyone else. But when it comes to your most prized possession, your children, don’t settle. Make sure you aren’t going for the “robot care” because it’s free, or letting the cost of care be the only, or even the most important, factor in your decision. When 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before age 5, reflect on what your choice is really going to cost you and your child in the long run.