Finding infant care

You just got the best news of your life- you’re expecting! Congrats! If you’re a working parent, you need to think about childcare, and soon.

Some of you may be lucky enough to have family, friends, or a flexible work schedule that will make this easy. If not, it’s time to shop schools.

I was recently told by a friend who was relocating to Denver that infant programs are waitlisting at 2 years. So apparently, even if you’re just thinking of having a baby, you need to pick out a school.

My office is within literal earshot of our newborn room and I probably drive the staff bananas because I’m in there pretty often. Who could resist holding a 6 week old new born? And that’s what you’re looking for- a staff that genuinely LOVES babies!

Trust me, I see it all the time. People apply for a job in a school with the mindset that it will be the easiest job they have ever had, and it can be….if you love it. Scope a few things out while you’re meeting the infant caregiver. You’ll be armed with a list of questions, but have your eye on these things:

  • What are the babies doing? Are they active? Having tummy time? Both are good signs. All babies in a crib- not so great.
  • Does the caregiver seem frustrated? Is she rattled when someone starts to cry? Trust me- you will be able to tell.
  • What is on the floor? Play mats, toys, and floor mirrors are all good signs.
  • What sort of feeling do you get when you walk in? Is it cozy? Inviting? What about sterile or institutional?

Shopping school is going to make you emotional. I see expecting moms cry at the mere thought of having to drop their baby off. This is why I recommend bringing back up with you. Is your partner an amazing judge of character? Or maybe your mom or best friend? Bring them along. They’ll notice things you missed when you were feeling overwhelmed.

I recently gave a tour of our newborn room to a mom who was due any day. A few days later she brought her husband in to view the school. She told me she loved all the answers and policies, but he was the “feelings guy” and she always goes with his gut. You need to find your “feelings guy” and let them tour with you.

Some other questions you may want to ask:

  • Teacher to baby ratio?
  • Are cribs shared and how often are the sheets washed?
  • Does the school allow nursing moms to stop in and feed their babies?
  • Can they store frozen breast milk?
  • Will they follow a schedule you provide or do they use their own?
  • How do they communicate about your child’s day?
  • How often do they move the babies from activity to activity? (It’s recommended babies get moved every 15 minutes.)
  • Do they prop bottles for newborns? (The answer should always be no. Bottle propping should only happen with older infants who are learning to hold a bottle.)
  • Are caregivers assigned specific children?
  • How often are diapers changed/checked?

This is a small list compared to some, but they are definitely worth asking. A good school won’t make you ask if the staff is trained in CPR/First Aid or FBI background checked. That info is usually offered as they tell you about their school, but if they don’t mention it, make sure you ask!

The first day is going to be tough….for you. Part of my job is to comfort moms who just dropped off their tiny baby with strangers.

Breathe. It will get easier. I promise. You’ll even grow to appreciate the person who is caring for your child in your place. You may even become friends.

Take tissues and lots of pictures of the big day. Call and check in as often as you feel like you need to.

In a few short months YOU will be the mommy recommending a great school to your friends and neighbors!


The BIG Day!

Yay you! You did your research, made your spread sheet, and finally got the call that you are in! The perfect school has a spot for you because you took my advice and got on that waitlist!

Now I am going to let you in on the drop off secrets you wish you knew. This is advice I give to parents who are new to our school and those who use this advice have the easiest drop off ever!

It’s also not just about your child. You’ll likely be hauling a backpack, jacket, and maybe a lunch box. Losing those things is a pain in the rear! LABEL EVERYTHING! We all shop at that same amazing wonderland with the red bull’s eye and chances are you’ll see a lot of coats and lunch boxes that look just like the one you picked out. A bright label will not only save you from  accidentally taking home the wrong things, but it will also make those items super easy for your child to find. If you click here, you can find all sorts of options from different sellers. So many cute patterns. How does one choose???

You’ll be nervous. That’s normal and there is a school of thought in pre-school that it’s a harder adjustment for the parent than it is for the child. Try a few of these things to make the transition into school an easy one for your child and…ahem…you.

  • Talk school up! Make it a sound like a huge accomplishment. “Big kids get to go to school and you’re getting so big! How exciting! You’re going to learn so many things and make so many friends!” All that positive talk will work on your child and yourself!
  • Tell them what to expect. Don’t drop and dash. Let them know they will be dropped off. Preschool is for kiddos, but mom/dad always come back to pick them up. If you know the routine, tell them. For really nervous kiddos, make a picture chart of what the day looks like and let them know which picture means pick-up time is close.
  • If the school allows, plan a few visits. Our school allows new families to visit and walk the grounds so the child is used to the new surroundings.
  • Make drop off brief. You’ll want to linger. If your child is nervous you’ll be reluctant to leave. The truth is that it actually makes it harder on the child when you stick around. A quick hug, kiss, and “I’ll be back when school is over” is the best method. Even if your child is wrapped around your legs and screaming, prolonging the drop off process will only make it worse. Rough drop off’s are nothing new to seasoned teachers so please don’t worry about them. And your child WILL BE FINE. Crying is usually over by the time you get to your car because the new and amazing teacher you chose is a master at engaging her students and distracting them!
  • Consistency is key! Make drop off a part of your routine and try to stick as close as possible to that routine. Considering you have a tiny person in the mix, I know this is easier said than done, but stay as close as possible.
  • Is your child potty trained? Have them use the bathroom before you leave or as soon as you get to school. In diapers? Change them before you go in. One less thing for them (and you) to worry about when they want to start their day.

Let me add this in for drop off and pick up: Hand Washing! Your child will become a cootie catcher as soon as they start school. This you can’t avoid, but a quick scrub with soap and water will lessen their chances of spreading something to their friends or bringing some nifty germs home to you. 

So, backpacks and belongings are labeled, a kiss and a hug have been given, and you kept your drop off short and sweet. Now what? You haven’t had spare time in a couple of years. What does one do with free time?

See those toes? I bet your nail tech would love to get her hands on em. Starbucks probably misses you going in and using them for their free wifi. Home Depot or Target completely alone. Heaven, Oh, and the gym….nah. We won’t talk about that.

Good luck. You’ll do just fine. You’re so grown up and I am so proud of you!kids.jpeg

Is it time for Preschool?

You’re at the gym picking up little Timmy from the free childcare and before you can get near him you see something that makes your heart stop. He just smacked another kid and took his toy truck. Don’t panic! Do what you’ve been meaning to do for months- enroll him in preschool!

Easier said than done? Yes and no. Choosing a school is a process and it’s definitely not a one size fits all scenario.

First step: Make a list of what you want your child to gain from the experience. Is your child shy? Are you hoping they will make friends and break out of their shell a little? Or do you have an active learner who bounces from place to place and needs a little structure? There are programs and philosophies to suit just about any kiddos needs.

You’re a parent of a small child and research can take hours. Nobody has time for that! Luckily, PBS did some of the work for you!


Second step: Now that you have narrowed down your “must haves” and have chosen a philosophy, you can begin to research schools. My best bit of advice? Ask your tribe.  Reaching out to friends or posting to social media to see who sends their kids where is the best way to get recommendations with unbiased reviews. Trust me. The school I work for has stayed in business since 1961 on word of mouth recommendations only.

Once you get a few names you’ll want to call and see what their tour policy is. Ask to tour during normal class time. Touring during lunch or nap won’t give you the “feel” of how the class operates, but a class time tour will be very insightful.

This is a link to a super professional early ed organization that has done hours of research for you but I encourage you to investigate on a local level and see where your neighbors and friends have sent their children.

Third Step: Make a list of questions. I tour parents on a daily basis and something in the mind goes blank when they see all of the adorable faces smiling at them and having such a good time in preschool. If you’re armed with a list of questions you wont get sidelined by all the cuteness. (It happens to the best of us!)

If you are strictly there to observe and the school’s policy is to not disrupt what’s happening in class, ask for a point of contact that can answer those questions. Usually the teacher will have an email address to offer, or the school admins can help with questions.

This is the short list of questions to ask:

  • What is the illness/vacation policy?
  • What are class ratios and sizes?
  • What is the discipline policy?
  • What does the class routine look like?
  • If they provide snack can you review the menu?
  • Do they require a two week before you can leave the school?
  • Are the staff trained in CPR/First Aid and back ground checked?
  • How much parental involvement do they want? 
  • Is there an open door policy for parents?
  • How is information shared and how will you learn about your child’s day?

Side note: You’ll see I didn’t list “Teacher Education” as a question. This is a total personal opinion, but it’s much more beneficial to ask how long the teacher has been in early ed. Let’s be real- preschool teachers don’t make much and college is a luxury most can’t afford. I have a staff of 38 that I would easily call experts, but very few have 4 years and loads of debt to back that up. Most counties require teachers to obtain a certain number of continuing ed credits per year. Here in Arizona, we require 18. 

Fourth Step: Well, this isn’t so much a step as it is a suggestion. Even if you are still on the fence about a school, GET ON THE WAITLIST! No, really…I mean it. Fill out the waitlist form, pay money to the nice people, and take a business card so you can keep in touch and check your status from time to time. I can’t stress this enough. I have sent home paperwork with so many families to let them think about their choices and when they call back we no longer have a spot. This pains me so much because as a parent I remember how hard school choices can be. Registration fees are a small drop in the bucket to get into the perfect school and with schools waitlisting nearly two years out, it’s money well spent.

You have your school. You have picked out a backpack. Now what? It’s time to prepare for that first day!