Is your toddler ready to start daycare? If you're not sure which toddler child care center to choose, take a look at the important (but not obvious) questions to ask right now.
1. What Does the Classroom Library Look Like?
Even though your toddler can't read by themselves, early literacy activities play a key role in your child's development. According to the national early childhood organization Zero to Three, the first three years of life are a time when children begin language and literacy skill-building.
The child care center's classrooms should include a library area or literacy center with:
- Plenty of age-appropriate books. The literacy area should include toddler-friendly books with words and pictures.
- A place to read. The literacy area should also have a place for the toddlers to sit and page through the books. This could include child-sized tables and chairs, carpet squares, or another floor-level seating option.
- Child-level shelves. Can the toddlers reach the books without adult help? The library area should include shelves at the child's level or easy to grab books.
Along with the classroom library, the literacy area should include paper and writing utensils such as crayons or markers.
2. What Types of Instruction Do Teachers Use?
Different early child care centers provide different types of instruction. The specific instructional methods used may, or may not, match your child's learning style. Common types of instruction in the early childhood environment may include:
- Child-led instruction. Instructional philosophies such as Montessori use this type of approach to learning. This educational strategy provides the child with the freedom to explore, encourages independence, and provides a way for each child to learn at their own pace.
- Teacher-led instruction. Think of this approach as what you remember from school. The teacher plays an active role and lectures or demonstrates activities (such as painting a project or writing letters), while the students are primarily passive.
- Hands-on learning. A teacher may combine a hands-on approach with other types of educational strategies. The teacher may encourage the toddlers to actively explore classroom materials manually—a literal hands-on approach.
Look for a program that includes plenty of exploration and child-focused learning. Your toddler shouldn't passively sit in the daycare classroom and listen to lectures or watch a teacher complete activities for them. Instead, a high-quality toddler child care center will offer opportunities for your child to experiment and make their own discoveries—under the safe supervision of the teacher.