By Michele Reimer, First Things First
For parents of babies, toddlers and preschoolers, finding a quality child care center or preschool can be an overwhelming task.
First Things First (FTF) is here to help. Through FTF’s QualityFirstAZ.com website, parents can search for more than 1,000 child care centers, homes and preschool programs in Arizona that participate in Quality First. In the FTF Pinal Region there are 36 child care programs enrolled in Quality First. The San Tan Valley area holds four of these sites: J.O.C.U.S.D.#44 – Ranch Elementary School Preschool, Wonderwise Preschool and Childcare in San Tan Valley and Lil’ Einsteins Academy and Wonderwise Preschool and Childcare in Queen Creek. These programs are committed to improving the quality of their early learning programs in ways that help young children learn, grow and thrive.
In addition, since there are many quality providers who don’t participate in the voluntary Quality First program because of limited enrollment capacity, the website also offers information to help families identify the key elements of quality in any program. These include things like hands-on activities that stimulate and encourage positive brain connections in children and caregivers who provide regular feedback to parents on the development of their child.
FTF recently added four short videos to the Quality First child care checklist which can be seen online:
It explains what to look for when choosing quality child care for your young child. The videos provide visual examples of the checklist that parents can use when visiting a potential child care center or preschool.
The first video on teacher-child interactions offers examples of positive, nurturing teacher/child interactions, as well as related questions to consider during a visit:
- Does the teacher make eye contact with the children, smile and listen without interrupting?
- Is the teacher at eye level with the kids when they are interacting?
- Is the teacher interacting with children during activity times indoors and outdoors?
- Do you hear the kids talking more than the teacher?
- Does the teacher ask the children questions where they can give more than a yes/no answer?
Video two shows what type of classroom environment to look for, such as a center with plenty of books, blocks, puzzles, a pretend play area, along with textured materials such as sand and water.
Video three explains what to look for in the outdoor environment, such as:
- Is there an outdoor play area, with shade, that is used daily?
- Are items from the classroom brought outdoors to be played with?
- Are the adults actively engaged with the kids at play?
And, finally, video four covers what to look for from providers caring for infants.
Finding a quality child care center or preschool is important because research shows that high-quality early learning settings build a foundation for a child’s later success, since 90% of a child’s brain develops before age 5. The positive, nurturing relationships young kids have with adults, from parents to child care and early learning professionals, shape their learning now and throughout their lives. Quality child care and preschool settings help children develop skills like motivation, self-control, focus and self-esteem that are crucial to their success now and once they enter school.
For more tips to help in the search for quality child care and preschools visit QualityFirstAZ.com.