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Finding a Quality Childcare Program in the US

Childcare Resources

Good general information about childcare options:

! To search for an accredited child care center, you can search online at the NYEAC database.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the oldest and largest childcare accrediting organization in the U.S., has published a set of guidelines which they use to accredit schools and childcare centers; these can also help you decide whether a particular center is of high quality.

There are a number of characteristics associated with high quality programs. Based on the Academy's Criteria, here are some things to consider as you visit programs:

1. Are the children in the program generally comfortable, relaxed, and happy, and involved in play and other activities? Happy, relaxed children who are enjoying themselves as they play and learn is one of the best signs of a good program. See if there is an ample variety of materials for children of this age group. Would your child enjoy this setting?

2. Are there sufficient numbers of adults with specialized training in early childhood development and education? The younger the child, the more individualized attention is needed. The Academy's Criteria recommend that all groups have at least two teachers. Infants should be in groups of no more than 6 to 8 children; 2- to 3-year-olds should be in groups of 10 to 14 children; and 4- to 5-year-olds should be in groups of 16 to 20 children. Specialized training in child development and early education helps assure that staff understand how children grow and learn so they can be more effective teachers and caregivers.

3. Do adult expectations vary appropriately for children of differing ages and interests? Groups for infants and toddlers will look quite different from groups for older children. Toys and materials should vary by age as should teachers' expectations for children. In addition, teachers and caregivers should recognize and respect individual differences in children's abilities, interests, and preferences.

4. Are all areas of child's development stressed equally, with time and attention being devoted to cognitive development, social and emotional development, and physical development? High quality early childhood programs do much more than help children learn numbers, shapes, and colors. Good programs help children learn how to learn: to question why and discover alternative answers; to get along with others; and to use their developing language, thinking, and motor skills.

5. Do the staff meet regularly to plan and evaluate the program? Planning should reflect a balance of activities between vigorous outdoor play and quiet indoor play. Activities should allow ample time for children to work and play individually or in small groups, with the focus on activities that are child initiated as opposed to teacher directed. Flexibility, however, is also key. Staff should be willing to adjust the daily activities to meet children's individual needs and interests.

6. Are parents welcome to observe, discuss policies, make suggestions, and participate in the work of the program? Close communication between parents and staff is vital. Staff should regularly discuss highlights of the child's experiences with parents and show respect for families of varying cultures and backgrounds."

Copyright 1999 National Association for the Education of Young Children

The National Academy of Early Childhood Programs/NAEYC is not connected with and is not responsible for the administration, acts, personnel, property, or practices of accredited programs. Written complaints about accredited programs should be sent to the Academy.

You can also contact NYEAC through mail or phone at:

National Academy of Early Childhood Programs NAEYC 1509 16th Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20036-1426 Phone: 202-232-8777 or 800-424-2460, ext. 360 FAX: 202-328-1846 Email: academy@naeyc.org

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