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Ask the right questions when choosing daycare

by on January 31, 2013 12:46 PM

STATE COLLEGE — When it comes to choosing a daycare or childcare provider, there are many options families can choose from. While each child’s needs are unique, area professionals stress some important factors for all parents: visit, observe and ask.

Connie Shulz, family outreach specialist for student services in the State College Area School District, said some elements to consider when choosing a daycare provider include a safe environment, and if it offers activities that are stimulating and interactive.

Shulz recommends observing the daycare first and meeting the staff before making any decisions.

“You want caregivers who are knowledgeable about children … and their needs,” she said, explaining that different ages of children have different needs.

In the case of a licensed provider, that license should be displayed, Shulz said.

Another important aspect might be that the provider offers both planned activities and downtime, she said. Children should be energized and encouraged, but also may require some quiet time to just daydream or imagine.

When it comes down to it, each family has to make a decision based on the specific needs of their child or children, Shulz said.

“(What’s important) is going to vary from individual to individual,” she said.

Allison Newlen, director at Kidz Rainbow Center, recommends visiting the potential daycare center “armed with a list of questions” a family might have about such things as pricing, teacher education, staff turnover, meals provided, outside time and curriculum.

“One definite suggestion I have for first time parents is to start looking early, within the second trimester, as infant spaces fill quickly,” she said.

When parents tour the center they should pay special attention to how the children and teachers interact, Newlen said, such as if the teachers are down on the floor with the kids, and if questions are being asked.

Newlen doesn’t advise parents to take tours of daycare centers during naptime; it’s best to see the facility during active hours.

“I try to do (tours) during our bigger learning … or group activity times,” she said.

Something else to look for might be if the center has gross motor space, Newlen said, such as an indoor or outdoor playground – a place where children can run and jump.

Newlen also suggests asking for references of parents whose children attend the daycare center, she said.

Kidz Rainbow Center, which has been open since 2006, is located on Fox Hill Road in State College.

Valerie Dench, with Kidz Academy, said she believes the most important criteria when choosing a provider should be a safe, nurturing environment.

“There should be a wide range of activities, a comprehensive curriculum and experienced teachers that love to care for young children,” she said.

Dench said childcare centers can be beneficial for children by helping them make an easier transition into kindergarten and experience less separation anxiety. Children who go to daycare may also become more accustomed to classroom routines and interacting with peers, she said.

“Childcare centers provide the social interaction with other children that prepare them to navigate the ups and downs of peer relationships,” she said. “They learn self control and thrive on the structure and routine.”

Located in the Penn Skates building, Kidz Academy is a newly licensed facility that offers preschool, pre-K, afterschool and summer camp.

For more information about the State College Area School District, visit For more information about Kidz Rainbow Center, visit For more information about Penn Skates Kidz Academy, visit

For more information about child development centers in State College, visit

Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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