For my younger kiddo I decided to expand my search for childcare to include in-home daycares. This post is fairly Washington State specific but it’s a question I get often enough I figured it was worth writing up.
Childcare Aware has a search tool that didn’t work super well for me (may have improved since then), so I called their family center, described what I was looking for (e.g., takes infants, certain geographic boundaries) and she emailed me the search results.
This list doesn’t reflect whether someone has openings though, and with a newborn I felt incredibly overwhelmed at the idea of calling each one, so I paid an unemployed friend to do it, which was totally worth it. He made a spreadsheet with address, phone, contact name, openings y/n, and made me an appointment for tours at the ones that were going to have openings.
The first couple I went to were pretty depressing — basement, dark, some older kids who should have been in school, etc. At each one, they would show me around, and then I would say, oh, the baby is hungry, is it okay if I sit and feed him? And then would sit with him and feed him a bottle, which would take like 45 minutes because he was not great at eating. In that time, I could really appreciate the feeling of the place, and see how the other kids interacted with me, how the kids interacted with each other, and how the staff interacted with them.
In my case I was only open to licensed daycares. You can check the status of the license and see all the inspections, complaints, requested changes, etc, at Child Care Check (wa.gov). This was very helpful insight.
The last place I visited, I was immediately struck by how bright it was. The kids spent their time on the first floor, with big windows front and back. There was a huge outdoor play area. The space was clean and the toys were well organized. I came right when they were coming inside for dinner. The kids each went to the bathroom to wash their hands and then sat at the table calmly waiting for their food. I had never seen anything like it!
One kid dropped his coat on the floor; a teacher guided him to his cubby to help him put it away. Two kids got in a conflict; I watched how the teacher intervened to help them resolve it.
This daycare has turned out to be more fantastic than I appreciated at the time. They serve all their meals, including dinner, and including breakfast if they haven’t eaten at drop-off. They do crafts and games and some learning, obstacle courses, ride little tricycles, play in the sand box, and splash in a kiddie pool. Is it as academically rigorous as a center? No. But he gets loving care, is learning another language (substantially different than our home language), and they send videos every day of what the kids are doing. They have 3 teachers, so if one is sick, it’s not a nanny where I’d have to find other childcare or not be able to work.
Another huge thing ended up being the snow policy. While my older son’s center closed for an entire week when it snowed, this home daycare stayed open. They were even willing to take my older son on a drop-in basis. They haven’t closed at all during the coronavirus crisis but quickly integrated very reasonable interventions like hand sanitizer at the front gate, one family at a time for drop-off and pick-up, each family has their own pen in a little foam board, temperature checks, and kids 2+ are masked (like, the day he turned 2 they asked for a mask for him). They have a covered, mostly walled outdoor area where they spend most of their time now, since the incomplete walls allows for better ventilation, and then also go outside outside for more gross motor play.
They do close for holidays, but fewer holidays than the center my older son attended. They have two one-week closures (winter and summer) that the owner uses to improve the space — the veranda space was significantly improved last summer, with composite deck tile put in, walls extended, and chalkboards added. It’s clear she takes this little school seriously, and it’s not just “taking in some neighborhood kids.”
I love our home daycare and am so glad I found it!