Fatherly Stuff: February 2012

Feb 29, 2012

Addressing a Common Fatherhood Fear Part 1; Will I Be a Good Provider?

*This if the first of a three part series going over common first time fatherhood fears and how to overcome them*

Part 2Part 3

I remember it like it was yesterday: I was visiting my grandfather in New Jersey. We just finished lunch and had a great time catching up.
Then I got the phone call.
 It was my girlfriend, who for the past few weeks was not feeling quite like herself and decided to rule out any and all causes by taking a pregnancy test. I had no idea that my life was about to change forever.
As soon as she told me the news that she was going to have my child, a wave of excitement, fear, depression, joy and distress hit me over the head like a sack of potatoes. I mean, I just finished college in May of that year and was barely able to make rent, how in the world am I going to raise a child?
Everyone’s experience will be different, but that unique feeling mix of happiness and dread is a common emotion that I believe that all dads share. These feelings are especially strong in guys who go through this at a young age. At this particular stage of life, many of us are still trying to figure ourselves out and may not be at the most established place in life. Fear has a way of sucking the confidence right out of you and causing panic; That is, if you let it.
 As a man, the best way to overcome your fears is to attack them head on so when that baby comes into the world, you’re better prepared.
Over the next few days I will be looking at the common fears that I myself faced as a new father and the things that I did that helped me. First up:
  Financial Security (Will I be a good provider?)

It’s no secret that babies are expensive. Between clothes, formula (if not breastfeeding), childcare, diapers and other assorted equipment; expenses can total over $10,000 in the first year! And that’s not even considering college savings, which is estimated to cost up to $250,000 in the next 18 years. Although this fact is unavoidable, there are a few things you can do to make that pill a little easier to swallow:

1. Speak with a financial advisor

Talking with a professional will help you organize your budget, but they can also provide you options that have tax benefits such as dependent and health care spending accounts. They can also help you become aware of vehicles to help save for college, such as 529 plans.

2. Clothing

A funny thing about babies is that they have a tendency to grow. Quickly… Very quickly. This, on top of the fact that babies are poopy-pukey-drooly machines means you can potentially spend a lot of money keeping up with clothing demands. I remember our first experience buying newborn clothes at a department store. I think I almost fainted trying to figure out how such tiny clothes could be so expensive. There were a few things that we did to take this challenge on. The first option is checking out your local consignment shop. Even though the clothes are used, if you think of it, they have more than likely been worn for a few months tops by the former baby. Also, a good consignment shop owner will ensure the quality of clothing is high and at the same time they keep prices as low as possible. Another helpful option if available is taking advantage of family and friends. Personally, I don’t have family with children even close to my son’s age, but there are two moms at my  job and they each have one boy, 4 and 5 respectively. Whenever they clean out their kid’s closet, they’ll give me tons of toys and clothes to go through. Anything I can’t use I either donate them to Goodwill or help out a fellow parent who I know could use them.

3.    Smart Shopping

Another method of managing cost that works well for my family is smart shopping. One example of our routine is sitting down to create a weekly dinner menu, and then we cross check the food we need with the weekly sales and coupons to make sure we’re getting the best bang for our buck. Another smart shopping method we use is taking advantage of wholesale stores. Wholesale stores (main ones in Connecticut are BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s Club), sell their products primarily in bulk. You probably wouldn’t invest in a yearly membership just to buy a 12 pack of mayonnaise (unless you really like mayonnaise).But as a parent, the top items we shop wholesale for are diapers and wipes. Not only are you able to purchase larger quantities, the cost per diaper or box of wipes is significantly cheaper than what you would pay at a generic supermarket. This is especially true If you combine the purchase with a coupon.

I’ve only named the top few that worked for me, but there are many, many ways you can ensure you child has what they need.

I’m interested to hear about other techniques you dads out there use to save money. So let’s hear it!

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Feb 28, 2012

Lessons Learned from Sitcom Dads of the 1990's

The majority of my childhood was spent growing up during the 90's. During this decade, there was an explosion of quality sitcoms that my family and I would watch, usually on Friday nights (anyone that's old enough to remember TGIF knows what I'm talking about).
Sadly, these types of family oriented sitcoms arent as popular any more, but I wanted to wirte about a few of my favorite shows and what lessons I've learned from each of them.

*Note: I realize that these characters are merely actors and their portrayals of family men are fictional. However, the  positive qualities that these characters have I believe can be translated into real world, family situations*

 #1) Danny Tanner- Full House

As the beloved patriarch of the Tanner Household, Danny was a doting, uncool dad that had an unhealthy cleaning obsession. He would dole out his heartfelt lessons to his daughters (to the background music of violins), and then all would be right with the world
What I Learned- When Danny experiences tragedy with the loss of his wife, he calls on his brother-in-law Jesse and his childhood buddy Joey, (both of whom did a mean Elvis and Popeye impression, respectively) to help out with raising his daughters. As a dad, you’re going to have rough patches and when they come, you should not be afraid to put your pride to the side and call on your close friends and family to help you through. I must admit that sometimes I have trouble incorporating this lesson in my life: Numerous friends and family members have offered their time and support in the form of babysitting so April and I can have “mommy and daddy time”. I am reluctant at times to accept their offers because as a guy, I feel as though you need to carry everything on my shoulders and asking for help would just make you less of a man. I then remind myself that there is nothing “wussy” about getting help and no TV dad better portrays this better than Danny Tanner.

#2) Carl Winslow- Family Matters

Carl is the loving, yet often misunderstood father of 3 and towards the end of the series, (when the writing really started to go south) a fourth child was adopted. I think his most memorable moments involve the confrontations he would have with Steve Urkel. He was an inner city cop who raised his kids with a sort of tough justice that made him beloved by millions of viewers.

What I Learned- As every fan knows, one of Carl’s quirks was the way he would parade around the home and declare himself the “King of the Castle”, or the “Big Kahuna”. Yet, whenever he would confront his wife, Harriet to try and throw his weight around (no pun intended), all she would have to do is give him “The Look”, and he would usually surrender. But what’s fascinating about there is the way he would surrender. No matter how often Harriet would “win” the argument; Carl would always come out with his manhood intact. The main lesson I pull from Carl is the subtle art of conflict resolution when dealing with your spouse.

#3) Uncle Phil- Fresh Prince of Bel Air

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was arguably one of the funniest shows on TV in the late 90’s. And while Will Smith was no doubt the star of the show, Uncle Phil’s mix of angry confrontations and fatherly guidance made the show worth watching.

What I Learned- During the series, we watched Uncle Phil’s career evolve from his position as a high powered lawyer, to a prestigious appointment as a judge. For most parents, a career path such as this would mean that quality time with their children is sacrificed for extra time in the office. Phil however, does an excellent job balancing his career and family life well by demonstrating how you can be successful in your career and at the same time, be an attentive father.

#4) Tim Taylor- Home Improvement

Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor is the grunting, drilling and often accident prone main character of the beloved show, “Home Improvement”. He balances being a TV host, husband, friend and father in a way that was both meaningful and hilarious. But mostly hilarious.
What I Learned- One of the running gags of the show is Tim’s love for his Hot Rod, a car that he built from scratch throughout the entire series. He would regularly share special moments with his children while they were working on it. Also, he took his children out all the time to do special projects. Sure, Tim would usually get himself hurt during these projects, but that isn’t the point. The point is as a father, he knew that by doing those things with your child is a great way to develop memories and bonds that will last a lifetime.

#5) Heathcliff Huxtable- Cosby Show

Mmmm, pudding!

Dr. Huxtable of the Cosby Show is the eccentric father of four  who has an addition to junk food and colourful, multi patterned sweaters. His dedication to this family is only matched by his competitive streak, which often got him into trouble.

What I Learned-One of the things that I admired about the show is the way Dr. Huxtable would use humor to both connect as a well as teach important lessons to his children. Most people, note just children, respond well to a message that is brought to them is a funny way, and such a lesson can be a useful communication skill throughout your life.

So guys, what did you think of this article? If ithis turns out the be popular, maybe I'll do another piece with analyzing other TV dads in the future.

Feb 27, 2012

The Most WTF Child Products on the Market

One of the biggest concerns for a new parent is figuring what baby products to buy for their child. There are literally millions of toys, gadgets and equipment out there to choose from. While some of those products are useful for everyday parenting, there are plenty that are downright hilariously absurd and sometimes just outright disgusting. While my first instinct is to get angry at the companies for putting such items on the market, you really can't because they are simply supplying what some parents are willing to buy *shrug*.

 So without further adieu, I  would like to share a few of those WTF child and baby products that I've found on the web:

              1.  Baby Bangs

Purpose: Baby Bangs is basically a wig for babies that was created presumably for insecure parents who don't want others won’t confuse their little girl for a boy. As sad as that is, I'm probably part of the reason these things were created: Long story short, I once picked up a bald infant girl I didn't know, mistaking her for my friend's son, who was also hairless at the time. Needless to say, there was a tense moment of awkward silence between me and that little girl's mother

Unintended Consequence: Products like this teach kids at a very early age that if you don’t look that way society thinks you should, then you need to make every effort to fit in, as not to embarrass your parents

 2.  Time Out Pad:

Purpose:  An easy way for parents to discipline their kids while simultaneously catch up on their favorite daytime soap operas

Unintended Consequence: Children learn if they misbehave enough, they get to sit on what basically equates to a beeping, flashing video game.

3. Snot Sucking Mechanism (Fridababy)

Purpose- An easy and effective way to remove unwanted mucous from your baby's nasal passages

Unintended Consequence- If you suck too hard, you can end up with a mouthful of snot (blech!). I think I'll stick with a good old fashioned aspirator.

4. Baby-Kini

Purpose: To make your daughter look like a swimsuit model, and turn the heads of all the boys at the sprinkler. Highly sought after by the mothers of "Toddlers and Tiaras".

Unintended Consequence: Promoting body issues and teaching little girls all across America that nobody will like them if they don't show off enough skin.

Purpose: A funny/cute way to add some fashion to your baby girl's wardrobe.

Unintended Consquence: Baby Heels are just a start. Soon they'll come out with baby make up and baby thongs, proving that you're never to young to be sexy

Purpose: To educate children about the wonders of breastfeeding

Unintended Consequence: It's just weird.... seriously.

Purpose: Advertised in Asia as a "way to make your children earn their keep". Coming to a Walmart near you folks!

Unintended Consequence: Parents will be hauled off to jail by Child Protection Services due to breaking various US child labor laws.

Purpose: To keep parents protected from spontaneous streams of urine while changing their baby's diapers. 

Unintended Consequence:After continuous use, parents will get lazy and stop using diapers all together and will just leave the teepee on their child all day, similar to a birthday hat tied around their waist.

Purpose- Friends and family will have hours of entertainment while they point and laugh at your toddler's expense!

Unintended Intended Consequence-Friends and family will have hours of entertainment while they point and laugh at your toddler's expense!

Purpose: The placenta teddy was created to find a creative way to make good use of the placenta after birth, as opposed to disposing of it or eating it (seriously???).

Unintended Consequence: The combination of shock, horror and nausea your adult child will have with you explain to them that their childhood buddy was make out of "mommy's baby sack".

Honerable Mention

*Manary Gland

The Manary Gland, made famous by Robert De Niro via the movie, Meet the Fockers only gets an honorable mention because while hilarious, it's completely fictional. I mean, what company in their right mind would think to create such a ridiculous product. Although, I'm sure my wife would have loved a product like this when our kids were night feeding!

(Correction:It has been brought to my attention that this product does exist ): The website can be found here. My faith in humanity has suddenly diminished a little bit.

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Feb 24, 2012

Friday in New England

When people ask me how the weather is up here, I simply say, "It's bi polar".

Case in point; after a week of near 50 degree warm-ish weather, I start to think that spring is just about here. Then I wake up to 2-3 inches of snow on the ground.

If you ask anyone from around here, they'll tell you that the best way to get through a New England weather is jump right in it. And that's exactly what we did.

Happy Friday!

Feb 22, 2012

Making Pizza: A Delicious Way to Bond with Your Child

I’m always looking for fun and creative ways to bond with my child. From this desire, I’ve discovered cooking. We make a lot of fun stuff together like cookies, fruit smoothies and pigs in a blanket, but it think our favorite cooking activity to date has to be making pizza.
Pizza it a wonderful parent-child kitchen project for a variety of reasons. First off, at a total of 20-25 minutes of prep and cook time combined, it’s a relatively quick meal to make. Second, with such a variety of methods to make it, pizza is a really hard thing to mess up. No matter what “mistakes” occur, it is highly likely that it will still come out tasting great. Another reason pizza making is fun is because it is a very hands on, tactile activity and most children love that. It’s also a self-esteem builder. Your child will gain a sense of pride knowing that they created a meal with their own hands. Seems perfect, right?
Make no mistake; this type of activity is not for the faint of heart. A project such as this will naturally spark the interest of your little one and will provoke them to touch, grab, eat and throw when you may not want them to, so you have to be okay with them getting a little messy. It may also be a good opportunity to teach your child about the importance of patience, and how good things come to those who wait.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Pizza Dough (Can be bought fresh from most supermarkets. Also, wholegrain is the healthiest option)
Note: While I don’t disagree with making pizza dough from scratch, for the interest of time, I prefer to get the store bought stuff from the bakery section. There, it’s fresh and it’s just about as good as homemade
1 Bag of Mozzarella Cheese
1 Jar of tomato sauce
A pizza pan if you have one (We used a cookie sheet, which worked great)
A couple of tomatoes
A rolling pin (or something similar shaped)
Cooking Spray
 Some Basil (fresh or from a shaker)
Preferred toppings (Pepperoni, Sausage, Pineapples, ETC)
Eternal patience and lots of paper towels J

All of our ingredients are ready (if he doesn’t eat it all first...)

·         Preheat the oven to about 425 degrees
·         While the oven is preheating, you and your child should be prepping the pizza. If you are just pulling the pizza dough out of the fridge, you can use to heat from the oven to soften it by putting it on top of the stove for a few minutes. This is important because dough softness affects its manageability. Next, I sprayed the sheet with some cooking spray, to prevent the crust from sticking. While I had my son help me knead the dough to push all the air out, I also asked him questions about its texture; did the dough feel sticky, or rough?
(Chopping of tomatoes, meat and other toppings was a “Daddy Job”)

We used sausage as one of our toppings. I chopped up some Italian sausage and have that cooking while we waited for the oven to finish.

·         Once the dough was thoroughly kneaded, you need to put it onto the sheet by using a rolling pin to spread the dough evenly across the sheet.

After frantically searching, I could not for the life of me find the rolling pin. At times like this however, you need to get creative:
He loved the “hands on” approach. Glass works just as well, apparently

·         After we finished rolling out the dough, I used a ladle to scoop up the sauce and with the help of my son, we evenly distributed the sauce around the pizza. Most recipes state that the less sauce you use, the better, but it’s really about personal preference. We then sprinkled the cheese on top and put our toppings on.

The picture below is from another day we did this. It’s an example of the creative, fun things you can do with the pizza:

Say “cheese” (horrible pun, I know)

·         By now, the oven should be fully preheated.  After you put your pizza in the oven, it usually takes about 10-15 minutes to finish. You want the crust to be golden brown.  

Once that’s done and a few minutes of cool down time have passed, your pizza should be ready to eat!

Finished Product.
·         Sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor

Happy camper

Question to the audience:

Have you done any cooking projects with your child yet? If so, what types?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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Feb 21, 2012

Intimacy without "Intimacy": Sex During Pregancy (Or the Lack Thereof)

I’m going to take a minute and stop being a husband and a father for a second. I’m just going to speak from my mind as a man. Okay? Great.
Here we go.
 One of the things that can just plain suck about pregnancy from a man’s prospective is the sex, or the lack thereof. During those 9 tumultuous months, a woman goes through a series of physical, mental and endocrine changes that causes huge amounts of fatigue, rage, sadness, happiness and indifference. Sometimes, they will experience all of these emotions at once. Something along the lines of:

Oookay, I can take a hint:Tonight is a "hands off" night

They will no longer be as “ready and willing” as often when you two were young and baby-less. She will walk by that accursed full length mirror one day and stare for a while. Think about how none if the clothes and shoes in her closet no longer fit. She will then feel fat and unattractive. And gassy. Let’s not forget gassy .
From both ends.
The last thing she will want to think about is having something else besides a fetus inside of her. There are times that you two will have sex and sometimes those same hormones will work in your favor to make her a horny sex craving lunatic (yay!), but it will likely be few and far in between (booo!). On top of that, there will now be physical limitations that restrict you to about 1 or 2 of your basic positions. So you might want to put away the sex swing and the feather duster (for now). It can be challenging, to say the least.
One of the main facts that can just plain suck about the whole situation from a guy's perspective is while she is constantly changing, you really aren’t (in the sexual sense anyway). It’s tough, mainly because as men, we correlate intimacy and closeness we have with a woman with sex. And as the loving, partner you are, you will put your urges to the side and do your damned best to be as supporting, caring and understanding as possible. However, on the inside, you’re silently weeping over your deceased sex life.

I'll miss you, old friend...

As much as you try to suppress it, the anxiety you’re feeling due to this will come out in some shape or form. But before you close the computer screen to go crawl into a corner in a fetal position to morn, you may want to know that there is some good news. All is not lost. If you work at it, you will realize that your sex life doesn’t disappear, it evolves. It’s up to you and your woman as a couple to decide how far that evolution goes.
While I didn’t go through the same physical changes as my wife during the pregnancy, I did reach a higher level of maturity and as a result, gained a better prospective on our sex life. I took the opportunity to find ways to develop a deeper bond with her. After a while, “sex” didn’t seem so important. “Sex” is just intercourse, but she and I had something that went beyond that: intimacy, which is more valuable and longer lasting.
Listed below are steps that allowed me and my wife to reach that level that I think can be applied to any relationship-

1.       Massaging,..And lots of it- One of my wife’s biggest concerns physically was the potential appearance of stretch marks. As the baby grows, so does the stomach which is the main cause of these marks. Another concern was the growth of her feet, as they began to swell the further into her term she went (we estimate that at their largest, her feet grew about 2 sizes). Virtually every day before or after work, I would grab that bottle of cocoa butter lotion and rub her belly (cocoa butter was our preference, but any lotion or cream enriched with vitamins A and D will do). Then I would caress her back. Then her feet. As I rubbed, I made sure I complimented her body. Not only did she love every minute of it, I enjoyed making her happy and this ritual brought us closer together. As a result, she was so relaxed and conformable, that some days, she was willing to do other things (just don’t be too disappointed if “other things” mean falling asleep, complete with snoring and drool on the pillow).

It's okay, honey. I was too tired to do anything either *sigh*

2.       Cuddling- This may sound weak, fellas, but a little cuddling can go a long way. Spooning is a great way to develop intimacy between man and woman (note: the less clothes, the better). I think it’s something about holding your woman that satisfies their need to feel protected and a man’s need to protect that maintains a sense of closeness without sex.

3.       Talking- One of the best ways to improve intimacy doesn’t always involve physical touching. It is crucial to during the pregnancy period to make an effort to open up and discuss each other’s goals, hopes and dreams.  Having these candid discussions on a regular basis will learn how to be more in tune with each other, but it will remind you of the things you love about them in the first place and will keep your connection strong.

4.       Compliment … Alot- As I mentioned earlier, the changes that women go through during pregnancy can make them feel less than desirable. It can potentially turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy because if she believes she isn’t beautiful, why would her partner think she is? When she is feeling this way, this is probably why she was acting so distant, seemingly, "out of nowhere". Sound familiar?
       The most effective way to combat this is by complimenting. As guys, we have a tendency to take things for granted and we assume she knows how we feel. I mean, we’re together right? If I wasn’t happy with her,  I wouldn’t work so hard every day to make sure she has everything she needs, right? Wrong. You need to go out of your way to break down those insecure walls and let her know that she is the most beautiful person in the world to you. Every day I would rub my wife’s beautiful belly and would tell her how proud I was of her for being such a strong person, and how great of a mommy she was going to be. You need to tell her how you feel in the morning and before you go to sleep at night. Leave a note somewhere in the house that you know she will find this reminding her how sexy she is. These actions have the potential to help keep her self-confidence intact and strengthen those bonds of security with you.

5.       Date Night- Make the time to reconnect with your significant other by taking her out on a date on a regular basis. The traditional dinner and movie is great but if that isn’t in your budget, this is when you have to get creative. If she is home, surprise her and come home early can prepare a meal and watch a DVD together. If the weather is nice, why not have a picnic in the park, or at a vineyard (for the scenery, not the wine)?  Whether it be a small hike, a weekend getaway or whatever, the quality time you spend with her will crucial to draw on during those (cough) difficult moments during pregnancy and will reinforce the intimate bonds you already share.

So, there you have it. As much as I have learned over the years, it’s still challenge for me and I’m always learning something new. It’s certainly no small task. But with a little effort, patience and communication, you will develop an intimacy that will last during pregnancy and hopefully, throughout your lives.

Question: Was intimacy an issue during pregnancy? What ways did you overcome these obstacles?

Feb 20, 2012

Choosing the Right Daycare: Things to look for

Putting your child into daycare is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever have to make. The idea of putting your little bundle of joy in to the hands of someone that’s not family or close friend can be uncomfortable and downright scary (or, at least it was for us).
By the time our son was born, I was working two jobs for a combined total of 70+ hours and wearing thin. My significant other April, just finished her masters in elementary education just one month prior to our son being born and it made sense for her to postpone her search for a teaching job and instead stay home with the baby.  We didn’t consider daycare until he was about 10 months, when April was offered a full time education coordinator position at a local nonprofit. It was a professional opportunity she couldn’t pass up. And honestly, we needed the money: a few months prior to the offer, I resigned from my part time job in order to spend more time with the family. As great as it was being together more often, we could not deny the financial strain we felt due to the reduction in income.
And so, we reluctantly began our difficult quest to find the right daycare. We created a list of what we were looking for in daycare and what we felt were the best child care facilities in our area and set up tours for each of them.  
We’ve visited some amazing facilities that left us in awe. There were others however, that led us to wonder how state ever saw fit to give them a license. We eventually settled on a place. While it isn’t “perfect” (really, though if you’re as paranoid as we were, no daycare will ever be perfect enough for your baby), it is a nurturing center with  a compassionate staff where we know our son is adored and well taken care of.
 From this experience, I created the following list of things you should look for when choosing the right fit for your family. Before I get into this, I would like to note that the following is based on my personal experience and research. This article should only be a supplement to the large amounts of research you should be doing when looking for the right place for your child.

1.       Accreditations/Certifications of staff
Whether or not your perspective daycare is accredited by a national education association or simply licensed is an important question to ask. According to The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies or NACCRRA ( yes, this is a real place, www.naccrra.org) :
“Licensing is when a facility meets the minimum standards required by the state for the child care program to open… you should check with your local child care resource and referral agency for information specific to your state”. More information regarding his can be found at www.childcareaware.org.

You will also want to ask about the certifications of the staff members. While is not a requirement by most states to have a staff with specific qualifications (i.e., Child Development Associate (CDA), education degree, etc.), as a parent it does make me comfortable knowing that most of the staff has the additional training. With that being said, just because someone lacks such credentials, it doesn’t mean they are less effective child care providers. Sometimes passion and/or experience may trump a piece of paper. This is ultimately a parent’s judgment call to make.

Nationally accredited child care programs meet higher quality standards set by that particular organization. Accredited schools typically meet and exceed most licensing requirements. These requirements include standards for things such as curriculum, staff/parent communication, staff certification and more. A couple of the top national accreditations in the US are the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC.org) and National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC.org).

To paraphrase: Licensing = “Good”, Accreditation= “Even better”

2.       A  Safe ,clean,  child centered environment

When looking at daycares, the number one priority is the health and safety of your little one. State and local health codes ensure that the risk of disease is low and the building’s facilities are up to code, but as a parent, there are a couple of things you should be on the lookout for.  Look around to make sure equipment is sturdy, toys aren’t broken and are sanitized daily, areas that are only for adults have locks on the doors, and there is a policy put in place to screen visitors. They should also have a regularly updated list of people preapproved by the parent to up of their child. The playground area should be fenced in and all of the climbing structures, which are age appropriate, have underneath it soft surfacing like grass, mulch, or the rubberized material you see at most public playgrounds.

Take note of whether staff washes their hands after changing diapers, takings kids to the potty and wiping noses. These practices greatly reduce the risk of spreading disease causing germs.

You will also want to ask about child to staff ratios. While licensing calls for minimum standards (again, varies by state), research shows that smaller groups work the best for the child. Not only do the children interact with each other better, but providers are able to give more attention to each individual, which fosters trust and is in turn, beneficial to their development. Speaking of provider attention, when you go on a tour, watch how they interact with the children. Are they attentive and interactive, or are they distant and withdrawn? Also, ask about their disciplining policy. Are the daycare rules clear and effectively communicated?
                Furthermore, you will want to make sure activities offered at the facility are age appropriate for their interests and abilities. Activities should encourage children to get involved in the learning process in a variety of ways. Most of the day should be spent divided into small group activities. When you walk into the room, you should be able to easily identify specific designated areas for activities such as art work, Legos (building block, etc.), puzzles or dress –up. The children should have free play, where they get to choose their own activities and if weather permits, children should be taken outdoors as much as possible.

3.       References/Parent Communication

Parent/Staff communication is crucial to a successful daycare experience. At the end of each day when you pick up your child, you should be given an “about my day” report that logs their snack/lunch, potty times (if applicable) and highlights of the day’s curriculum and how your child is doing. Depending on the size of your daycare, there is a chance that the teachers change shifts at least once during the day and the one you see when you drop your child off may be different from the one who is there for pick up. Regardless of who you child is with when you pick them up, the communication between teachers should be strong enough that anyone should be able to answer questions you may have. This may go without saying, but you should be familiar with all staff members, especially the ones who spend the most time with your child.
A good daycare understands the importance of parent involvement and are encouraged to visit and participate in classes every once in a while or if applicable, are invited to chaperone trips. Teachers should also be willing to give suggestions for activities to do at home and questions to ask your child related to their curriculum. This strengthens the bonds between the faculty, parent and child and further assists in overall development.
Lastly if not voluntarily given, do not be afraid to ask for references from current or former parents. Use said references to confirm facts that were given to you by the daycare. Whether you are contacting the reference directly or sending them a checklist, make sure the questions asked are open ended and honest.

To sum up, finding the right daycare for your child is no easy task. You absolutely have to do as much research and ask as many questions as you possibly can before you make your final choice.

So let’s hear from you! Do have a child that is currently enrolled in a daycare? What criteria did you look for when making a decision?         

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