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Happy kids in the kindergartenWhen I started to look for the right child care center, it looked like mission impossible. But then something unexpected happened. Have you ever felt like “This is too good to be true”? Normally if things seem that way, they turn out to be that way, too. So now that I’ve found a child care center that sounds like “too good to be true”, does it mean that I’m incredibly lucky or does it mean that I’m clueless and just don’t see things as they really are?

Let me tell you what I’ve learned about it and be the judges. This is a small center located about 25 minutes by foot from our house. The staff is friendly, most of them are young (25-28). I guess this has its advantages and disadvantages, on one hand they are not worn out yet but on the other are less experienced and many don’t have kids of their own.

The kids of 12 – 24 months are put in one group and are assigned one care taker (there are 3 now and Eric will be the 4th), who spends most of the day with them (apart from the breaks, when another staff member takes over). The small kids’ room is kept locked so that they don’t escape into a bigger kids’ play area. They are playing, eating and sleeping in that room, divided in two areas. The play area is carpeted and the meals area has linoleum for easy cleaning. There is a little table and small chairs in the meals area, which I find impressive – Eric still eats in his high chair at home to avoid the mess, and they clearly don’t mind it in the child care, allowing all the kids to sit by one table like grown ups do.

During my visits there I’ve seen them sit babies 10-11 month old in a high chair and encourage them to self-feed, which I think is great. The food was all over the floor but that didn’t stop the staff from trying. The dishes are different every day, kids get a lot of fruit and veggies, the food is freshly cooked in the center and the menu is changed every 4 weeks. On top of everything else they participate in a government program to do with healthy eating.

Their routine is very close to the one we have at home, the sleeping/ eating times are almost the same, which is terrific. Eric will get to sleep at the time he’s used to. The kids are allowed to bring blankets from home, so he will even have the familiar smell in his bed.

The manager of the center told me about a personal development program that is created for every child. The parent sits down with the caregiver and they decide, based on their knowledge of child’s skills and observations, what skills should be given more attention, they set a goal and the caregiver works with a child for 2 weeks to reach that goal. Then the process repeats.

Every kid has a notebook that is sent home in their bag every day. In that notebook the staff record what the child has eaten, drank, the changed diapers, how long did the kid sleep / rest, the games they played and anything else they feel a parent needs to know. They also invite the parents to put in the notebook anything they want to let the staff know – and they actually do read that!

They have suggested two orientation sessions (for which I am not charged) for Eric to get used to idea of being in a child care, including how to spread them across the week, what to bring (a soft toy or a comforter of any sort and a change of clothes), they invite parents to pop in any time and have a look at their little one (hiding, of course, so that the kid doesn’t see them). During the first days in the care they call parents if children are crying unstoppably and suggest picking them up if nothing else works.

I met Eric’s future caregiver and she showed me the toys my boy will be playing with, the separated outdoor area designed for kids of 12 – 24 months (safety and interest-wise), she told me how she handles kids that don’t want to eat when everyone else is eating and sleep when everyone else is sleeping – she said that she won’t let him go hungry or tired even if he’s missed the meal or the quiet time. She asked me to put in the notebook his signs of hunger and tiredness and anything else he indicates with his behavior. She asked what our routine at home was – so that she’ll try to mimic it. She was wonderful.

I guess I was incredibly lucky, because a friend of mine went to 5 centers before she found one that was kind of OK, and I only went to 2 and the second one had everything I could ask for and more. But we’ll see how it goes as Eric takes his first step towards independence – more later!