When families need to use child care, it is important that their children are enrolled in the highest quality care possible. Children who have spent time in high quality child care environments have lasting benefits from the experience. Research indicates that children who receive a high quality early childhood education have better math, language and social skills as they enter school, and as they grow older require less special education, progress further in school, have fewer interactions with the justice system and have higher earnings as adults (Barnett, 1995).
What are the indicators of high quality child care?
Several research studies have found that high quality child care programs have certain characteristics in common. These characteristics can help parents make better child care choices for their children because they indicate a much greater likelihood of high quality care. Quality indicators measure the conditions that generally foster a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment for children. They are:
- Low child/teacher ratios
- Small group size
- Staff with higher education & on-going training
- Prior experience and education of the director
- Low teacher turnover
- Positive teacher/child interactions
- Accreditation or higher than minimum licensing standards
- Age appropriate activities
- Good health & safety practices
Low ratios and low turnover allow teachers to respond to the individual needs of children, to give each child ample attention and to create a strong bond, adding to the child’s security. Higher education helps staff and directors understand the needs and development of young children, which helps teachers plan activities for children and interact with them in developmentally appropriate ways. Well-compensated teachers with good benefits change jobs with less frequency, lowering turnover and increasing opportunities for children to create attachments and build relationships. Finally, child care programs with a national accreditation or higher-than-minimum license demonstrate an intent to provide high quality care and have met higher-than-minimum standards to receive the accreditation or license.
When you visit a child care program, use one of the child care checklists below to determine how many quality indicators the program has. If you can answer yes to most or all of the questions on the checklist, your child will have a greater chance of having a successful child care experience.