Finding quality child care goes beyond the bells and whistles, experts say


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – We all want the best for our kids, and when searching for a program that fits your family, one size doesn’t fit all.

What quality care looks like can look different for everyone, but there are things experts say parents should consider, and it goes beyond the technology and curriculums.

Child Care Crisis/KY3
Child Care Crisis/KY3(ky3)

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Experts agree that the quality of child care could impact students well beyond their first few years of school.

“The way a child would interact would even as early as three months could have implications on how they are going to behave as far as age 12,” Dr. Gabriel Cline, a licensed Springfield psychologist, says.

Dr. Cline was part of a study that looked into this at the Early Childhood Research Institute of Measuring Growth and Development in Kansas. He says those children they studied saw long-term impacts.

“For daycare centers having someone there to hand [toys back and] that will interact with them. That could impact how that child reads at age 12,” Dr. Cline says.

Dr. Cline says part of quality has to mean “nurturing” and “enriching.”

“It means so much to how they grow and develop,” he says.

Routine is also crucial.

“They need consistently. They need routine because that’s a part of what makes child care important.”

That makes the transition into early elementary a lot smoother.

Kayla Pike has taught early childhood education for Springfield Public Schools for three years. She currently works with kindergarteners right now and loves it. She likes watching them grow and learn. She says she can see the differences in child care experiences when they walk through her door.

“They have exposure to working with other kids that are their age,” Pike says. “They are able to get some experience that they might not have otherwise been able to have and just build some more social and emotional skills before coming into the classroom.”

“You can tell if somebody hasn’t had the same exposure as somebody else,” she adds.

“It’s not a total loss,” Pike says.

She sees plenty of kids catch up academically, but it’s more challenging to change kids’ minds if they have had a bad experience with education and don’t like school.

Age-appropriate, safe activities and toys are essential, too but the number one thing experts want parents to consider is the environment inside the center.

“Caring and loving adults that are nurturing and kind to them,” Dr. Cline says.

That quality care doesn’t have to come from a facility or at-home center. The same principles can be found in family or friends you trust.

“I think that those early years are so critical for every child and just to really pay attention to their needs and interests at that level so we can help them further their academic career but also just develop in general to be the best that they can be,” Pike says.

When picking a quality child care facility, experts say to keep these in mind.

-Read reviews online! They can be really telling.

-Do a tour – consider it a red flag if a facility won’t let you see the space or let you sit in on a classroom.

-Listen to what the child care center tells you if they report many negative experiences with your child. It could actually be a reflection of the facility.

-Go with your gut. If something doesn’t feel right or makes you uneasy, don’t brush it off.

If you are considering an at-home child care provider, click here to see Missouri’s guidelines to ensure your possible provider follows them.

To report a correction or typo, please email [email protected]

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