Do you have parent-teacher conferences at your child's daycare? It's kind of a funny thing, since there's only so much a teacher can "report" on such small children. But Mike and I have gone to Natalie's since day one, and really love the experience of getting the personal attention of her lead teacher and hearing more details about how things are going for her at "school."
Last week, we hunkered down on the carpet in her little classroom, and got a glowing report on our kid's behavior. It is always nice to hear people say nice things about your kid, isn't it? We weren't really expecting any different, but it was reassuring to hear. Some tidbits that made us especially proud:
* Natalie has become referred to as the classroom parent or mom. She really likes to be the teacher's helper now that she's one of the older ones in her classroom, and is always going around bringing the littler kids their jackets and shoes when it's time to go outside.
* She is showing more and more empathy, even going so far as to wipe another child's tears away and give hugs and ask "You okay?" when another child is upset.
* It was a relief to hear that she has been taking a more active role in dressing herself at school than she does at home. We haven't really worked on it much, I tend to just jump in and do it myself rather than let her try. Her teacher said she is able to use the coat-flip trick to get her jacket on, and has been putting her shoes on by herself. I'm amazed!
* Her favorite activities at school usually alternate between playing outside (hello, swings!) and helping to clean up. She likes to walk laundry down to the washing machine with her teacher, and helps to put dishes in the sink. Her teacher said they never have to ask her twice to clean up after eating, or to wash her hands. Again, I am amazed--why am I reminding her to do things 20 times?!
We also had the chance to check in about some things that we are working on (like potty training, recognizing when she needs to say "I'm sorry," and overcoming some of her stranger anxiety/shyness), and were able to come up with some strategies that we will be working on with her teachers. Having this little meeting was a reminder again of how lucky we are to have the childcare facility we do. Natalie loves daycare, even if she does still have a very hard time saying goodbye when I drop her off. She considers her teachers her best friends, and talks non-stop about all the things she does while she's at school. I remember how daunting it felt to identify a place that we felt comfortable leaving Natalie, and how I wondered if we would really know that we made the right decision. The particular things that you may be looking for in a childcare facility can vary, but I feel really confident that there will be signs along the way to help give you that gut feeling about whether a place is right for you. For us, having certified teachers who track Natalie's individual progress along specific developmental milestones is huge--and setting aside time to check in about those things annually or more frequently has made us feel like we really know what is happening at daycare all the time.
How did you choose a childcare facility (or did you?)? Any tips for new parents on identifying a place that's a keeper?