It can be tough making that decision about which daycare centre to select for your little one. Here we provide some key tips and outline aspects to be taken into consideration, so you can be confident in your decision.
Haarlem has a wide range of daycares with different locations in the city, and all of them take excellent care of babies and kids from 0 to 4 years. Yet with so many options, some parents can find it overwhelming and it is difficult to make a decision.
‘Which daycare would be the best place for my little one?’ This is an important question to ask. If you are in the process of finding childcare, here you can find a list with all you have to consider.
1. Are all daycares in Haarlem the same?
After putting my son in two different daycares in Haarlem and sharing experiences with many parents, I can say with experience – no, they are not all the same.
Before making my decision, I think I visited around five various centres and I found they all differed greatly. Now my son is attending two different daycares (we moved to a new house and it was impossible to find a center for 5 days in our new neighbourhood), I can see more clearly how daycares have many things in common, but also variations.
These are some of the characteristics that can make a big difference when you put your child in daycare:
• Clean and safe facilities: Every daycare centre must be clean and safe, with equipment in good condition (toys, bedding, etc.) and outdoor play area. Having said that, not every daycare that I visited seemed to have the same standards. When choosing daycare, I paid special attention to these points and avoided centres with many stairs or barriers, play equipment in bad repair, no outdoor play yard or lack of natural light.
• Warm food: Most parents prefer their kids to have warm food at daycare, but not all of them offer this service.
This is the meals schedule that follows the first center that my son attends:
Morning – Fruit
Midday – Warm food (we have to pay around €4 extra per meal)
Afternoon – Sandwich
At the second centre, this is what is on the menu:
Morning – Fruit
Midday – Warm food (included)
Afternoon – Some snacks (crackers, juice, etc.)
• Communication: Parents always want to know how their kids did at daycare (Did he have a good day? When did he nap? What did he eat?). There are different ways to communicate with parents (app, website, diary, blackboard, etc.) and it is important that you feel comfortable with whatever method is used at your daycare of choice. Receiving the exact amount of information that you need is key to have a smooth relationship with the centre.
First centre: They use a mobile app, and caregivers send personal messages and pictures. They also send informative messages about illness, hairdresser, activities, etc. You can find a noticeboard for general information at the centre and a blackboard with information about your kid (meals, naps, etc.) in the classroom.
Second centre: They don’t have a mobile app, but a website. I think most of the people don’t use it, so I prefer to have a direct communicate with the secretary working at the centre. They don’t send periodic messages, but my child’s teacher is very sweet and texts me to share videos and pictures.
• Activities: I particularly like daycares where kids can enjoy different activities regularly, because they are a great opportunity to learn something new. Both of our centres have themed weeks – about vehicles, seasons, animals – where the activities are focused on these topics when making art and crafts, learning vocabulary, reading and generally having a great time. For occasions, such as Mother’s Day, they work on special projects and bring them home when they are finished. However, other centres just let kids play most of the day and not do many activities with teachers.
2. When to start looking for daycare in Haarlem
As soon as possible! Most mums start looking for daycare while they are still pregnant. Yes, there may be many daycare centres in Haarlem, but availability is tight and competition is fierce. Once you have an idea of the date your kid will start going to daycare, start looking for one and check availability.
3. Parents tours
Most daycares offer tours to show parents the facilities, introduce them to caregivers and answer all their questions. But what should you take into account when you join one of these tours?
It is important to think beforehand about the requirements that your ideal daycare should comply with – location, hours, warm food, language… Every family has different needs, so making a list with yours can make your decision easier.
4. Questions for your daycare in Haarlem
• Can I bring breast milk to daycare?
• Can I swing by to breastfeed? Do you have a room for breastfeeding?
• What formula milk do you give to babies?
• Do I have to bring my bottles?
• Can I bring baby food to daycare?
• Do you give children warm food? Do I have to pay extra?
• My kid has some allergies, is this a problem?
Caregivers and groups:
• How many caregivers do you have per group?
• Do they take shifts? Shall my kid always be with the same caregivers?
• Do you break down the groups of children by age? Do you have vertical groups (kids from 0 to 4 years all together)?
• Does the centre have an app to send messages or pictures to parents?
Facilities and hours:
• What is the schedule?
• Do you have a waiting list?
• Do you have an outdoor play area?
• Are there cameras in the centre?
• What level of security is there?
• Can I leave my kid’s stroller or bike in the centre?
Health and care:
• Would you contact me if my kid is sick?
• Can I swap days if he is sick (or we go on holidays)?
• Do you inform parents if some kid has chickenpox or other contagious illness?
• Do you keep record of naps, poops, meals…?
• Do I have to bring diapers?
• Can my baby use cloth diapers?
• What should I bring: cloth, dummy, blanket, pyjamas…?
• What is the naps policy?
• Do you offer hairdresser service?
5. Intake interview
Some daycares hold intake interviews with parents before the starting day. This interview is a great opportunity to get to know your child’s caregiver and share any useful information about your kid. They will also ask about different aspects: food preferences (can we give your kid crackers or juice?), family (who will pick your kid up?), health and allergies, etc.
Some centres also hold periodic interviews with families during the year to talk about your child’s development.
6. App and pictures
Apps can be really useful to keep contact with the daycare and know about how your kid is doing every day. Some centres use them to upload pictures, send informative letters and exchange messages with parents. And parents can use it for swap days and absences. If your centre doesn’t have a mobile app, you can ask them about how they usually communicate with parents (website, letters, diary, blackboard in the classroom…).
You can also ask about pictures policy. Some centres will ask for your permission to take, share and publish pictures of your kids. It’s always a good idea to inform them about your preferences.
7. Swap days
Most of daycares give the possibility to swap days when kids are sick or on holiday. You have to request swap days in advance, and your centre will approve or reject your petition. Usually, there is a limited time to use swap days (for example, 3 weeks before or after absence), and daycares can never guarantee availability.
8. Adaptation period
Another thing that you can take into account when choosing daycare is adaptation period. Some daycares prefer kids to get used to nursery little by little. For the first two or three days, they stay in daycare only for some hours. After that time, children will be ready to stay the whole day and start with their regular schedule.
In my case, our first daycare didn’t offer adaptation period, but the second one did. My kid didn’t seem to need that period to get use to nursery, but in the other hand it was nice having some days to get use to new daycare when we moved him to a new centre.
9. Schedule and availability
Most of daycares open Monday to Friday from 07:30 to 18:30 (or 07:00 to 19:00 in some cases). Children can go to daycare from 1 to 5 days a week. Sometimes, it is also possible to take half days.
As I mentioned before, availability is limited, especially in some neighbourhoods. For that reason, finding a spot on the most demanded days (Monday, Tuesdays and Thursdays) can be quite difficult. If you don’t want to be in the position of having to put your kid in two different centres, make sure that the chosen daycare can fit him in every day.
10. Cost and benefits
Cost is probably one of the biggest issues when we talk about daycares in Haarlem. One thing is clear, they are not cheap (around €8.65 an hour). You can find out about daycare rates online and also calculate how much money you would get back from daycare benefits (kinderopvangtoeslag)(see here). Families with working or studying members are entitled to benefits. The amount that you get back depends on family incomes, and daycare benefits are paid monthly (around the 22nd of the month).
I hope all this information helps you to find the perfect daycare in Haarlem for your family! If your kid is attending a daycare in Haarlem, we would love to know about your experience.