If you’ve ever been on “the great daycare search,” you know the challenges that come with finding a spot that’s the right fit for your family and actually getting a spot. (I wrote more about my own decision to use daycare as our child care option here.) Imagine my delight when I recently learned about an online service called Winnie that actually helps you locate nearby daycares and tells you whether there are openings! Today, I’m sharing a guest post from Winnie’s co-founder, Sara Mauskopf, on how to go about getting the right daycare match. Here’s Sara!
One of the biggest challenges facing new parents returning to work after parental leave is finding child care. If it’s your first time looking for child care, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. But just like big projects at work, it’s a lot more manageable if you start early and break down the process into key steps. Here’s a high-level guide of how you can go about finding child care to prepare for your return to work.
Consider Whether Daycare is Right for You
There are other types of child care besides daycare, such as a nanny, nanny-share, au pair, or a family member providing care. Daycare is a popular type of child care, but there are other options that may be a better fit for your child or your family’s unique needs. As a rule of thumb, daycare is a great option if the hours of care you need are well defined and your child would thrive in a group environment with other kids.
Identify Your Criteria
It helps to write down what you’re looking for and what factors matter most to you. For example, you may be more flexible when it comes to location for the right program at the right price. Or maybe you have some wiggle room in your budget, but you absolutely need certain hours of care every day. Below are some of the factors you might consider:
- Hours and days you need care
- When you’ll be needing care and how old your child will be at that time
- Other criteria that matters, like type of program, languages spoken, etc.
Search for Places using Winnie
Once you identify what you need, then you will want to search for places that meet your criteria. Head over to https://winnie.com/childcare and put in your Zip Code. You can view places on a map, so you can identify all the options that might work location-wise (near home, near work, or along a commute route). You can also filter by the age of your child. Full-time or part-time. And even see programs with immediate openings. Winnie works all over the United States and has comprehensive data on every licensed daycare and preschool in California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.
One super important thing to look for on a provider’s Winnie page is their license. All daycares and preschools, whether they are run out of a provider’s home or a center, are licensed and inspected regularly by the state. Make sure the provider’s license is up to date.
Contact Them and Tour
You’ll want to setup a tour for daycares that most interest you. Call or email providers to find out a good time to come in and meet. Winnie has a premium membership that can help with doing this legwork and can help you through the process of finding and assessing child care providers.
Meeting with providers and visiting their space will give you a good sense of their program and whether you’d be happy with sending your child there. Most importantly, trust your gut!
Tips and Tricks
If you find a provider you love, be persistent. They may not know if they have open spaces just yet, but spaces open up all the time. (Kids age out of daycare, families move, etc.). Continue to follow up with the providers and reiterate your interest, even if their program is currently full.
Another thing to know is that prices are often flexible. If you can’t afford a provider that you fall in love with, ask for discounts or scholarships they may be able to provide. Finally, in-home providers are a hidden gem. Typically these programs are smaller (fewer kids) and the more “homey” environment can be great for babies. Winnie helps you find these in-home options, too!
Best of luck in your child care search!
Sara Mauskopf is the co-founder and CEO of Winnie, a website and mobile app that helps parents discover daycares, preschools and more. Winnie is used by over 2 million parents across the United States. She’s also the mom of two young daughters and lives in San Francisco with her family.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave