Over the last couple of months we got onto four wait lists and managed to get tours of three of them. The fourth has been giving me the run around with simply booking a damn tour, so even if they're the best daycare on earth, I think we'll pass. All I picture is trying to call in to see how Evan is doing and never getting a call back!
The first one we saw was really great. I am familiar with the programming they use (one of the outreach programs I worked for during grad school created it), the staff were very friendly, their meals looked healthy and interesting with very little processed food, the centre looked well-funded, and (most importantly) the kids looked happy. The down sides were centre was HUGE (at least compared to the others we saw), their outdoor area was pretty small, and the wait list seemed to be very long (although they wouldn't really tell us what our chances were to get our ideal start date).
The second one we toured was not great. It was in the basement of an old folks home, it was small, it was LOUD (even though there were way fewer kids than the first), and it seemed like the kid-to-floor-area ratio was lower. It seemed a bit dirty too - like all the toys, beds, books, etc. looked dingy or grimy. In the pre-school room, we witnessed a girl bullying another girl. and the staff just watched. They weren't very forthcoming with information, so we had to push for answers, and even then sometimes they didn't respond very well. They did have a larger outdoor area, but that's about all that was better than the first.
The third one we were pretty worried about. When I called to book a tour, she mentioned that they were associated with the attached teen pregnancy centre. Yes, I know, we shouldn't be so judgmental, but a part of me wondered if we should even bother. I'm glad we did though, because we were impressed! They were the only daycare with a buzz-in system so people can't just walk in. It was smaller than the other ones we saw, which is a bonus with us. The rooms were clean, organized, and personalized with pictures of the kids and their art. The staff seemed happy, and so did the kids. They have a HUGE outdoor space, and are close to the Children's Museum, a large park, and splash pads. Their menu looks awesome too. The only down sides are it is more expensive than the other places, you have to supply your own food if they can't eat table foods, and they're relatively new so they are still buying equipment (especially for their outdoor area). The best thing though? They have a spot open for August 1st! I guess, because they're associated with the teen pregnancy centre, they have to keep spots open during the school year for them. But, in the summer, they all go home and the daycare tries to fill up as many spots with community members as it can!
If you can't guess, we have decided to go with the third! Yes, it's a bit more expensive, but I think it is worth it to get Evan into a daycare that's smaller and more personal and so close to so many great places. It's also right on the way to/from work for both of us, and is pretty close to home too.
I am so relieved that we have found a daycare for him. Now I just have to come to terms with being away from him all day long. At least I have another five months to figure out how I might do that :(