How to Know What’s Happening at Day Care

It can be hard to know exactly what happens with your baby all day at day care -- it’s not like she’s giving you a play-by-play in the car on the way home. So how can you get the inside scoop on what’s going on while you’re at work?

Stop by unannounced

Day cares are pretty cool places -- babies and children learn, grow, get hugs, interact with other kids and play with some pretty awesome toys during the day. But many parents can’t help but wonder things like: Is my baby getting enough sleep? Is my toddler eating nutritious food? Are the toys safe and clean? Are caregivers paying enough attention to my child? And that’s totally natural.

“I always recommend that parents show up at their child’s day care unannounced every so often,” says Marc Bourne, vice president of the Know It All Intelligence Group, a nationwide employment screening and investigation firm that deals with day cares. “Catching a facility off guard when they are not expecting anyone is a good way to see how they are interacting with the children.”

Look for a facility that offers video

Many larger day cares have gone high tech, with camera hookups so you can peek in at any given moment via the web. Not only will you get a little baby fix whenever you’re missing your kid, knowing they’re being watched may be extra motivation for day care workers to do everything by the book.

Stay involved

Occasionally, call during the day to check in on your child, and also take time to get to know the people who care for him. “Parent involvement is key,” says says Jeff Rasansky, an attorney in Dallas specializing in cases of day care abuse and neglect, and the author of The Insider’s Legal Guide: Preventing, Discovering & Acting on Claims of Daycare and Childcare Abuse. “Find out what your child did on a specific date, and the plans going forward. If teachers have a hard time answering these types of questions, that can be concerning.” Many child care facilities record baby’s activities, feeding times and naps throughout the day and make notes about their behaviors -- make sure the reports you get are detailed and thorough.

If you’re curious about something or anything is bothering you -- even if it seems small -- communicate that to the child care workers or the center’s director. Don’t worry about being too pushy about finding out about your child’s day, or asking questions about how your child’s day is structured. A good day care will be eager to be your partner in caring for your child -- and enjoy sharing as much of her day as they can with you.

Know the scariest warning signs

So many day care workers are loving, caring and conscientious, but there are horror stories, and obviously you don’t want to have one. If your child suddenly starts getting long-lasting diaper rashes, unexplained bruising or other injuries, it calls for swift investigation -- those could be indicators of neglect or abuse. “If there is a sudden change in behavior of your child, without a reasonable explanation, or if a child who was once walking and talking seems to have suddenly regressed, that could be a sign of potential trouble,” says Rasansky. If you suspect that things aren’t on the up and up, don’t wait to take action. “Remove your child from any situation you believe to be potentially dangerous,” he says. Try talking to the day care administrator first, and then move on to your local department of family and protective services for help escalating the issue.

Plus, more from The Bump:

How to Find the Best Day Care

Tips for Transitioning Into Day Care

Going Back to Work After Baby

-- Lisa Milbrand has written about love and relationships (and a host of other less important topics) for The Knot, The Nest and The Bump, among dozens of other publications

See More: Safety , Baby Basics , Toddler Basics , Mommy Life , Dads and Dads-to-Be

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