Whether you’re getting ready to go back to work after having a baby or looking to transition your toddler into a new child care program in Tucson, choosing an early childhood education program that works for you and your family is a big decision that can often feel overwhelming both logistically and emotionally.

Open enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year has begun, which means you are probably wondering how to select an early childhood provider. It’s important to find a clean, quality early childhood with passionate, experienced staff who can care for your child when you are not present–but where do you start?

If you’re unsure, here are five things to look for when you are searching for an early childhood program for your infant, toddler, or preschooler:

  1. What kind of training or certifications do the teachers have?
    The State of Arizona requires that all early childhood teachers have 18 hours of continuing education each year, which means that this should be the minimum that your child’s teacher should receive. The more highly-educated the staff, though, the better.

    At the Tucson J, Director of Early Childhood Education Joline Riddle mandates that her staff participate in 40 hours of paid continuing education every year, and that lead teachers have a degree in Early Childhood Education or a closely related field.

    “Continued education, opportunities for collaboration, and time to plan a solid curriculum for children in our program is essential,” says Joline. “We believe that working with local professionals and partnering with universities and colleges build our knowledge in our profession.”
  2. Are there flexible care options that fit my family’s schedule?
    Life with young children can be hectic, and your schedule may change day-to-day while your child is developing. The right early childhood education program for your family will have options for you to customize the length of time that your child is in their care each day and the number of days that care is offered.
  3. What is the learning philosophy of the child care program?
    Your provider should have a publicly-stated philosophy that centers the safety, education, and development of your child. For example, the Tucson J uses the Sheva Framework to create a curriculum that emerges from the children’s ideas, abilities, and interests in an environment created for children to reflect and build upon experiences.
  4. What kind of activities will my child participate in?
    The curriculum should nurture and meet the needs of your child at every stage of their development. When working with infants, teachers should use moments of care and play to share language, encourage self-regulating behaviors, and build new skills. As infants become toddlers, they should enjoy increased activities and establish a routine that enriches their growth. Joline and her team recommend searching for a toddler program that emphasizes art, fitness, music, cooking, storytelling, and other age appropriate activities.

    By the time a child reaches preschool age, they will be craving new opportunities to learn and grow. The best preschool programs will be sure to create a curriculum that is collaborative, purposeful, and planned, so that the children can be recognized as agents of their own learning.
  5. What kind of snacks will my child be served?
    In the early stages of development, children are forming foundational habits that will follow them throughout their lives. When searching for a child care program in Tucson, parents should be on the lookout for facilities that are committed to providing high quality, nutritious snacks to the children in their care. Even better are programs like discoverCATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health), which nurture healthy eating habits by engaging teachers, children, and families to work together to build healthy habits from school to the home.

Joline Riddle is the Director of Early Childhood Education at the Tucson J. For questions about choosing an early childhood provider, contact her at jriddle@tucsonjcc.org or visit tucsonjcc.org/ece.

About Tucson Jewish Community Center

The Tucson J is a community space located in central Tucson at the base of the beautiful Catalina Foothills. For over 60 years, the Tucson J has been a home away from home for Tucsonans of all ages, abilities, faiths, and identities. We serve more than 5,000 people from all walks of life who come to the J to grow, play, learn, and relax.

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