Caring for a large number of children at once means a day care faces numerous safety challenges. From supervision and rules to the physical environment and security, a quality day care center anticipates the potential risks before they become a problem. Understanding the elements of day care safety enables you to assess the center to decide if it offers a secure environment for your child.
The safety of the children relates to the number of quality adults supervising them. Without adequate staffing, the adults aren't able to keep track of the children, keep them away from potential dangers and meet their basic needs. Staffing requirements may vary by state, but the American Academy of Pediatrics offers standard suggestions. The recommendations are three children per adult up to 1 year, four children per adult from 13 to 30 months, five children per adult for 31 to 35 months, seven kids per adult for 3 year olds and eight children per adult for 4 and 5 year olds.
The physical environment is key to keeping children safe at a day care. The center should be free of sharp corners, furniture that can tip, hanging window blind cords, unprotected windows and exposed electrical outlets. All hazardous chemicals should be locked away from the children. If the center has an outdoor play area, look for age-appropriate equipment without any damaged areas. A soft surface, such as mulch or special rubber mats, under the play equipment prevents injury on the playground.
A secure building prevents unwanted adults from reaching the children. The center should have limited access during daytime hours with the requirement to check in before going into the classroom areas. A locked door with the requirement to buzz in guests provides greater control. Securing the area also keeps children from wandering off to places that are dangerous. For example, keeping the door to the day care kitchen locked keeps a curious toddler from wandering in and getting burned.
A day care center needs an emergency plan for unexpected incidents, such as severe weather, fire, hazardous chemical spills and intruders. The center director and teachers should know how to handle those situations per the day care center emergency plan. Practice drills with the kids aid in the safety of the center.
Day care centers typically feed the children meals and snacks throughout the day. This often includes formula, breast milk or pureed baby food for infants and regular table food for toddlers and older children. Proper handling of the food prevents illness in the children. All adults handling the food should wash their hands frequently. Cold foods need to stay below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, while hot foods need to be above 130 degrees Fahrenheit to limit bacteria growth. Food should be cut into bite-sized pieces to prevent young children from choking.
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