Home child care requires careful planning

By: JUDY LYDEN

Scripps Howard News Service

A family is considering whether to open a home day care center. The primary care provider, who is usually a woman (although many couples retire into child care) is a loving, patient teacher who wants to provide all the extras for children.

What else should the family consider?

In most states, the home is what is licensed. The home is the place where children will spend as much as 60 hours a week, so it should ''work.'' It should be well-organized. Family privacy and safety should be taken seriously.

-- Rule 1: No day-care kids in a basement without two escape routes. One should be a direct outdoor route. It's the law. Parents looking for child care should nix any child-care situation where children are exposed to a basement situation all day. It's depressing.

-- Rule 2: No kids upstairs. Even in a private home, children should remain on the ground level. What new providers don't understand is the overwhelming need for family privacy, especially after a child care center has been opened at home. Dad's bathroom should remain his, Mom's closet hers and big sister's everything is off limits.

Where do day-care children nap? Never in family beds. Family beds and rooms belong to the family children. If napping is a big part of child care, then a room should be made up and taken apart every day just for naps. This keeps bedding in a daily state of inspection.

One of the things providers learn is to acquire a table big enough and low enough to accommodate all the children. One easy and affordable one can be made from a 6-by-3-foot hollow door made for a closet. It can be painted and put on a frame of two-by-fours and legs about 20 inches high. It's easy to put together with a glue gun. Children's chairs cost about $10 apiece for the good ones.

This table provides an easily cleaned eating, puzzle and toy space. It gets play off the floor and onto a real work surface. Because the legs are short, it can easily be stored. It can even remain in front of large sofas as a big coffee table.

Experienced providers know household carpeting is a nightmare. Want to know why everyone's sick? The carpet is breeding every known bacteria.

Removing carpeting will cut down on colds, flu, allergies and general contagious stuff. So will turning the heat down below 70 degrees. Try 65 and see how well children begin to play.

The kitchen should remain clean at all times with bleach water. Dishes done, garbage is covered and removed daily. Thermometers reading 40 degrees are constantly in the refrigerator, zero degrees in the freezer. Wash hands after using the toilet, before cooking and before eating.

Kitchen set-up should be efficient enough for a provider to be able to dash cookies into the oven in a matter of five minutes. Laundry off the floor, please -- it's a fire hazard. Bathrooms should be cleaned with bleach water on a once- or twice-daily basis.

Sound like a lot? That's the minimum. It's a way of life, and anyone interested in child care should get used to it before they begin. Child care is a full-time job.

(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her:
c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN
47702, or e-mail to jlyden@evansville.net.

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