How to find a day care centre with the best opening hours [Durham Daycarers]

A close up view of a clock

This week, reader, Luisa submitted a question for the Durham Daycarers team to ask about the hours of operation that a day care chooses to use. Luisa wants to know – Why don’t more centres have better opening and closing hours? Juggling a demanding job and a horrible commute is hard enough. What are options do working parents have? Dianne, a licensed day care supervisor and Demi, a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE) answered outlined three main reasons for this – A centre’s hours are based on insurance policies, the location of a centre and the demand from parents – in their response below.

Opening hours affect insurance policies, and therefore costs
You will notice that most licensed centres will either open at 6.30am or 7am and close between 6-6.30pm. This is partly because of the insurance policies that cover any liability at a centre, and any policies purchased for these time frames is considered standard in the childcare industry. Anything more than this becomes non-standard, and obviously costs more. To remain competitive, many centres are hesitant to pass on these extra costs to parents unless there is significant demand. However, there are centres that are exceptions to this rule, and this is likely because so many parents have expressed interest.

Demand from parents can drive opening hours
Between 6.30am and 6pm is when the majority of parents need childcare, which is why so many providers are open for such similar hours. Outside of this time, most parents have finished work or have family that are available to take over and watch their children for free. That said, not every parent is lucky enough to be in this situation. If you find yourself falling in love with a centre, but are left wishing the hours were better, Iet the centre supervisor know. Centres want to remain profitable, so if enough parents give express interest in opening earlier, or later, these considerations will be taken seriously.

The location of a centre has a big role in opening hours
Key considerations for staff that decide their centre hours is how a centre fits into a parent’s day. Centres close to a GO station and other transit options are usually open earlier at 6.30am to accommodate for parents who commute. Centres that are located away from major transit routes like the 401 or 407 are likely to attract parents with part time schedules, work from home or stay at home parents who can be more flexible and don’t depend on an early opening time.

Finding what works may take some creativity
If you’re finding a centre’s hours restrictive or creating stress in your routine, consider finding a centre that’s closer to work. For parents working downtown,  a centre in Pickering or Scarborough that opens at 6.30am close to the 401 may be more convenient than working around the schedule of a more local centre. Alternatively, coordinate a back-up babysitter with enough flexibility who can pick up your child on the days you’re running late. Ensure thy’re equipped with a carseat and talk it over with centre staff so they’re aware that person has been pre-approved by you.

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10 questions parents should be asking on a day care tour [Durham Daycarers]

An infant sleeps on her mother, while the mother holds a clipboard

This week, reader Jennifer from Ajax submitted a question for the Durham Daycarers team asking for advice on the best questions to ask on a day care tour. Dianne, a licensed day care supervisor and Demi, a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE) answered this question, with questions that they believe more parents should be using when selecting a centre for their child.

  1. How often is this centre inspected? Licenced centres must be inspected yearly to qualify for licensing. In addition to this, centres are inspected by the Durham Region Health Department twice a year to ensure they meet health and safety requirements. Qualified supervisors and staff should know this if they are licensed. If a centre mentions anything less than this, do your research to find out if that centre really is licensed.
  2. Are all staff trained in first aid and CPR? Safety always comes first when working with children, and it’s important that staff, irrespective of their level at a centre, feel confident in their ability to respond to a need for first aid or CPR.
  3. How often are toys cleaned? This question is particularly important at centres that cater to infants because children are using their mouths so much to explore their world. A licenced centre should be cleaning their toys daily.
  4. How often is the yard checked by staff? All licensed day cares are required to do daily checks of their outdoor play spaces to ensure no foreign and dangerous materials have found their way into the yard. Centres in high traffic areas close to busy streets need to be particularly sensitive to this.
  5. Do all staff have Food Handling certifications? Even in centres where food is catered offsite by an external company, staff are required to distribute snacks to children that are in their care. Becoming certified is not a difficult course to take as a staff member, but it can go a long way in keeping everyone healthy. Look for a centre that requires that all staff have been appropriately trained.
  6. Can I see your last Licensing Inspection Summary? A Licensing Inspection Summary is a one page summary of how a centre performed in numerous categories including Staff, Nutrition and Records. These summaries are typically on display for parents to see. Any large gaps that you notice are worth investigating for more information. Centre staff should be honest about what happened and how they plan to improve on this measure in the future.
  7. Can you provide a health department inspection certificate for your caterer? Even if food is made offsite, licensed centres must be able to provide proof of Food Handling certifications for catering staff and proof that the caterer has passed Health and Safety inspections at their kitchen. “Staff should be forthcoming with this information and able to follow up for you”, says Demi.
  8. What policies does your centre have for sick children? Colds, coughs and fevers are common in day cares as children are building their immunity. What many parents don’t ask about are the implications for childcare when handling sick children. Depending on the symptoms, some children may be required to stay home for a full 24 hours before returning to their centre. As a parent it’s important to save a few vacation days (if you are returning to work) to make sure you are covered.
  9. What is your staff-to-child ratio? This varies across age groups but the rules are standard across licensed centres. In an infant room, expect to find 1 staff for every 3 children, 1 staff for every 5 children for toddler and 1 staff for every 8 children in preschool.
  10. How are children disciplined? Disciplinary style will reveal a lot about how a classroom is managed by the staff. Discipline is also an important consideration for parents as some styles work better for children than others. Make sure you ask staff to back up their claims with examples of how they’ve managed negative behaviours in the past.
Readers, we love to hear from you. What have you always wanted to ask someone working at a centre?
Leave a comment on the blog, write us an email or send a message on Facebook with questions that you want answered. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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First Impressions: Walnut Street Junior School

The name of the Walnut Street Junior School day care centre always left me stumped. The name, Junior School, wasn’t like anything else I had come across on the many tours that I’ve been on so far, so on my tour at this facility I was determined to get to the bottom of it. After spending much longer than I do on most tours with the supervisor here, I learned that the name “Junior School” is a nod of acknowledgement for the dedication to learning that staff focus on here.

A view from the street of Walnut Street Junior School

Walnut Street Junior School is located in a quiet residential area in downtown Whitby off Brock Street.

The supervisor that I met with has, to date, given me the most comprehensive understanding of the emergent curriculum, it’s philosophy, application and benefits to children. I’ve visited over 12 centres in my work for this series so far, so I really felt as though I had found something special here. All learning (or programming as they refer to it) is documented and displayed in centres using the emergent curriculum, but what I find is that during tours, supervisors treat these details as a footnote rather than a full chapter like they ought to be.

At Walnut Street I spoke with the supervisor about how important explanations like this would be to parents who have an interest in the educational benefits of day care and Tiffany was quick to agree. As a RECE and head trainer for programming for the organization that owns Walnut Street (it’s name is Victoria Village), Tiffany is regularly asked to hold workshops and is passionate about empowering her staff in their roles as educators. She is so well regarded by her organization because of her creative, accessible and friendly approach to education using the ELECT framework (the curriculum in use in child care centres, among other settings) and the emergent curriculum.

To give you a sense of the work involved – RECEs are working with two curriculum documents, plus all the documentation and observation required to ensure that the program is child-led (this is the basis of the emergent curriculum). This centre is actively seeking ways to create more meaningful experiences for both children and parents within these frameworks. An equal amount of consideration and planning goes into ensuring parents have access to classroom observations, program plans and learning outcomes.

My takeaway for you is this – If you are a parent that prioritizes learning as part of your day care experience, contact Walnut Street for a tour. Use this centre as a benchmark to compare against other centres. There’s a wonderful passion for education here that is comparable to what you would find at an elementary school level.

  • Centre opens from 6.30am to 6.30pm.
  • Accepting children 3 months and older.
  • The infant rate is $1174 per month.
  • The toddler rate is $1010 per month.
  • Registration is a one time fee of $85.
  • This centre is located in a quiet residential area, opposite a large park and playground.
  • This location is easy to access off Brock Street, driving south towards the 401 entrance and Whitby GO.

Meet the Durham Daycarers

I’ve been in the fortunate position to meet the staff at many centres through my work on this blog, and two of the staff I met on my tours have agreed to be part of a regular series on The Motherhood Scene! This two-part team are passionate about their work as childcare professionals and are ready to answer your questions from a uniquely Durham perspective.

Your childcare questions answered, every Wednesday.
In this new series you will have the opportunity to ask the Durham Daycarers YOUR questions. Each week a blog post will be dedicated to answering one reader’s question from the perspective of both members of the Durham Daycarers team.

They have over 25 years combined experience working in licensed centres across Durham.
Our newest writers have broad experience working with children of all ages (infant, toddler, preschool and school age) in Pickering, Whitby and Oshawa areas. The more experienced member of the team, Dianne, works as a supervisor, and Demi, the second member of the team, works as a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE). To give this team the freedom to respond to your questions as best as possible, they’ve chosen not using their real names so they can remain anonymous.

Best of all, they’re excited to hear from you!
The aim of this series is to help parents feel confident about their childcare choices and educate parents on how to work with childcare professionals to get the best experience for their child. Demi writes, “My hope is that I can help parents with their questions and concerns, or even just to provide reassurance that there are good, loving caregivers in day cares”.

Readers, it’s over to you. What have you always wanted to ask someone working at a centre?
At any time you can comment on the blog, write us an email or send a message on Facebook with questions that you want answered. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

First Impressions: EDUKids Dundas Street

Photos from the entrance to EDUKids Dundas Street

The location of EDUKids Dundas Street may throw you off at first. It’s close enough to the corner of Dundas and Hopkins streets in Whitby to be convenient for commuters on their way to the Whitby GO station, but also tucked away in a quiet corner at the back of a commercial plaza for privacy from any traffic.

This was my second tour of an EDUKids day care after I previously visited the EDUKids location in BrooklinFrom what I’ve seen from both these centres, EDUKids centres appear to excel at an operational level. This stood out to me from the professional information packs for prospective parents to the attentive experience I received when booking a tour and visiting in person. I never had to call twice, wait for a return phone call or remind the Director of any details I mentioned over the phone. For the duration of my tour I received the Director’s full attention. When she informed me of the long waitlists for her centre, I wasn’t surprised.

This centre advertises the flexible payment options available to parents, and I am yet to come across this anywhere else so this was something i knew I had to mention. EDUKids offers the option to pay your fees using Mastercard, VISA, cheque or direct deposit. There are no penalties (like an additional 3% charge, for example) for using a credit card to pay, which is always a welcome back up for any parent to have.

  • This facility is open from 6.45am to 6.15pm, daily.
  • The full time infant rate is $260 per week.
  • The full time toddler rate is $225  per week.
  • Upon registration, one week’s deposit is required.
  • Registration fee is $25.
  • This centre follows the emergent curriculum.

First Impressions: Magic Pencils Learning Centre

Magic Pencils Learning Centre Oshawa

Magic Pencils is a large centre that operates on both levels of the building and includes an outdoor yard just off their carpark

Families with shift workers take note – If you’re struggling to find a centre that can cater to your early starts and late nights, Magic Pencils is worth the visit. This centre is open as early as 5.30am and closes as late as 9.30pm for two days out of the week (every other day it’s 8pm). These hours are rare to find in a centre, but very much needed for anyone with commuting long distances or working shifts.

The street front of the facility does not at all reflect what’s inside. Magic Pencils occupies the entire building, including both the upper and lower floor. Inside, the older architecture of the building adds to the charm of each room. I felt a connection with the supervisor immediately as she spoke about how her centre incorporates technology into the preschool program. She spoke with confidence and her depth of knowledge came through with her effortless way of answering my questions. What I appreciated is that while she’s been in the business for some time, she is open to trying new things to keep children engaged and learning.

  • Accepting newborns and older.
  • The weekly rate for infants is $240 weekly (full time only).
  • The weekly rate for toddlers is $225 weekly (part time also available at $46 per day).
  • Registration is $25.
  • Each child has access to two weeks vacation after being with the centre one year. Fees are half the regular price during this time, and this is to hold your child’s spot.
  • This centre is also open Saturday (8.30am-5pm).
  • Dinner is also served here for children staying late, however additional charges apply ($3 per child, per meal).

First Impressions: EDUKids St Thomas Childcare Centre

A view of the St Thomas EDUKids location from St Thomas StreetBefore touring St Thomas EDUKids, I always felt as if I had known the centre by association. Talk to enough Brooklin moms (or join their Facebook group!) and you’ll begin to notice a trend. The moms that have sent their kids to St Thomas have only the best things to say about this centre and their staff.

At first glance, this facility feels a lot like an elementary school, more so than a centre. St Thomas is located in the basement of the church that you see from the street, but it doesn’t feel anything like one when you step inside. It’s a large facility with more than six classrooms built next to multiple windows to ensure that each room has plenty of natural light. From the moment you enter through bright entrance way from the car park, you’re greeted by the bulletin boards filled with helpful information for parents and a centralized admin office from which the supervisor works from, similar to what I remember finding at the office in an elementary school.

Now that I’m more familiar with what to expect on a tour, I look for signs that the staff working in a centre enjoy what they do. Staff relationships do have an effect on the learning environment, so I look for clues in how staff act in front of the person giving the tour (usually their boss!). At St Thomas, I stopped by multiple classrooms and chatted with the staff about their interests and their day. They spoke freely and there was lots of smiles and laughs. Seeing staff so relaxed and happy gave me insight into the rave reviews for this centre and in particular, why so many reviews praise the supervisor here. It’s obvious that both staff and parents enjoy the atmosphere she’s created here.

  • Registration fee is $25.
  • The full time infant rate is $255 per week.
  • The full time toddler rate is $215  per week.
  • Upon registration, one week’s deposit is required.
  • Centre is open from 6.30am to 6.30pm, daily.
  • Accepting children from 6 weeks and up.
  • St Thomas Childcare is a Christian centre, meaning that “grace” is said at meals and Christian holidays are celebrated.