Child Care at the YMCA
Providing Kids With A Strong Start
The values and skills children learn early in life are the vital building blocks for successful adulthood. At the Y, kids learn their ABC’s, learn to share, learn about teamwork and, most importantly, learn how to be themselves.
Ages 6 weeks - 3 years
Our nurturing, personal care led by experienced staff lets you rest at ease knowing your infant or toddler is safe in an age-appropriate environment that promotes social and cognitive development.
Ages 2.5 - 5 years
Get the support you need with Preschool Child Care at the Y. Our YMCA values-based program will help your young child learn essential social, physical, and intellectual building blocks.
Ages 5 - 12 years
Get convenient, high quality Y care right at your school and keep your child active physically, intellectually and socially the whole day.
Collectively, YMCAs are the country's largest provider of Child Care and are committed to developing and operating the highest-quality Child Care programs possible. YMCAs seek to provide Child Care that supports and strengthens families and nurtures the healthy, successful growth and development of each child involved.
For many children, Child Care is where they will learn to get along with others. It is where they'll learn to socialize, share and play. It is where they will form friendships, grow, develop and thrive. The YMCA emphasizes and models character development values such as caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.
Before choosing a program, look for the five essential ingredients of quality Child Care:
- Positive and healthy relationships
- A spacious and appropriate environment
- Engaging and diverse activities
- Emphasis on safety and health
- A highly effective administration
Relationships: The Heart and Soul of Quality
Positive relationships among the children, Child Care teachers and parents in a quality Child Care program are critical for each child's healthy development and education.
In a quality program, teachers enjoy the children and are interested in watching and interacting with warmth, patience, understanding and fairness. They will be responsive to a wide range of children's feelings, needs, cultures, abilities and languages. They will empower children by allowing them to offer ideas to expand or enrich an activity and to suggest and initiate activities. And they will allow children - as a key part of learning - to make and learn from their own mistakes.
A small number of children per teacher also enables those teachers to engage in activities and conversations with each child. This not only makes children feel welcome and important but also helps to build their language skills.
Positive relationships among the staff provide powerful lessons and serve as a strong element of a quality program. Children look to their teachers as role models, watching and learning as they cooperate, communicate and solve problems with each other.
Teachers and caregivers in a quality program will also spend time developing positive relationships with families - making it possible for busy, over-extended parents to become engaged in their child's program experience. These relationships facilitate the open communication between teachers and parents that is so critical for the well-being of the children.
A Great Environment
The environment of quality programs is spacious enough for children to work and play without crowding. It is well organized with plenty of inviting areas to stimulate children's exploration and involvement.
When assessing a program:
- Is the space arranged to allow for a variety of age-appropriate activities to be conducted simultaneously?
- Does the space include adequate room for games and activities, creative arts, dramatic play, eating, socializing and homework?
- Are there displays of the children's artwork and other pictures that are of interest to them?
Outside play and exploration time are important components of a quality program. Children should have the chance to be outside for at least 30 minutes for every three hours they spend at the program. This is especially critical for school-age programs because older children need room to blow off steam, run, jump and just make noise.
A Variety of Diverse and Engaging Activities
A quality program keeps children engaged in activities that are reflective of their interests and cultures, and as often as possible, initiated by them. The activities will also reflect children's developmental stages.
The daily routine will be stable enough to provide comfort and security while being flexible enough to allow changes based on circumstances - like the discovery of a frog by the swing set that leads to an impromptu science discussion.
For older youth who are coming from a very full and structured day of school, the time they spend in an afterschool program is very likely the most stress-free part of their day. For this reason, the focus of quality school-age programs is not book learning or academic subjects, but on more relaxed recreational activities, where children can continue to learn, but in a more informal way - exploring their own interests at their own pace. But non-academic does not mean non-educational.
- Are there activities designed to develop children's social skills such as group art projects and board games? Are there physical games and other activities that help develop physical coordination and growth?
- Are there opportunities for children to be by themselves - to be quiet, to relax and to daydream?
- For older youth, are there informal activities designed to build their knowledge and understanding of science, math, reading and other academic subjects?
Will My Child Be Okay While I'm at Work?
The safety and health of children are top concerns of any well-designed program and can serve as an indicator of overall program quality.
- Obvious safety hazards at the site.
- Equipment that is safe, clean and appropriate for the ages and abilities of the children using it.
- A staff member who is trained in CPR and first aid and always available. A basic first aid kit that is nearby at all times.
- Emergency plans and procedures that are in place and a staff trained to respond appropriately to any possible emergency.
- An appropriate number of staff for the number of children in the program.
- Constant supervision of younger children and teachers who know where the older children are at all times.
- Procedures that are in place to screen visitors and to ensure that no one leaves with a child other than an approved adult.
- Staff who are responsive to the individual needs of each child.
- Nutritious and plentiful snacks and other food.
Administration Provides the Backbone of Quality
As mundane as it may sound, solid administration establishes and maintains both long and short-term stability for quality Child Care programs. It directly affects the comfort, security and development of children and youth.
Effective administration make it possible to:
- Hire and retain qualified, caring teachers. Due to low pay and few benefits, turnover among Child Care teachers is extremely high. This makes it hard to maintain the consistent relationships between children and their teachers that lead to learning, trust and self-esteem. Searching for, hiring and keeping teachers who are warm, nurturing, patient, compassionate, enthusiastic and understanding, and who are well-trained in administration.
- Maintain an appropriate number of children per staff member. Small numbers of children per teacher in a quality Child Care setting make it possible for teachers to develop positive and healthy relationships with children.
- Build relationships and coordination with schools and community groups. For school-age programs, close relationships and cooperation with schools allow the staff to coordinate homework and other projects that complement lessons learned during the regular school day.
- Address staff training and other issues in a positive manner. Quality child care programs employ highly qualified staff who have all the necessary training and are continuing their education on a regular basis with paid in-service training. Good administration is capable of increasing compensation and other benefits as staff increase their training.
- Conduct regular evaluations of the effectiveness, responsiveness and overall program quality. Continual improvement is the hallmark of quality programs. Planning and implementing regular evaluations is essential to this process.
Enroll for School Age Care Today!This fall your child can enjoy enriching programs like arts, science, karate, service clubs and much more through school-based Y programs.
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