Your toddler is headed off to pre-school and you're plenty worried. Does this mean your baby is growing up too fast? Will you miss her too much? Will she miss you?
While these more existential questions will work themselves out over time (and crying over coffee with your girlfriends), there are actual dangers you need to watch out for before your tot walks into those tiny pre-school doors.
Whether you pack a bag or a hot lunch is provided, know what's going into your little one's mouth when he's out of your sight. If you don't want him consuming any potential choking hazards, like hot dogs, make sure it's in writing and reiterated if you see it on the school menu. Parents with children who have allergies need to be especially vigilant. You may not have nuts in your house, but if Jimmy's neighbor has a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, you never know if he's going to share.
Whether it's eggs with salmonella or car seats that are deadly, you need to be on top of product and food recalls, and make sure your pre-school is as well. If there's a bus with car seats, check it out. If there are old toys, make sure none of them hanging out in the corner contain lead.
Oh, the kid who bites everyone. Or hits, or is nasty. Sometimes it's an easily corrected bad habit, other times your kid could come home with an infected wound. Be vigilant, and if you sense there's a problem kid, talk to the teachers. They may not see the act as aggressive when it indeed could become a serious problem.
Most pre-schools require that all children follow a standard vaccination schedule. If you don't want your child to fall victim to one of the epidemics we've seen lately, either keep them away from other children or make sure their vaccinations are up to date. Also check on the school policy to ensure there isn't a provision that allows unvaccinated kids to be a danger to yours.
Hopefully your pre-school has an outdoor play space so the kiddos can get some air. With air comes sun, and with sun can come burn. Make sure you always apply sunscreen to your child before you drop off, and leave sunscreen in her cubby and talk to the teacher about reapplying if they're going to be spending a lot of time outdoors.
6.) Fire Codes
Pre-schools, like other schools, are required to have an exit strategy in case of emergency. There are other requirements as well, such as two exits and required monthly fire drills in some states. Check out your local fire codes and make sure your school complies.
7.) License to Operate
This may seem like a no-brainer, but some schools do pop up without a license or all of the permits they need. While this may seem like a lot of bureaucratic red tape when your child is happy and healthy with loving caregivers, one city employee could shut down the school with no notice. Leaving you with no child care.
8.) CPR Training
In addition to knowing there are enough caregivers per child, check to make sure each and every adult who is going to be around your child is recently certified in CPR. A willingness to allow parents to check out a caregiver is a sign of a good school with nothing to hide.
9.) Potty Time
A lot of pre-schools require potty-training be complete before enrollment, but some don't. Regardless of your child's potty status, check their diaper or their underwear for any signs that they're going too long a period of time between bathroom breaks or diaper changes. Check for good hygiene practices as well, especially with your newly potty trained kiddo who may not have perfected cleanliness just yet.
Now that you're happy in your new pre-school, it's closed! Check the holiday schedule closely for any unexpected closures. Some pre-schools stay open on holidays such as Memorial Day (giving you and your co-parent a free day to hit the movies!); others inexplicablly close for a week surrounding Easter. Find out when you're going to have to call for back-up before it's too late.
Image via LindaH/Flickr