Child care routines have changed recently for many Colorado families. Most schools are closed, as are some child care centers. But parents… you are not alone! A state program called Colorado Shines has your back with lots of resources.
Help for Parents
First things first. Although quality child care may look different given the current situation, it’s still crucial to make sure your child is in a nurturing, safe space. If that happens to be at home, parents can find online learning resources at EarlyLearningCO.org here. Things like:
- Tips to play and support learning at every age
- Short, fun videos about child development and the parent experience
- Links to other high-quality, free parenting resources
OK, so maybe your kids can’t play with their friends in person at the moment. It just gives you a chance to play with them instead. EarlyLearningCO.org has lots of amazing ideas for supporting your kids’ development through everyday interactions and play.
And when this bump in the road is behind us and it’s time to search for outside child care or an early learning program? Colorado Shines will be here, ready to help.
Quality Child Care
Cost, location and availability matter. Even more important? Safety and quality. It’s tough to turn our precious little ones over to someone else’s care. And with so many options, how is a parent to choose?
Colorado Shines, a part of the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Early Childhood, is your one-stop-shop for finding quality-rated, licensed child care. The program allows families to see the details of a child care provider’s history so that they can make an informed decision about child care that supports their family.
You can filter by location, child’s age, care setting, language, Head Start and Colorado Child Care Assistance Program. From there, you can see each program’s licensing history, safety records and monitoring reports.
A Colorado Shines rating (Levels 1-5) means that the program is licensed, in good standing with the state, meets health and safety standards and is regularly monitored. Programs with higher ratings (Levels 3-5) have completed a process to show quality programs and practices in the following areas:
- Supports children’s health and safety
- Ensures the staff are well-trained and effective
- Provides a supportive learning environment that teaches children new skills
- Helps parents become partners in their child’s learning
- Demonstrates good leadership and business practices
Once a program receives a rating, Colorado Shines provides support to help the program continue to improve its quality.
Make the Early Years Count
The human brain develops faster during the first five years than at any other time in a person’s life. Therefore, high-quality child care and preschool programs support children during a sensitive and important time of life.
Colorado Shines helps parents know what to look for when choosing a child care program, and how to navigate unknowns or concerns.
When it comes to finding quality child care, you have options, so many options it might feel overwhelming! There are child care centers, home child care programs, preschool, Head Start and even care from a family member, friend or neighbor. It’s important to remember that licensed child care is the best, safest option for children. It is also important to look at a program’s quality.
As you search for child care, look for positive signals. Do the care providers talk regularly with the children, explaining even routine tasks? Is the caregiver responsive to kids’ interests and needs?
Below is a worksheet that might help you choose the right fit for your child:
Other Resources for Families
Already have great child care? Colorado Shines offers plenty of other resources to help families at home, as well.
You can find information on topics like getting ready for baby, supporting development at home and practicing safe sleep. There are even resources for moms with pregnancy-related anxiety and depression.
Some other suggestions for parent involvement include:
- Read to your child every day
- Talk to your child as much as possible about daily routines and activities, about their feelings and about what you see
- Sing songs to your child every day
- Play with your child; get down and follow their lead!
The Early Learning and Development Guidelines website offers resources organized by age, such as activities, videos and tips that help adults support healthy development. Even simple activities can be brain-building moments like talking to your child as you run errands together and reading before bedtime.
In short, spend a little quality time with your kids each day. And spend time ensuring the child care you choose will provide quality experiences, too. Colorado Shines is a free resource designed to serve Colorado residents. And if you can’t afford quality child care, you might be eligible for financial assistance.
When you’re ready to look for child care, you can get free one-on-one support via call, chat or email through the Colorado Shines Child Care Resource & Referral Line: 1-877-338-CARE (2273).