After much consideration and weighing the pros and cons, we have decided that we want Geneva in professional care outside the home instead of having a nanny. The advantages of a licensed caregiver, socialization, language skills and a stimulating environment won for us.
We checked out two Daycare/Early Learning centers today and were quite impressed. "Snoopy" (I doubt the name and likeness is licensed) came highly recommended by several people and "Humanitos" (Little Humans) was nearby and we wanted to check it out. Both have highly trained personnel, great facilities indoor and outdoor play areas, and excellent pricing compared to what we are accustomed.
The rate for 4 hours per day, 5 days a week (80 hours per month) was between $110-150 per month. There are a few additional costs for materials and special activities, but considering we were paying over $800 per month for two full days per week (64 hours per month) of in-home care in MN, this is an incredible savings.
The two schools have a very similar format in that there are two sessions per day. Morning is from 8:30-12:30 and afternoon is 1:30-5:30. You could opt to attend both sessions, but the above pricing is for one session only.
Snoopy has been around for 30 years, and has this location and another one named Goody across town. It is a very popular program and as a result, very busy. The building is a renovated home (as is Humanitos) and was absolutely bustling with activity. I was amazed with how many instructors there were floating around. They also had an indoor "gym" (possibly a renovated sunroom?) which was nice and bright in the back of the building in case it was wet outside, like today.
Humanitos has been in existence for 15 years and was MUCH more calm, but with smaller facilities and fewer kids in each age group. Very professionally run, the staff was extremely warm and friendly for our drop-in visit. I loved their indoor play area as well, it was just within the interior of the building. Both buildings looked very safe with the proper child-proofing measures in place.
The integration process is incredible at both locations. It can take up to a week where you bring the child in for an hour (with parent present) and stay so that they can get accustomed to the new environment, knowing that you are there. The next day, you stay for a little longer. It will probably help the parents as well as the kids, although I think Geneva will start playing and think "Bye Mom, this place is GREAT!"
One thing that I was not wild about at first glance was the teacher-to-child ratio for the schools. At Geneva's age group (she is almost 17 months), it is 1/6 at Humanitos and a possible 1/7 at Snoopy (but 1/6 with current enrollment). For toddlers, this seems like an awful lot of kids to one teacher, in my opinion. I looked up the MN childcare standards though, and much to my surprise, 1/7 is the limit for toddler care in daycare facilities back home.
I do have to mention the cutest thing in the world: The kids at both locations wear these sweet little "túnica" (smocks). They are just so sweet when you have a room full of little kids together wearing all of the same smocks. Can I get an "Aaawwwwwwwwww!"?
I have a referral from an Expat to one other center which I am definitely going to check out as well. I don't know the exact location or format of the third center but I will add an update when I receive more info.