Getting sick is an inevitable part of childhood and a necessary evil for developing a healthy immune system. In fact, a 2011 study found that young children who attended daycare were less likely to get sick when they began school because they had already been exposed to most common bacteria and viruses. Nonetheless, you want to do everything in your power to prevent your little one from falling ill, so here are some tips for helping your child stay healthy at daycare.

1. Carefully Choose Your Childcare Facility

Daycare centers should be accredited by a state agency that requires regular site inspections. Ask the director if workers receive ongoing training from a professional health consultant, and inquire about the child-to-staff ratio; a ratio of 7:1 is OK for three-year-olds, but 3:1 is ideal for infants. Child Care Aware of America has a comprehensive checklist of items to look for when choosing a daycare program.

2. Advocate for Hand Hygiene

Keeping hands clean is the best way to prevent the spread of germs. Workers should ideally wash or sanitize their hands between handling each child. Spend some time at the facility to observe the staff’s hand-washing habits, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you see something that concerns you. Also, start teaching your child to wash their hands after playing outside and before eating so that they can advocate for their own hygiene.

3. Establish Healthy Eating and Sleeping Habits for Your Child

A balanced diet full of iron, fresh vegetables and fruits is the foundation of a healthy immune system, but a steady sleep schedule is just as important. It’s never too early to start taking vitamins, so talk to your child’s doctor about suitable dietary supplements for kids.

4. Be a Poster Child for Vaccines

Ask the center if they check to make sure all children are up-to-date on their shots. Many states maintain databases of vaccination records for this purpose. Be sure to ask if workers are adequately immunized and receive annual tests for tuberculosis.

5. Understand and Adhere to the Daycare’s Illness Policy

Most daycare facilities have illness policies set in place. It’s a good idea to have a plan ready for when you have to suddenly take off of work to care for your little one. Keeping your ill child at home will help to prevent the spread of disease to others.

Remember that getting sick is a natural part of growing up, but never hesitate to see a doctor if you have concerns about your child’s health.

Tips to keep your child healthy in daycare (6)