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You're right; they're all different. I used to work at a KinderCare and occasionally subbed at others when they were short staffed. Even KinderCares in the same town can be two totally different places. Heck, even classrooms within the same center can be totally different. It all depends on the director and staff. Here are the things I look for to see that the center is run well:
Tidy toy bins and decent books - Shows the teacher is organized and that the center is well-stocked.
Children's artwork displayed - If the walls are bare, the teacher took this as a job, not a career, and doesn't really care.
Children engaged with an area or activity when you tour - If they're running around willy nilly, then they're not following the curriculum. Each class at KinderCare has an organized scheduled with themed weekly curricula. Check the schedule posted on the bulletin board when you walk in. If they're not doing what the schedule says they should be doing, or close to, then they probably don't use the curriculum.
Teachers with relevant degrees or working towards a relevant degree - If they say they just graduated with a degree in [blank] that has nothing to do with teaching or kids, but that they "loooove working with kids," then they're probably only there to pay the bills and will hightail it out of there when something better comes along.
These sorts of things vary so much by location. The Kindercare near me was AWFUL. It was so bad that I cried when I was there and I felt bad for the kids. The whole place had either paper thin walls or no walls at all. It was super loud and just overstimulating. There was no way I would ever put my child there.
My daughter's in another daycare where it doesn't seem so chaotic and we're pretty happy. If I were to switch daycares, I would definitely look at other Kindercares, but the one I saw did leave a bad taste.
We were with Kindercare for a year. First thing I have to say is that they are a decent daycare but they are so not worth the extra money they cost. The whole corporation is very commercialized and very "black and white". They follow an exact curriculum and nobody seems to be that creative. They do not pay their teachers well at all and as a result they have a lot of turnover. My DD was happy enough there but when we got sick of paying so much money (and it kept going up), we looked for another daycare and the difference was amazing. DD is so loved and this new center and we feel so much more like they are a family to us and she's learned so much and grown so much emotionally in the 15 months she's been at the new center.
I would never go to another Kindercare.
One of my coworkers takes her kids to Kindercare and loves them.
We looked at the Kindercare near us (not the one my coworker uses) and there was no way in hell we would leave our baby there. The facility was crummy and didn't seem very nice/clean, the kids didn't seem happy, the "outside play area" was a small fenced area about 8 feet by 30 feet (they had just fenced the area between the building and the sidewalk).
1 cycle until we can TTC again...