To help parents with various parenting/child care issues, we asked the following experts in their fields to help Big Apple parents...

Q. What should parents look for in selecting a preschool or childcare center?

A. Marian Detelj, director of youth and family services, and Steven Antonelli, associate director for education, both at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, (212) 744-5022.

First of all, there are some basic considerations that should be noted. For example: Is the center kept clean? Is the center secure from outsiders? Is the center licensed? How many years has the center been operating? What is the teacher to child ratio? What are the qualifications of the teachers? Any hedging on these most basic questions should send up a red flag for the parent. In addition, the director or other representative should be able to clearly explain the philosophy and curriculum of the school.

Once these questions have been satisfactorily answered, the parent should visit the classrooms and consider the following questions. Are the classrooms appealing to the eye? Is there frequent child-centered interaction between the teachers and the children? Is there a variety of activities and areas for the children to explore? Is there a safe and interesting outside play area or gymnasium? How are the nutritional needs of the children met?

Q. How do you integrate learning into a child's daily routine?

A. Terri Brax, founder, Teachercare, (888) Teach-76,

The best way to integrate learning into a child's routine is by talking. From infancy through preschool age, constant verbal stimulation is a wonderful way to open up a child to the world around them. An infant is comforted by the sound of a soft voice, and a toddler learns to verbalize with the appropriate model. As children get older, talking with them throughout their daily routine stimulates thought and curiosity. As their verbal skills develop, it will lead to conversations about everyday activities, such as why we need to brush our teeth.

Talking about and expanding on a child's interests, as they arise, is an excellent way to integrate daily learning. For example, a butterfly may fascinate a two-year-old. This is when a parent or caregiver may tap into a teachable moment. The parent can lead to conversations about the colors of butterflies, or the parts of a caterpillar's body. A trip to the library can be planned to look for books about insects or nature. An expedition to a nature center in search of a cocoon opens the door to a science lesson. Each day can become an endless learning experience for both the child and parent.

Q. How can you prepare a child for the birth of a younger sibling?

A. Peg Christiano, coordinator, Preparation for Parenthood, New York Presbyterian Hospital, (212) 746-3215

There are two sibling classes offered at New York Presbyterian Hospital's Cornell Center. The original class is for children ages three and up, and the "very young" sibling class is for children birth to 18 months. Both classes include a tour of the postpartum/maternity units, showing newborn babies in the nursery. Emphasis is placed on how small and helpless these newborns are, i.e., "You have to hold them a special way and you have to promise to ask Mom or Dad to help you before you pick up the baby." The kids are shown a "Mommy Room" with the fancy bed that goes up and down, because "having babies makes mommies very tired. They need to stay and rest a few days." This is a subtle introduction to the topic of separation from Mom.


Older children are urged to bring a doll or stuffed animal and are given a demonstration of how to help change diapers. The younger children read a story about becoming an older sibling, while older participants are shown a video entitled, "Hey What About Me?". All children are given a button (pink or blue) stating, "Being a Big Brother/Big Sister is Special!"

Q. What is the difference between using an online service and a traditional nanny placement agency?

A. Janet Cook, owner, My Child's Best Friend, (212) 206-9910,

Families today are opting to use Internet nanny database services rather than the traditional nanny agency. Traditionally, nanny agencies are not licensed businesses; however, nine states do require nanny agencies to be licensed. Internet nanny database services are not licensed and do not subscribe to the ethics and standards of the professional nanny industry.

A traditional nanny agency will perform thorough work experience verification, and personal, DMV and criminal background checks for a family before a nanny is placed in their home. The new Internet databases do not perform this screening process for the family - it is left up to the customer, who may not know how to identify "red flags" when interviewing.

Traditional agencies are dedicated to making the right match for families. Many hours go into recruiting the "right" nanny, therefore families should remember this when selecting a nanny service.

Q. Why should I have my home babyproofed by a professional?

A. Tom Treanor, owner, All-Star Baby Safety, Inc., (516) 520-4262.

With the many different products out on the market, it is difficult to figure out which ones will actually work in your home. Qualified babyproofers have the experience and knowledge that can save you money as well as time by doing it right the first time.

Some parents also find that before they know it, their child is moving about and discovering trouble at an accelerated rate, leaving no time to take all the necessary steps to keep their child safe. Identifying these problems and offering realistic solutions in less than an hour is our first step in making you feel at ease. Not only can we give you low-cost suggestions for some common problems, but we can also point out some you may not be aware of. Even safety products can be harmful if they aren't installed correctly. Our proofers are certified members of the International Association of Child Proofers, and install all products according to Junior Product Manufacturer Association guidelines.