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How to Find a Good Daycare

Updated on January 14, 2013

Find a Reputable Daycare for Your Child

For the first few months of my son's life I was able to stay at home with him. After this time, he was able to stay with family during the day. However, because of a life change, our babysitter could no longer watch our son after he turned about 20 months old. We had about a 2 month warning and it was agonizing for me. At first I wanted to avoid reality and always found a way to procrastinate when the issue of the daycare search came up. I soon realized that no matter how much I procrastinated that my son WOULD be going to daycare. I didn't want him to end up at some shoddy establishment so I eventually started my search. I want to use this hub to share what I learned with new parents looking for a daycare.

Research your Options

Before you visit a potential daycare, be sure to research all your options. A good place to start is with your friends and family. If they have any kids in daycare, you can count on your loved ones to give you open and honest answers about their daycare. Next, you should get on Google and check out online reviews of your potential daycare. Finally, you will want to check with your state. In my state, the DHR website has links to licensed day cares.

When researching a potential daycare, you will want to look at the following:

  • The daycare's overall reputation. Parents that you respect should have good things to say about the daycare center.
  • Is the daycare center licensed and accredited?
  • Has the daycare been in business for a good length of time?
  • What is the teacher/child ratio?

During this research phase, it is a good idea to call the daycare with some preliminary questions. During the phone call, note the time it takes for the phone to be answered, how friendly & professional the staff is and how knowledgeable the staff is about your preliminary topics.

Visiting the Child Care Center

Once you have a preliminary list of possible day cares, you will want to pay each establishment a visit. I feel that it is best to just show up and ask for a tour of the facility. By doing a surprise visit, you will see a more complete picture of how the facility works day to day. Some centers may turn you away until an appointed time, but you can still use this to see all you can see before returning. Remember that you are the customer and they are trying to win your business. You will be paying your chosen child care facility hundreds of dollars a month, so you have every right to ask questions during your tour.

Question Checklist

As you are visiting the daycare, be sure to ask about topics that you consider important. Here is a list of questions that you should be sure to include:

  • Are background checks completed on the teachers?
  • Are licenses posted in a prominent location?
  • What are the daycare policies? They should have this in print for you to view (sick policy, fees, holidays they are closed, late payment policy, etc).
  • What is the teacher to child ratio?
  • How do they discipline children?
  • How are emergencies handled (weather, threats, etc)? Do the kids practice drills?
  • How is illness handled and how is medicine handled?
  • Are kids required to have vaccinations before attending? Which ones?
  • What kind of curriculum will the child have? How does it change with age?
  • What ages are accepted in the daycare?
  • How is potty training handled?
  • How are the teachers trained? Is it ongoing training? Is there high turnover among teachers?
  • Are the teachers CPR certified?
  • What kind of food plan are they following? Ask for a copy of this week's menu.
  • Do the children watch television? If so, how much?
  • Is the staff allowed to smoke on the premises?
  • How are the children protected from strangers? How are pickups by alternate people handled?
  • How are the toys and the rooms cleaned?
  • Do you have space for my child? What is the wait list like (if applicable)?
  • Is there an enrollment or application fee?
  • Do you have references that I can call?
  • During your visit, was the director of the child care center available to talk to you and answer your questions?

What to Look for During Your Visit

While you are visiting, there will be unasked questions that you will answer by observing the daycare carefully. While you are touring the facility, look at the following:

  • How are the teachers interacting with the kids? Do the kids seem engaged and happy?
  • What is the teacher/student ratio like? Does the teacher seem overworked or overwhelmed by the number of kids in her room.
  • Is the facility childproof? Are safety gates up and in good repair? Are outlets covered? Are the fire exits unobstructed and clearly labeled? Are the toys and playground in good repair (no sharp edges, loose bolts/screws, etc)?
  • Does the staff seem organized and knowledgeable?
  • Did the staff refuse to answer any of your questions or refused to show you part of the facility?
  • Does the facility look clean (classrooms, kid's bathroom, the kitchen area, etc)?
  • Note where breast milk is stored. Is it clearly labeled as such?
  • What kind of activities are the children doing? Does the activities match what you were told is the curriculum?
  • Are older kids separated from smaller, younger kids?
  • Are the teachers using gloves when changing diapers and washing their hands afterwards (soap available in restrooms)?
  • Are any state violations posted?
  • If you visit during pickup or drop-off time, do the parents have good things to say about the child care center?

What Else Should I Consider?

  • Listen to your instincts. Trust your first impression of the teachers and facility.
  • Get as much of the policy that you can in writing, especially fees and rates.
  • When you are going through all of these questions you will feel like you are giving these people the third degree. Just remember that it is a must. You will be leaving your most important possession unsupervised with them. Don't feel embarrassed or awkward...do what you must to feel comfortable that you've made an informed decision.

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