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How to Select a Good Daycare for a Toddler

Updated on July 30, 2014
Finding the right daycare takes time but isn't too scary.
Finding the right daycare takes time but isn't too scary. | Source

Finding a good daycare can be difficult and scary. Especially if it's the first time you are leaving your children. Finding a good daycare can be so overwhelming that they don't know where to even start. As a daycare assistant, I have seen many parents go through the ordeal and, even going through it myself, have decided to make this hub to help other parents in their search. I know how important it is to find a person trustworthy enough but it is do-able.

Before You Begin

Before you even begin to attempt finding a daycare, breathe. You will find a daycare that fits your toddler. I know the stress and the frustration it can bring. Don't let it get to you.

There are two different types of daycares. In-home and institutionalized. Typically, in-home daycares are less structured than institutionalized daycares. They give off more of a family feeling and are cheaper than institutionalized daycares. In-home daycares have a broader age range that are mixed together.

Institutionalized daycares are structured and run by a group of teachers. They are more expensive and can be state funded. Although they have multiple age ranges, the children are often broke up into groups depending on their age group. For instance, all the 'crawlers' will be grouped together and all of the toddlers will be grouped together.

There are benefits for each. Find out which type of daycare would be better for you. There is no wrong answer.

Full Time
Part Time
Drop In
Rates for a toddler in daycare in Clark County, Washington. Rates vary depending on county you live in.

Deciding What You Want In A Daycare

Before you start looking at daycares you need to decide what you expect. Do you want a daycare with no pets? Full day? A daycare with all ages? All your needs, no matter how big or small, should be thought of. Sit down with your partner if you have one and make a list. Don't forget to write it down on a piece of paper so you can bring it along with you and use it as a reference.

Write down any special 'treatments' your child might have also. Is your child on a gluten free diet? Autistic? Anything you may be concerned about also.

Childcare Search Aids

Childcare Aware Hotline (Use this to find local aids) - 1-800-424-2246

National Association for the Education of Young Children - Use this to find accredited daycares in your area.

Searching For A Daycare

Now that you have your needs and concerns written down, it's time to start the hunt for your perfect daycare. A great place to start is Craigslist! Craigslist has a childcare section specially for daycares in your area. If your friends have children in daycare, ask where they go. Not only is word of mouth another great way to find out about daycares but having a friend for your toddler will make for an easy transition also.

When making phone calls to potential daycares keep it fast and simple. They probably don't have a lot of time to talk with you if it's during daycare hours. Just say what kind of childcare you need (full time, part time, or drop in) and for what age. Also, if the state pays for your childcare, say that too. Some daycares don't accept state paid children. Another thing to be sure to ask is if they are a licensed daycare. A lot of daycares that advertise are not licensed. These daycares are illegal.

Daycare Visits

After you have a list of daycares to visit, now it's time to really pay attention to detail. Schedule a visit with the daycares (during business hours if possible). This allows you to see how the provider interacts with the children. Bring along your toddler so they can play with the other children. Chemistry between the provider and your child and your child and the other children are very important. You want them to be happy and comfortable there amongst other things.

Be nosey! As the parent of the child, you have that right! Ask about their routine and ask to see their license. Any and all concerns should be addressed during the visit. If possible, ask to see their Policies and Procedures. Read it over at home or there! If you find the daycare isn't the right place for your child, it's okay to say that you don't feel this is the right daycare for you.

This is what a license should look like.
This is what a license should look like. | Source
An example of a daily schedule.
An example of a daily schedule. | Source

Things to Ask the Provider

When you go visit the provider a lot of stuff can happen. You may have so much on your plate that you forget the most important questions to ask the owner, Write down a list of any thoughts or concerns you would like to bring up so you won't forget them.

Some important things to bring up are:

  • Asking to see their license. They should always be willing to show you their license. If they aren't willing more than likely they aren't licensed.
  • Ask how many children are at the daycare at one point. If they have a lot, ask if they have an assistant that comes to help. In Washington State, a daycare provider is allowed 6 children by herself and 12 children with an assistant.
  • If they do have an asisstant, ask if they are a licensed assistant (yes, assistants should be licensed also.)
  • Ask for a schedule of daily events.
  • Bring up any allergies or problems your child may have.

Sometimes, providers don't bring up these topics on purpose due to lack of children. Follow your instinct. If you feel like the daycare won't work for you, say so and leave.

Ask your toddler!

Ask your toddler how he or she likes the daycare. They may only be a few years old, but they can have some insight as to what goes on when you're not there. Remember, daycare providers can lie as well as the toddler. Just because a toddler says something, double check with the provider and be more aware. Do an unannounced drop-in if the daycare has an open door policy. If something doesn't seem right, report it to the state.

After the Visit

If you went and loved the daycare, great! You are off to a good start. Now that you are back at home, read carefully over the Policies and Procedures. I really cannot stress that enough. Sometimes providers put hidden fees and vacation time in fine print in the P&P and after you sign it, you are in a binding contract.

After you read the P&P and if you decide you like it, call back the provider to fill out the paperwork. Remember, always read everything carefully before you sign it. Once you do, you are bound.

After you fill out the paperwork you're done! You have successfully found a daycare for your toddler! Just because you found a daycare though doesn't mean it's the best.

  • Ask your provider how well your toddler is adjusting. That will be a good indicator if your toddler really does like it or not. It's different when mommy and daddy are around.
  • Ask for references and talk to other parents in the daycare.
  • Talk to your toddler about their day when they get home from daycare.
  • Be observant when picking up or dropping off your toddler. You are the best judge of what is right for your little one.
  • Most daycares are open to drop-ins. If you have a nagging feeling, drop-ins may ease your worries.

Which is harder: finding the right daycare or leaving your child for the first time?

See results

Good Luck!

Like I said earlier, finding the right daycare for your toddler can be hard, but don't let it scare you (trust me, the hardest part is actually leaving them for the first time.) Keep calm and ask as many questions as you can. The right daycare will come!


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    • LagunaAlkaline profile image

      Amanda 4 years ago from Camas, WA

      everymom, my daughter is 4 and I just got my first job out of the house. Even though my daughter is with my mom all day, it is super hard. Luckily, I work 5 minutes from my house so seeing her during the day isn't a huge issue.

    • everymom profile image

      Anahi Pari-di-Monriva 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      My daughter is in 5th grade now and she just went off to a nature camp for three days, with her school. I had real separation anxiety for the first time ever, even though she was cool with it! It really doesn't get any easier as our kids get older!

    • LagunaAlkaline profile image

      Amanda 4 years ago from Camas, WA

      btrbell, thanks! I still have issues with leaving my daughter. I can't believe that it doesn't get easier.

      everymom, that's so cool that you got to see her at least one day a week while you were at work. When my daughter was a toddler, I worked in the same daycare she went to and it was really cool.

    • everymom profile image

      Anahi Pari-di-Monriva 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Unlike Randi, I found that - as hard as it was - it was easier to leave my child than to find a daycare center I was thoroughly comfortable with! I had to go right back to work shortly after having my baby (though I kept trying to find ways I could extend my maternity leave or become a stay-at-home mom, impossible as I was already a single parent by circumstance) and I hated leaving her at the center I finally found. Luckily, one day a week she attended the center at the high school where I taught; she and I were both brighter and happier on Fridays! (Whoever says infants can't tell the difference, doesn't really know!)

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Up and useful, Amanda! Good information! It's so funny, I voted before I read what you wrote next to it! I was thinkin the opposite. Leaving your child is ak=lways the hardest but if you have found a great place that you feel confident with, it is a little easier to leave them. Your little one is a beauty!

    • LagunaAlkaline profile image

      Amanda 4 years ago from Camas, WA

      Thank you for taking the time to read, SaffronBlossom!

    • SaffronBlossom profile image

      SaffronBlossom 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      This is excellent, thorough advice! Whenever I think about starting a family, one of my first concerns is who will watch my baby when I go back to work eventually...thanks for a great hub as always! :)