Guest post by: Megan Garrison of ChildcareETC

Finding the right care for your child is one of the most important decisions you can make concerning your child in their lifetime. Your child will be molded and impacted by his environment. ALL factors should be considered and thoroughly investigated. Therefore, double check to make sure you have done ALL your homework.

1. Training, Licensing, Credentials and Accreditation

Training and experience is important, especially when it comes to the care of children! A well-educated and experienced staff will provide high quality interactions and activities for your child. Make sure to ask the following questions when looking at childcare:

What type(s) of accreditation does the facility itself have?

Who is on staff? How is the staff screened? Do they do employee background checks using fingerprint match? Is there a place where you can view staff biographies and/or credentials? Does the staff continue to receive training on childcare and the childcare industry?

Does the childcare facility conduct its own education on an ongoing basis?

Does the facility director have personal experience caring for children?
Do they have their own children? How are they behaved?

2. Attitude/Environment

Children thrive in an environment that is controlled, engaging and supportive.

When you walk in the facility, what is the condition of the environment, and the attitude of the other children? Is it chaos when you walk in?

Is the staff warm and inviting? Make sure to meet all the staff members. Do you feel comfortable with them?

3. Ratio of Staff Members to Children

The number of staff members to children should not be overlooked. When a staff member is responsible for fewer children, it is more likely each child will receive more individual attention. Notice if the staff pays individual attention to each child.

4. Meals and Snacks

Making sure your child has the proper nutrition throughout the day is an important factor when choosing child. Does your provider belong to the USDA program? This program ensures your child is receiving the proper meals and nutrition. Providers that are on the USDA food program, have to keep track of the children’s meals. These providers are usually required to provide parents with a menu.

Make sure to ask the following questions regarding nutrition:

What meals or snacks are provided? If they do provide snacks or meals, can they give examples of the types of food provided to your child? How will the food be prepared?

If the facility does not provide snacks and lunch, can they heat lunches up if necessary?

Does your child require a special diet? If so, is the provider willing to assist you with this?

5. Cleanliness and Sanitation

Is the facility clean and organized? What is the facility cleaning and sanitation routine? Find out if you can check for health inspections results on your local state government website.

Cleanliness is a major factor in preventing food borne and other illness. Even with food safety inspection and monitoring at Federal, State, and local government facilities, the childcare provider’s role is to make sure food is handled safely after it is purchased. Everything food comes in contact with should be clean, so ask to see where food is stored and prepared.

6. Childcare Routine and Playtime

Take a look at the play and activity areas. Is the layout open enough for children to play and crawl?

What types of activities will your child participate in? Is there any kind of preschool curriculum or kindergarten readiness program? What about outdoor play?

What else is the child exposed to? Any TV? Video games? What types? Is a daily activity schedule available for parents? Getting an idea of the daily schedule will help you determine whether your child will enjoy his or her day.

7. Groups

Socialization is an important part of child development. How many children are in the same age group as your child? How are they grouped within activities?

Consider the pros to having your child grouped with older children. This can sometimes assist with the development of your child. Knowing with whom and how your child will be socializing will help you understand more about your child’s daily childcare experience.

8. Rules/Discipline

What is your provider’s discipline policy? This is a very important factor. Do they put children in a time out? Do they use a color coded behavioral system? Does the system compliment what you are implementing at home? Is the provider willing and open to using your method of discipline with consistency? If not, are you satisfied with your provider’s behavioral system?

9. Communication/Recommendations

It is important to know if your provider and staff will communicate with you about anything going on with your child. Do not hesitate to contact other parents and ask about their communication experience. Are they satisfied with the quality of service and communication?

Is the provider open to hearing feedback from you and other parents?

What is the usual Provider to Parent method of communication? Is it written or verbal? Is your provider open to emailing you a recap of your child’s day?

Email is a good form of communication as the child will not be present at the time of communication, and it is easy to respond to. Email communication allows you to process information so you can ask further questions if needed. Additionally, email and other forms of written communication allow you to keep track of behavioral issues, patterns, and other things you may wish to track concerning your child.

10. Equipment, safety and security

Does the provider have a wide variety of toys and educational equipment?
Is the play area childproofed? What is the condition of the toys, equipment, and playground? Make sure to ask about any sports or playground equipment that might not be currently visible, and look at the condition of each to make sure they are safe.

Notice what doors might be left open? What are the security measures? Does the provider have an emergency plan? Is it posted?

Does the provider or center have a camera and security system? Some facilities have web cams that allow parents to log on to watch what is going on at the facility. This can provide added peace of mind for a parent.

11. Hours of operation-Holiday and other closures

Do the provider’s hours allow enough time to get there before and after work without hurry or worry?

Is there any kind of penalty if an emergency comes up and you are late?

Do they provide a calendar of holiday closures? Ask if you are still responsible for paying for any weeks or days, the center is closed. Are you responsible for finding other childcare when the facility is closed or does the provider have back up care?

12. Illness and Accidents

While we cannot prevent accidents from happening, it is important to know what procedures are in place for when a child gets hurt or ill during their stay at childcare. Is there someone with current CPR and first aid training on site at ALL times? How will you be notified?

Is the provider insured? What exactly is covered if your child gets hurt during their stay at childcare? If they are insured, they should be able to provide you with documentation on what their insurer covers.

13. Drop-ins by parents?

Find out what your provider drop in and call policy is. You should always feel welcome to visit your child. There should be limited restrictions as to when you can see your child during the day. The only considerations made might be naptime. Are you able to call and talk to your child anytime?

14. Create a Back up plan.
Have a back up childcare plan in place in case your daycare provider becomes ill or the facility has an emergency and cannot open, or if you simply are having an issue with your provider. This is very rare, but it does happen.

Having a back up drop in provider can help you avoid having to take a day off work. If your provider does have to cancel care for any reason, what are the policies on being credited for the day missed?

On the other hand, if you are the one who needs to cancel childcare, find out what the policy is regarding this. Does the provider require notice? If so, how much? Will full payment still be required?

15. Have you done ALL your homework?

Did you verify your provider is indeed registered with the state? Are reports available to the public? Do they have a face book account? If so, check it out. This will give you a good idea of the personality and professionalism of the provider or facility. Check with the Better Business Bureau for business rating or complaints. Use Yelp or Google etc to locate reviews others may have left online. Consider having a background check done.

Verifying that you have found a good reliable provider or childcare facility will have many rewards and will give you and your child the security and peace of mind you both deserve.

You can start researching Child Care Providers in your area at

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