Decisions, Decisions: Finding the Best Day Care for Your Child

As a parent, you know that your children can only reach his full potential when he has a safe and positive place to learn. That’s why you should feel empowered to thoroughly research, ask questions and get recommendations for the day care facilities in your area before deciding on the right one for your child.

5 Steps to a Successful Day Care Search

  1. Ask around. If you’re new to the day care search, the best place to start is to ask for recommendations from friends and family members. 
  2. Weed out what won’t work. If you have several day care facilities near you, you will have to weed out which ones are obviously a no-go. For example, if you call a day care center and their hours of operation don’t jive with your schedule, cross them off the list.
  3. Tour your favorites. If you’ve narrowed down your choices, it is a good idea to visit the facilities. Bring a list of questions to ask. If you feel uncomfortable or uneasy about a facility in any way – even if they meet all the items on your checklist — trust your instincts and do not choose the facility.
  4. Call references. If the day care meets all your requirements, then a good next step is to call former and current clients to see if they (and their children) have had a positive experience with the daycare. 
  5. Stop by unexpectedly. Dropping by without an appointment can give you a sense if how the facility typically is run. This can be a good idea to do before you make your final decision.
Dropping by without an appointment can give you a sense if how the facility typically is run.

What to Look for When You Tour a Facility

A good day care facility makes the safety of their children their priority. When you take a tour, check for the following:

  • No choking hazards
  • Safe sleep practices
  • Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers that are present, visible and in good working order.
  • Safe handling of medicine: If some of the children take medications, ask if the staff is trained to dispense medicine. Verify that all medication is labeled and kept away from children.
  • Verify that the staff is trained in first aid and rescue breathing.

A good day care center should have a friendly and stimulating environment. Ask yourself these questions on your tour:

Best Day Care small
  • Do the caregivers get down on each child’s level when they speak with a child so that they can interact face-to-face?
  • Do the children and staff seem happy?
  • Do the caregivers seem to enjoy being around the children?
  • Are children greeted when they arrive?
  • Are children’s needs quickly met?

See if you observe a conscientious attitude towards cleanliness. You should see the following in a clean facility:

  • Thorough hand washing after diaper changes
  • Diaper and food prep areas are in different locations
  • Clean and sanitized bottles and food utensils
  • No sharing of teething toys between the children
  • Regular toy sanitation practice

Questions to Ask the Day Care Providers

  • Is this day care provider accredited by a national organization?
  • Ask how many children there are for each adult. The fewer the children per adult, the more attention your child might receive.
  • How many children are in the group? The smaller the group, the better for your child.
  • What is the caregivers’ training/education? Caregivers with specialized training may be better able to help your child learn.
  • Can caregivers be seen by others at all times so a child is never alone with only one caregiver? Policies like this can help your child stay safe.
  • Does the child care program have records proving that the other children in care are up-to-date on all their required immunizations?
  • How do the caregivers handle discipline? Discipline should always be positive, consistent and fair and should never involve humiliation or isolation.
  • How long have the day care caregivers/teachers been at the center? Since you want a stable, consistent environment for your child, check to make sure that the day care doesn’t have a high rate of turnover.
  • Have the caregivers undergone comprehensive background checks? This is an essential question to ask because it concerns the safety of your child.
Small Steps: Get Healthier Together.
As your partner is making healthy changes, join her. Find new recipes you’ll both enjoy. Offer to go for a walk together. Hold off on alcohol and caffeine for a while.