Like a lot of new parents, I struggled when it came time to choose a day care facility for my daughter. I didn’t want anyone else changing her diapers or giving her bottles — I wanted to be the one spending those moments loving my little girl.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the reality of our situation. I had to work, and so she had to go to day care. But it still wasn’t easy finding a child care center I trusted with caring for the most important person in my world. In fact, I visited quite a few places before I settled on one I liked.
I’d recommend asking these 11 questions before settling on a child care center you trust.
Questions to ask when touring day cares
1. What does the internet say?
Today, there’s no better place to start your search for information than online. There, you can find out whether the centers you are considering are accredited. You can spend time reading online reviews. And you can find out if those centers have been hit with any violations for not providing adequate care in the past.
2. What hours are offered?
You could find the most amazing child care center in the world, but if they don’t offer the hours of care you need, it doesn’t matter. Be sure to check:
- What hours is the center open?
- Do they offer part time options?
- What holidays are they closed?
- Do they take certain non-holiday days off?
3. What is the staff to child ratio?
Most states have laws dictating staff to child ratios. Does this place meet or exceed those? And how do they handle shift changes when teachers are going on breaks?
4. How safe will your child be?
Safety should be the number one priority. Be sure to ask:
- Are the teachers trained in first aid and CPR?
- Do they have emergency exit plans in place?
- Do they adhere to standard safety practices, like putting infants on their backs to sleep?
- What procedures are in place for checking children out, ensuring they only go home with an approved parent or guardian?
- How do they manage food allergies (if applicable to your child)?
- Are staff members background checked before being offered positions in the building?
5. What will the cost be?
Day care can be a very expensive endeavor, but those costs really can vary quite a bit. Be sure to not only ask about standard monthly rates, but also about potential overtime charges, additional fees, and payment policies.
6. What are kids being fed?
When your child starts eating solid foods, will you be expected to provide those meals, or will the center do it for you? If it’s on them, are the foods being fed in line with your standards for what you want your child to eat?
7. What ages are kids separated by?
Is this a small center, where children aged 3 months to 5 years are all in the same room? Or are different rooms dedicated to different age ranges?
8. What is the teacher turnover rate?
How long has the teacher who will be in your child’s room been on the staff? And how often can you expect to be meeting new teachers if you do choose this facility?
9. How are parent notifications handled?
How will they notify you if your child is sick, there’s an on-site emergency, or the center is unexpectedly closed for the day?
10. How much feedback are parents given?
Some centers are great about communicating details. You’ll want to find out:
- Will you know how much your child ate each day, and when?
- Will you be updated on what kind of nap they took?
- Will someone tell you if your child had a good day, or was fussy from drop off to pick up?
11. What does the daily schedule look like?
For an infant program, schedules may vary based on each infant’s needs. But if you’re hoping to keep your child in the same center past infancy, ask about daily schedules in the older children’s rooms.
- How much time do the kids spend outside?
- Is screen time used?
- Are field trips frequent?
- What can you expect from your child’s day to day?
When I finally chose a day care, I felt confident in my choice. But I still cried like a baby the first time I dropped my daughter off. In fact, I cried every day that week.
But today, my daughter is 3 years old, and I can honestly say she is better off for her time spent in day care. She learned to love and trust other adults who aren’t me, she got the chance to play alongside peers and make her very first friends, and she was given the opportunity to do artistic and creative projects.
My daughter loves day care and I’d like to think it has something to do with just how much effort I put into ensuring we found the right place for us.
What are the most important factors parents should look for when visiting a day care center for their child?
Among the most important factors in choosing a day care center should be an open drop-in policy, appropriate staff to child ratios for your child’s age, and adequate training and background checks of all staff members on site. Talking in person to parents who have their children enrolled, rather than relying on internet reviews, is a good idea, too.Karen Gill, MD, FAAP Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.