Choosing a daycare for your child is one of the most important decisions that you will find yourself having to make as a parent. Especially as a new parent going back to work, it’s tough to imagine leaving your child with someone that you are unfamiliar with for a duration of your day. However, for many working parents, this is the inevitable.

There are many things to factor in when you get ready to choose a daycare for your child. You need to be prepared to do a lot of research and be unafraid to ask any questions, no matter how small or menial that you may feel they are. It is the job of the daycare provider in question to quell the fears of a parent and make them feel completely comfortable at all times.

Also, be prepared to start your quest well in advance of when you actually need the daycare services. It may take months for you to find a provider that will put your mind and heart at ease, so practice your due diligence and don’t rush the process. Unnecessary pressure can lead to making the wrong decision and then you’ll just find yourself starting all over again.

Don’t be afraid to ask around, especially in your network of friends that are working parents or have used daycare providers in the past. Many times, you’ll be able to get glowing recommendations that will help to get you started on your quest to find proper childcare. You can always back these recommendations up by checking them against approval ratings at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or the National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC). These are both excellent resources to follow and really seal the deal on the person or center that you will potentially have covering your daycare needs.

Remember what you’re seeking and don’t waiver from your standards. You want to place your child in a clean,stable and safe environment where they will be able to grow, thrive and feel protected, loved and respected. Because the relationship with the daycare provider will become an essential part of their life, you want to find the same type of qualities in your child care provider that you possess as a parent.

Key Questions to Ask

Questions that are crucial to the health of your child should be first and foremost on your list and you can never ask too many of these types of questions. Make sure you have the following covered:

  • Is the daycare provider fully licensed by the state that they are practicing in and are they adhering to the maximum amount of children that they may keep in their care at one time? Below is a checklist to cross reference according to the AAP for suggested maximum child to staff ratio and maximum group size. These are suggestions, but you can check the laws for your state as well to find out the legalities behind what your provider should be specifically following.

 

  • Age

    Maximum Child-Staff Ratio*

    Maximum Group Size*

    12 months

    3:1

    6

    13-35 months

    4:1

    8

    3-year-olds

    7:1

    14

    4-year-olds

    8:1

    16

    5-year-olds 8:1 16

    6- to 8-year-olds

    10:1

    20

    9- to 12-year-olds

    12:1

    24

  • Is the childcare center or home is completely age appropriately child-proofed? Do a walk through to make sure that you are checking outlets, cabinets and whatever other areas may be within the reach of your child that could potentially put their safety at risk. This is especially crucial for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, who love to explore and put items in their mouths. Don’t be afraid to get down on your hands and knees and explore as your own child might.
  • What and how much training has been received by the staff (especially CPR) and what are the the practices that are put into place in the scenario that there is an emergency and you can’t be reached?
  • Are fire drills practiced and where are all of the fire exits located?

After you feel comfortable about the safety measures that are taken to ensure your child will be protected in your absence, you will also want to inquire about costs involved. This includes any registration and cancellation fees. Find out the standing hours for pick up and drop off and inquire as to if there are any fees involved if these procedures aren’t always followed. Many providers will charge extras for late pick up, so be prepared to cover all of those additional expenses “just in case”. Also, ask about vacation and whether you will be responsible to pay for vacation time when the daycare may be closed. You don’t want to have any unexpected expenses hit you that you may not be prepared for.

Procedures and Policies

For many daycare centers, there are written policies and procedures in place. You may come to find that with smaller, home based daycare providers, this may not be the case. It is important to know where your potential daycare provider stands on the matters of providing proper nutrition for your child (menu planning), discipline, media (the amount of time that is allowed for television, computer, etc), as well as if visiting your child is allowed and when.

Don’t allow yourself to feel rushed on making this life-changing decision. You can always take a checklist with you as you’re interviewing your potential daycare provider to make sure you have all of your bases covered. A great list is this one provided by the AAP.

Don’t forget to draw on your number one strength: your instincts. If something feels off or wrong to you then it probably is. It’s completely okay to walk away and keep searching if you don’t feel like the fit is there for you. This is also true when a situation feels natural, warm and endearing. This is a paramount decision that you must tackle after all. There is nothing greater than the feeling that your child is just as safe and loved when you or members of your family are away from them and they are in the care of others. It will bring you peace of mind to know you’ve been able to find the right daycare provider for you and your family and that is the essential goal.