It doesn't matter how much you love your job — putting your baby in daycare is hard. And choosing one? Sometimes that's even harder. But with the right questions to ask at daycare, you can give yourself peace of mind and feel fully confident in your choice.
According to Child Care Aware, you should start the daycare search process as soon as possible. Finding the daycare center that fits your family, offers your child the opportunities you want, and provides a safe place for their development to grow make time some time, and it's best to be prepared for that.
When you begin touring daycare centers, you may find that it's easy to get swept up in the presentation the daycare provider gives and forget all of the things you wanted for your child. Parents recommends writing a list before you visit the center so that you don't forget any of the major things you had in mind for your child's daycare or your potential concerns. Everybody wants something different from their daycare. All moms want a safe, clean, and healthy environment, but some may be looking for a center that provides a lot of free play, one that provides an education curriculum, or one that's in a smaller setting for more one-on-one interaction with your child.
Regardless of the type of daycare center you're looking for, you should keep these 35 questions in mind for when you're ready to start touring. Of course, the basics are probably already covered like drop-off/pick-up times, meals, rules and regulations, but knowing the answers to these specific questions may make your choice a lot easier than you think and will make you feel even more comfortable when choosing a daycare for your child.
1. What Is Your Sick Child Policy?
This is really a two-part question. You want to know if the daycare accepts any sick children and its policies surrounding the topic. Like, are children allowed to come to daycare as long as they don't have a fever? Are coughs and runny noses considered an illness? You'll also want to ask about if your child is sick and has to miss a day. Do you still have to pay for that day? Do you have to call in and let them know your child won't be in?
2. How Are Children Disciplined?
Super important, right? You'll want to know if your child is disciplined with a timeout, if they use color charts to reward good behavior, if children miss out on certain activities when they're acting poorly, and if the daycare will implement any of your own discipline techniques.
3. What Supplies Do I Need To Provide?
Some centers provide diapers, wipes, diaper cream, and formula, and other daycare centers don't provide anything. This can make a difference for you, especially when you're considering prices.
4. Do You Administer Medication?
If your child is on antibiotics and cleared to go back to daycare, you'll want to check in and see if the center will administer medication. It's also important if your child is ever complaining of a headache or a stomachache. Will the center administer medication until you can get there? Do you have to provide it? What if your child takes certain medications every day?
5. Are Children Supervised At All Times?
This sounds like a silly question to ask, but it's important. Even nap time should be supervised, so make sure the center always has a caregiver in the room with the children.
6. What Is The Schedule?
Every daycare center is different, and you may find that some are more structured than others. Ask to see a schedule so you can decide if it's the right fit for you and your baby.
7. Are The Employees Experienced & Qualified?
Are they all brand-new? Have some been there for several years? Do they have degrees in child care? You definitely want experienced when it comes to someone taking care of your child.
8. Have The Employees Been Trained In First Aid?
This covers everything from CPR to treating cuts or bumps.
9. How Many Children Are There Per Adult?
According to Baby Center, the National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends one caregiver per every three to four babies. The number of children per adult rises a bit as the kids are older, but you'll want to ask what the center's ratio looks like. It can be very overwhelming for one caregiver to have more than three to four children to look after, and it might mean your child isn't getting the attention and care they deserve.
10. Will My Children Leave The Center At Any Time?
As in, will they be heading off to parks, walks in the neighborhood, or field trips? You'll want to touch on transportation and the rules of that, like if you have to provide permission and a car seat.
11. What Do You Do If There Is An Emergency With My Child?
Do they call 911 and then you? Will they contact you more than once? Can you provide emergency contacts?
12. Are Children Required To Be Up To Date On Their Immunizations?
Especially important if your kiddo is young and hasn't had many of their vaccines yet.
13. Is The Center Licensed?
A huge question. Every state has their own regulations for licensing a daycare center, so be sure to look into what your state requires before making a center licensed.
14. What Group Will My Child Be In?
Some daycare centers break down the groups of children by ages and some break it down even further by separating potty-trained children from those who aren't. You'll want to know if your 3-year-old is considered a toddler or if they'll be in a preschool classroom with older children.
15. What Are The Ages Of The Children In The Center?
It's always nice to have a general idea of the range of ages at the center, especially if the children are all interacting with each other.
16. Do You Have A Limit On The Number Of Children You Can Provide For?
Remember that ratio question? It also helps to know if there's a limit to the number of children the daycare will accept. That way, you know that the ratio will stay about the same.
17. What Is The Security Like?
Most daycare centers these days have locked doors and require an ID to enter the building. Others may provide you with a card to swipe at the front. Either way, knowing the security measures and precautions the center is taking can make you feel extremely comfortable.
18. What Will My Child Eat?
This is a huge thing for many parents. If you're strictly against PB&J sandwiches, Goldfish crackers, and juice boxes, you may opt for a different kind of center that provides your child with fresh fruit and veggies.
19. Do You Provide Meals For Those With Dietary Restrictions Or Allergies?
Again, this can factor into your choices when you consider the pricing. If your child is vegan and the center doesn't offer any vegan meals, you then have to consider the cost of packing a lunch and snacks for your child each day.
20. Are There Rules On What I Can Pack For My Child's Lunch?
Like no peanuts!
21. How Much Time Do The Kids Get To Play Outside?
There has been tons of research proving that children need more time outdoors, so be sure to ask the center how much time your kids will get to explore and play.
22. Are Children Allowed Screen Time?
I've heard some horror stories about daycare centers with televisions using it as a Disney-themed babysitter. Everyone has their own thoughts on screen time for their kid, but if it's important to you, it's worth asking.
23. Can I Check In Throughout The Day?
My sister chose a daycare center where she can check in through webcam to see what her daughter's doing during the day, and she also receives texts about how much her daughter ate, when she went to the bathroom, and how she napped. I don't know if calling every 10 minutes is recommended, but you definitely deserve to be able to check in.
24. Will I Receive Progress Updates?
And how often? It's always nice to hear if your kid's behaving well, if they're having any problems, and what the center is doing to help your child develop.
25. Will You Call Me If My Child Is Upset Or Hurt?
Of course major injuries are always called about, but if your little one gets a scraped knee, does the center call? If your toddler is crying for you, will the center let you know while you're working? Some simply update you when you pick your child up, but that doesn't always sit well with parents.
26. Are There Cameras In The Center?
And not necessarily web cams, but be sure to ask if there are cameras in each classroom and play area. God forbid, but if anything were to happen to your kid, you'd want to be sure there was some video proof or evidence to help figure out what happened.
27. What Are The Cleaning Policies?
Daycare centers are just a giant haven for germs thanks to all those kiddos. So it's always helpful to know how often toys are disinfected, if floors are cleaned daily, and how the bathrooms are taken care of.
28. Do The Children All Interact Together Or Stay In Age Groups?
Especially nice to know if you have siblings there together! Will your 5-year-old see the baby at any time during the day? Will your 8-year-old have to play with a 3-year-old all day?
29. Do You Provide Any Education?
If making sure your kid gets their shapes, colors, numbers, and letters covered every day is important to you, be sure to ask.
30. Do You Work On Social Skills?
Like manners, sharing, tolerance, and being kind to each other.
31. Do The Employees Undergo Background Checks?
You always want to ask this. It might make you feel crazy or paranoid, but you're not, I promise. It's important.
32. What Is The Nap Policy?
Is there a scheduled time every day where your child has to take a nap? What happens if they don't nap? Be sure to ask if your nap time routine can be implemented, too. Some centers don't rock babies to sleep with a bottle, but if that's what you want for your child, you'll need to keep looking.
33. Do You Have A Disaster Plan?
In case of intruders, fire, and severe weather, the center should have a plan in place and it should be practiced often.
34. Do You Celebrate Holidays With The Children?
I would find this incredibly important and would want to make sure my children were able to celebrate all the holidays while in day care. Like is there a program for Christmas? Do they cover African American History Month?
35. How Do You Comfort The Children?
This one might not be at the top of your list, but wouldn't you want to know? If your child's upset, how will the center providers comfort them? Do they just hug it out? Do they distract them with a toy? Or do they call you to help? Nobody wants to think of their child being upset and not comforted in a way that you know would make them feel better.