Choosing A Daycare Facility: 10 Things To Look For (And 10 Things To Avoid)

The decision to place our child in daycare is an important one. We want our child to be safe and happy while they are there, and we hope that our child will also gain social skills and make new friends. Choosing the right daycare facility for our child may take time, but it is necessary to ensure that the experience is good for our child’s health and development.

When it comes time to begin looking for a daycare facility, parents should ask as many questions as they need to ask in order to feel comfortable about their decision. Shop around for daycare facilities and take tours, speak to teachers and office managers, read reviews and above all, trust that intuition — those gut feelings.

A majority of the best daycare centers meet the standards of the National Association of Education of Young Children (NAEYC), but an unaccredited center may also be perfect for our children if it meets high standards. The NAEYC provides a search tool for parents looking to find accredited daycare centers, too.

Finding the right daycare for our child’s needs requires communication and research. Use this checklist to get started. Here are 10 things to look for when choosing a daycare facility and 10 things that to avoid.

20 Look For Cleanliness

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Children are going to make messes, and that is to be expected. The facility doesn’t need to be as clean as a hospital, of course, but the facility should be as clean as possible and follow proper cleaning procedures to minimize the spread of germs and diseases. The daycare should be regularly wiped down and sanitized, windows cleaned, carpet vacuumed, and floors swept and mopped. Look for sanitizing hand wipes, hand sanitizer, washing stations, and other evidence that the teachers help to keep the facility clean and the children safe.

19 Avoid A Dirty And Unsanitary Daycare

No daycare center is going to look pristine, but one that has trash thrown all over the place or a general look of uncleanliness is a hotbed for germs. It also shows that the facility does not care very much for the health and safety of the children. Don’t choose a daycare based on price alone. A super low-cost daycare that is dirty and unsanitary will not be a good environment for your child to be placed in. Your child’s health and safety will be at risk in a filthy daycare facility.

18 Look For Child-Teacher Interaction

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If the teachers get on the floor to play with kids or spend one-on-one time with babies, then that means that your children will likely get a healthy amount of attention. Parents magazine says that babies and younger children especially need attention that is warm and responsive. Another thing to look for is the teacher-child ratio. There should be enough teachers to provide attention and care to all of the children in the daycare facility. Requirements will vary by state, but you can also make a judgment based on your observations of the classroom. Children should not be left alone, unsupervised, or ignored.

17 Avoid A Negative Or So-So Reputation

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When researching a daycare facility, you should always ask your friends or other parents about the daycare. What have they heard about it? What reviews does the facility get online? If it has an abundance of negativity attached to its reputation, then you will want to avoid that facility and look elsewhere. There is a reason why the daycare has gotten so many bad reviews, and you should heed the warnings. Ask a variety of people to get a clearer picture of the daycare center or specifics if you need them.

16 Look For Well-Stocked Playrooms, Kitchens, And Restrooms

Look around and see if the facility is well-stocked with the kinds of things that children need for their care and development. Are there enough books and toys for the children? Does the kitchen have enough snacks and healthy food choices on hand? Is there a first aid kit and Band-Aids available? A good daycare facility will keep necessities well-stocked to meet the needs of the children. Even a lack of adequate toilet paper in the restrooms may be a bad sign.

15 Avoid A Daycare With Not Enough Staffing

Are there enough staff for the number of children in the daycare? Lack of adequate daycare staffing contributes to child neglect. One teacher would be unable to pay attention to a large group of children of various ages. It also creates a safety issue for the children because there is not enough staffing to supervise everyone and puts smaller children and babies at even more risk. If the daycare facility seems to not have enough staffing on hand, then you will want to avoid them.

14 Look For Appropriate Discipline

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Ask the facility about their discipline procedures. Does it line up with your standards? Your children should feel safe in their environment and not be mistreated by staff. While misbehavior needs to be dealt with, certain types of discipline are strongly discouraged. Find out what the policies are for handling misbehavior among the children. Children are going to get into arguments and act out on occasion. You need to know how the daycare facility takes care of those situations and if their methods are appropriate and healthy. Little children need guidance, not harsh punishment

13 Avoid A Daycare With No Policies Or Rules

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If the daycare does not have policies or a list of rules for the staff to follow, then it is a good idea to pass on that center and find another one. The staff is unprepared to handle emergencies, and they aren’t trained to ensure the safety of your children and the other children in their care. Do they lack policies on health care, safety, discipline, transportation, and more? That's not a good sign at all. If they can’t supply a copy of their policies or provide an answer on their policies, then it’s time to move onto searching for a better facility.

12 Look For Clear And Posted Policies

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In addition to the school’s policies on discipline, there should be clear policies on how the daycare deals with illness, medication, nutrition, transportation, and more. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the policies should be written down and enforceable. Does the daycare center follow their own policies? That is another question that you need to ask before enrolling your child. Clear and posted policies on the various aspects of childcare are very important when choosing the right daycare facility. Every teacher or caregiver in the facility needs to be one the same page in regards to the care of your child and the other children in the facility.

11 Avoid 'Closed-Door' Daycare Facilities

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Can parents drop in unannounced to check on their children? If not, then that may be a red flag that the daycare is hiding something. Daycare facilities should be transparent about their policies and their interaction with the children. A daycare that keeps things from parents could be doing something dangerous or illegal with the class. For the safety and health of your kids, you will want to pass on choosing a facility with a closed-door policy. A good daycare won’t try to hide things from the parents or create an atmosphere for potential misconduct.

10 Look For An On-Premises Doctor Or Nurse

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Another recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is that the daycare center has an on-premises doctor or nurse to treat illness and injuries. Skin scrapes, flu and colds, chicken pox, head lice, and any of the other injuries and diseases that are common among groups of children should be acknowledged and handled in a timely manner. You should also be notified as soon as there is a medical or health-related concern about your child or within the school. An on-hand doctor or nurse ensures that your child receives care when needed and that it's not put off until you come to pick up your child or there is a major emergency.

9 Avoid A Daycare With No Educational Programming

Children should not be expected to nap all day or sit in baby swings. If there are no toys or signs of creative play in the daycare center, you may want to avoid it. Children need educational stimulation through play, whether it is with toys or art supplies. Ask if the daycare has an educational program and what it entails. Your child needs the benefits of educational curriculum and playtime, and any facility that does not provide educational programming or creative playtime is not the one for you.

8 Look For Current And Proper Licensing

Daycare facilities are required to be licensed by most state or local authorities. Some facilities even seek accreditation to show that they are able to meet high standards and levels of accountability. Make sure that the facility has the proper licensing and that it is current. If they claim to be accredited, double check that it is up-to-date and accurate. Licensed facilities receive regular accountability checks to ensure that they meet the standards required for licensing. You would not enroll your child in a daycare with numerous health and safety violations.

7 Avoid A Daycare That Doesn't Do Staff Background Checks

Does the daycare facility require background checks before hiring staff? If not, then you might want to run, run, RUN far away from that daycare facility. All of us have heard news stories about daycare providers who had hurt the children in their care, only for it to come out that the provider actually had a history of doing so. Background checks won’t catch everything, but they do ensure that convicted child abusers are not hired to care for more children. Your daycare should make background checks mandatory for employment. The safety of your children depends on good caregivers.

6 Look For Well-Trained Staff

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According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should look for a daycare facility that has well-trained staff with regular training. Does the staff know how to work with special-needs children? Are they current on their CPR certification? Do they know how to handle certain emergencies? Well-trained staff means that your child is likely to be safe and well-cared for while at the daycare center. You can be confident that the teachers and staff are equipped to handle a variety of situations and know how to work with children of different levels and abilities.

5 Avoid A Daycare With Rude, Uncommunicative Or Unqualified Staff

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Maybe you just didn’t click with some of the staff or they were unwilling to answer your questions. If so, the daycare may not be the one for you and your child. Daycare staff should be friendly and able to work with a variety of people. If you notice that the staff is rude toward different children or parents, that is a red flag that you should avoid the facility. Another red flag is untrained and unqualified staff. No one has been trained in early childhood development? No one is certified in CPR or first aid? Yikes. Time to keep looking for a different daycare.

4 Look For An Educational Philosophy

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Does the daycare’s approach to learning line up with what you want or with what your child needs? At that age, children need playtime to explore their creativity and practice what they have learned. PBS Parents has a list of the different daycare and preschool educational philosophies such as Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, and other philosophies. Some daycare and preschool facilities incorporate a mixture of different philosophies. The focus of daycare may not always include a structured educational component, but a daycare that includes creative and educational playtime will benefit your child’s learning development.

3 Avoid A Daycare With Obviously Unhappy Children

So, you’re looking around and the children seem unhappy and lifeless. Maybe babies are crying, and none of the staff are going over to comfort them or maybe the toddlers just seem bored. That is a sign that you should avoid this daycare facility. A quality daycare will have happy, smiling children who are engaged in play. While children are bound to cry sometimes or throw tantrums, the children should generally seem happy. And staff should be attentive to their needs and be supervising them at all times. Anything else could make it unpleasant, and potentially unsafe, environment for your child.

2 Look For A Positive Atmosphere

When you visit the daycare facility, it should give you a good feeling. This is where trusting your gut comes into play. Imagine your child at this daycare facility. Do you have positive feelings about it? Do the children in the daycare center look like they are treated well? Use your mommy senses to determine if the daycare facility is right for you and your child. You’ve done all of your research on the daycare and toured at different times of the day, so if you feel good about making this decision, then it might be the right one. You can always unenroll your child if something changes.

1 Avoid The Daycare If You Have Bad Feelings About It

Maybe you have a bad feeling about the daycare, but you can’t pinpoint why you feel that way. Your mommy senses could be picking up on something that isn’t obvious. Listen to what your gut is telling you and avoid this daycare facility. Sometimes our subconscious minds pick up on things that our conscious minds haven’t yet grasped. We should listen to that sixth sense and heed its warning. If you have bad feelings about a particular daycare center, then continue looking for a different one. Trust your mommy senses!


References: families.naeyc.org, parents.com, brookings.edu, healthychildren.org, daycare.com, pediatrics.aappublications.org, pbs.org, care.com, pro.psychcentral.com, childcareaware.org

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