Choosing the Right Childcare

Whether you’re just going back to work after a stint at home with your child or switching childcare providers, you know that there are many choices—a sitter at your own house, daycare in a provider’s home or a daycare center among the options.

Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Think about your child’s personality. Does she love being around other children or does she shy away from strangers? Would individual care or a group setting best fit her personality?
  • Visit a variety of childcare centers and caregivers, with your child if possible, to get a sense of the services and the setting.
  • Ask questions! Depending on the situation, ask about credentials, accreditation, caregiver-to-child ratios, and facilities.
  • Be sure you can visit any time. Don’t use a childcare setting that refuses to let you drop in unannounced. The exception here is during times when it isn’t safe for you to visit, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic or other times when there are efforts to prevent the spread of a contagious illness.

Remember, too, that the right program for one child may not be right for another—even for 2 children in the same family. Begin your childcare search by thinking about what kind of setting best suits your child and your family’s needs.

When choosing a program, find out the size of the program, its location, the number of days and hours offered, the availability of extended hours, how different ages are grouped, class size and cost. After deciding which type of program best meets your needs, visit more than one site so you can compare.

Daycare Centers

If you’re looking at a childcare center, this list of questions may be helpful.

The Program

  • Does the program have a clear, written statement of its goals and philosophy?
  • Does it consider a child’s social, emotional, and physical needs?
  • Is the atmosphere warm, nurturing, and accepting?
  • Is there at least 1 caregiver for every 3 babies or 6 toddlers (although requirements for how many caregivers per child can vary)?
  • Does the school offer a balance of individual, small-group, and large-group activities?
  • Is there a balance between quiet periods and active times?
  • Is there a routine to most days?
  • Does the program have an up-to-date state license?

The Teachers

  • What are teachers’ qualifications?
  • What is the ratio of children to teachers?
  • Is there frequent staff turnover?
  • Do teachers encourage and respond to children’s natural interests?
  • Are they cheerful and patient?
  • How do the adults interact with the children and with each other?

The Setting

  • Does it look safe indoors and outdoors?
  • Can you imagine your child in this setting?
  • Are the children happy, relaxed and engaged in meaningful play?
  • Does the setting foster productive interactions between children?
  • Is there a wide variety of materials? Are they orderly and easily accessible?
  • Do equipment and toys encourage individual and group play and improve gross and fine motor skills?

Parental Involvement

  • Is parental involvement welcomed and encouraged? How?
  • Will the school’s administration provide references to parents whose children have attended the program or are attending?
See also ...

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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