How Do Parents Choose Child Care?

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How do parents choose which child care center is the best for their child?

If you’re a child care provider, administrator or franchise owner, understanding what parents are looking for in a center-based care facility could have a huge impact on how you market your services in the community. 

Knowing what parents are looking for in a child care center before they ever see a flyer for your business or walk through your doors for a facility tour can empower you to showcase the parts of your business that really matter and convince families that your center has what it takes to meet their needs.

To help you get started, we’ve looked at the most recent surveys and research data on child care choice to bring you the most up-to-date information on what factors influence parents to choose one child care center over another. Keep reading to discover the 10 critical factors that influence how parents choose a child care provider.

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We know the business of child care. For more than 30 years we’ve been guiding child care professionals just like you to help stay connected and in control.

How Do Parents Choose Child Care? 10 Critical Factors

Parents Prioritize Staff Background Checks

In the 2017 C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, parents were asked to select the five most important factors they would consider when selecting a preschool or center-based care arrangement for their child.

Staff background checks were among the most important considerations when evaluating a preschool or center-based care facility, with ~45% of parents highlighting them as a top-five most important factor. Additionally, 24% of parents identified staff background checks as a top-five consideration when arranging child care in a home-based setting.

United States federal law requires all child care providers and their employees to complete a comprehensive criminal background check, so it makes sense that parents would rather avoid centers that don’t meet this requirement. 

Centers can appeal to parents through their marketing and sales activities by communicating that they have performed background checks on all employees in accordance with the law.

Parents Want Daily Active Play for their Kids

In the same survey mentioned above, 40% of parents said that daily active play was among the most important considerations when choosing a preschool and 28% said it was among the most important considerations when choosing a home child care arrangement. 

With childhood obesity on the rise and affecting almost 19% of adolescents between ages 2 and 19, parents are increasingly seeing the value in child care centers that help kids get the recommended 60 to 120 minutes per day of active play recommended to support healthy physical development.

Parents See Center Security as Non-Negotiable

When parents choose a home-based care arrangement, they’re often relying on the judgment of a trusted friend, neighbor or family member to keep their child safe. But when parents are choosing a preschool or center-based facility, they’re more concerned about the security protocols in place at the center and how they support child safety.

When it comes to choosing a preschool or child care center, parents are more likely to choose a center where the doors are locked during the day, preventing members of the public from walking into the building and gaining access to their kids. Plus with the onset of COVID-19, the less foot traffic inside the building, the better. 

Child care centers can increase their appeal to parents by emphasizing the security measures and protocols they use to restrict access to the premises and protect children in their care.

Parents Value Trained and Qualified Staff

Parents are more likely to enroll their children in a child care center with qualified providers who are experienced and certified in early childhood education. Parents understand that staff with the proper education and training are in the best position to plan effective and age-appropriate lessons that support their child’s learning and developmental needs.

Centers can appeal to these parents by highlighting the experience and qualifications of their staff on their websites, in marketing materials and during in-person center visits.

Location and Operating Hours are Both Essential

Despite the importance that parents place on factors like child safety and having qualified child care providers, many parents find themselves choosing a child care center based on practical considerations like location and operating hours. This is especially true for parents with irregular work schedules that don’t align with the normal 9-5 workday.

In a 2018 study on Child Care Decision-Making, researchers asked parents to identify the main reason they chose their child’s primary care arrangement. Of the 229 parents surveyed, 17% said they made the choice because the center was close to home and an additional 9% said that the arrangement they chose was their only option due to transportation, scheduling or other factors. 

Additionally, 70% of parents indicated that they would avoid enrolling their child at a center located in a “sketchy” area.

The location and operating hours of a facility ultimately determine whether parents feel safe leaving their kids there, and whether a child care center can meet the scheduling needs of parents. Child care providers can appeal to parents by offering flexible pick-up and drop-off times to accommodate their scheduling needs.

Parents Will Ask About Vaccination Policies

Parents are concerned about vaccination policies at child care centers, with over 40% of parents saying they would avoid sending their child to centers that allow unvaccinated children to attend. 

Kids usually receive between seven and nine vaccinations in the first 15 months of life and another seven to nine by age 18, protecting them from diseases like the influenza virus, Hepatitis A, tetanus, and measles. Older kids who have missed their vaccines are at risk of getting sick and passing these diseases on to younger children who haven’t yet reached the appropriate age to receive the vaccine. 

Centers can appeal to parents by highlighting their vaccination policies that require all children to present up-to-date immunization records before enrolling in the facility.

Parents Prefer Centers that Serve Healthy Meals

Parents are more likely to choose a center that provides healthy meals for their child on a daily basis. 

A healthy, balanced diet provides kids with the energy they need to engage in active play and nutrients that support healthy brain development. Kids will also develop healthy eating habits that help them avoid health issues like heart disease or diabetes later in life.

Parents Watch For Child Care Providers to Model Healthy Habits

Parents know that kids learn by mimicking the behaviors of adults, so they naturally prefer child care providers who can consistently model healthy habits for their children. The C.S. Mott survey found that 31% of parents would avoid sending their children to a child care center where a staff person was seen smoking cigarettes. 

Parents Expect Sufficient Educational Resources for their Child

When parents visit your child care center, one of the main things they’re curious about is the educational resources that you can offer their child. Parents would rather choose a child care provider with a substantial collection of educational books, toys, games and other activities for their child.

As a child care provider, you can appeal to parents by expanding your collection of educational resources, ensuring that play areas are cleaned regularly, and organizing activities by their target age group and learning objective. These measures help convince parents that you’ve got the tools in place to support their child’s academic and cognitive development.

Parents See Affordability as a Barrier to Quality Child Care

Child care prices are high in American and parents see affordability as the key barrier when it comes to accessing quality care for their kids. In many states, low-income working families spend up to 30% or more of their income on child care services. As a result, nearly one in six families identified cost as the most important reason they chose their child’s primary care arrangement.

To help make child care more accessible, centers can leverage child care management software, which streamlines routine administrative tasks, offers comprehensive reporting, and can manage payments from DHS, DFACS, DCFS, Head Start and similar programs. Child care management software can save centers a significant amount of time and money, which, along with subsidy programs, can give centers more flexibility in how they support families in their community.

Drive Parent Engagement and Retention with Procare Solutions

With more than three decades in the business, Procare is the number one name in child care software. Over 30,000 customers depend on our comprehensive software each day for critical features like:

  • Tracking child and staff immunization records.
  • Planning learning activities and recording developmental milestones for each child.
  • Monitoring center attendance and child-staff ratios.
  • Facilitating contactless check-in and check-out during COVID-19.
  • Automating the child care billing, invoicing and payment processes.
  • Communicating and marketing to families from first-contact through to enrollment.
  • Engaging parents with regular updates about their child’s progress, schedule and upcoming activities.

Procare’s child care products and services are a competitive advantage for child care centers looking to improve their service offerings, build stronger relationships with families and increase enrollment while reducing costs.

Ready to find out how Procare Solutions can help you grow your child care business in 2020?

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Michelle Burrows

About The Author

Michelle Burrows

Michelle Burrows serves as Chief Marketing Officer at Procare, providing integrated software, products and solutions for child-centered businesses. In her role as CMO, Michelle drives strategy, brand awareness, demand generation and delivering outstanding customer experiences.

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