Sending your children off to daycare can be a nerve wracking experience, especially if you’ve never done it before. Will the child care provider keep your babies safe? Will your kids have fun, meet new friends and enjoy their time at the daycare you choose?
To help ensure you choose the best possible daycare center for your children and give yourself some peace of mind, we’ve compiled a list of 12 questions to ask a daycare provider before you enroll your kids.
Let’s dive in!
1. Are You a Licensed Child Care Provider?
Ask if the daycare provider you’re considering is fully licensed to care for your children and to provide proof. You need to be able to trust your child’s caretaker and being licensed goes a long way toward ensuring your kids are in good hands.
Also ask what certifications the teachers at the child care center hold.
Never feel awkward asking a daycare center for licensing information. It should have it readily available, and if it’s not, that could be a sign to look elsewhere.
2. What’s Your General Child Care Philosophy?
Different daycares have different child care philosophies. You want to find a center that believes the same things you do when it comes to child rearing.
You also need to make sure that the center’s philosophies work for your specific child. For example, if your child has special needs, the child care provider you choose should be able to accommodate those needs. The only way to find out this information is to ask.
When evaluating responses to this question, prioritize centers with clear, organized philosophies. These providers are more likely to stick to their policies at all times.
3. What Do You Charge for Child Care Services?
It doesn’t make sense to research centers and home daycare providers that are outside your budget, so ask about pricing early in the process.
But dig deeper than monthly rates. You also need to find out how much the provider charges for early drop-offs and late pick-ups, if they offer worthwhile discounts for fewer days per week, and how and when they expect you to pay them for their services.
Some of the details may be available on the provider’s website. But ask the provider directly to confirm what you see online.
4. What Is Your Preferred Staff-Child Ratio?
Every state has maximum staff-child ratios that must be adhered to. Some of them are quite high. For example, a single child care provider in Florida can watch up to 25 school-age children by themselves. Are you comfortable with that?
Ask providers what their preferred and/or average child ratio is to help determine if they’re the right provider for your family. Just because the law says they can watch a certain number of children at a time doesn’t mean you have to be okay with that number.
We also recommend asking about staff turnover rates. It can be unsettling when a child suddenly loses a cherished teacher. Consider avoiding centers with a lot of turnover.
5. What Does a Typical Day at Your Center Look Like?
You’ll also want to find out what your child will be doing on a daily basis. Does the child care provider adhere to a rigid structure, or do they prefer to skip structure and take each day as it comes? And which approach do you like best?
Additionally, ask about the various activities available to children. Ask what kind of toys, play structures and curriculum the center provides.
6. Do You Use a Specific Curriculum?
The best child care centers don’t just watch children, they teach them. So it’s super important to choose a center that uses an age-appropriate curriculum that you agree with.
For example, some curricula focus on different skill sets—literacy, math or art. Some learning programs, like Montessori and Reggio Emilia, teach kids in different ways. Find out which curriculum the center uses, then ask them why.
You can learn a lot about a child care provider by asking them why they use the tools they do.
7. What Supplies Am I Expected to Provide?
Different child care centers provide different things to the children they watch. Generally, the more expensive a center is, the more they provide. But you should definitely go over the details before you enroll your child so you’re aware of the commitment you’re making.
Do you need to bring wipes and diapers? What about drinks, snacks and cleaning supplies like disinfectant wipes and paper towels?
Almost every daycare will expect you to provide something. You need to know what.
8. What Kind of Food Does Your Center Serve?
If a center provides food, we suggest asking what kind – especially if your child has specific dietary requirements. Make sure the daycare offers nutritious meals.
In addition, ask which meals they serve and when. Some centers, for instance, don’t offer breakfast, while others do.
9. How Do You and Your Staff Handle Misbehavior?
This is an incredibly important question to ask! How a daycare handles misbehavior will tell you a lot about their philosophy on child care. You need to make sure you approve of their approach to discipline before you drop your kids off at their center.
We recommend asking pointed questions: “Do you believe in time-outs?” and “Do your teachers raise their voices to keep kids in line?”
Consider asking about specific scenarios as well: “If one of the kids hits another child, how will he be disciplined?” or “What happens if a child won’t eat her lunch?”
10. How Do You Communicate With Parents?
Provider-parent communication is key to child care success. So make sure you ask daycare providers how they plan to keep you in the loop regarding your children.
Some child care centers use an app like Procare to give parents real-time updates about meals, naps, learning milestones and fun activities throughout the day. Some of these apps even allow providers to send photos and messages.
If these things are important to you, look for a center that uses the Procare app.
If a center doesn’t use an app, ask what their preferred form of communication is — phone call, email or text. Then make sure that communication channel works for you.
11. How Do You Handle Sickness and Missed Days?
What happens if your child gets sick? Or your family goes on vacation and your kiddo misses a week of daycare? Or a terrible storm rolls through town and you’re snowed in?
If you choose to send your children to a home daycare provider, you’ll likely pay for every week they’re enrolled, whether you drop them off or not. If you choose a full daycare center, you might not be charged for sick days or vacations.
You also need to find out about proper protocol. How long do you have to keep sick kids home before they can return to daycare? What happens if your child falls on the playground and gets hurt?
These are important questions to ask at the beginning of your relationships with your child care center.
12. What Health and Safety Precautions Do You Take?
Finally, ask about the health and safety precautions that each daycare takes. All staff should have to undergo background checks and the facility grounds shouldn’t pose any obvious safety risks.
If your child is under 18 months old, you’ll also want to make sure the child care center has been properly baby proofed so that your little one doesn’t hurt themselves by accident.
If it’s important to you, ask about on-site cameras. How many are there, where are they located and do they run 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
Lastly, ask about health and hygiene. How often are toys cleaned? What about the daycare facility itself? Are masks still required because of COVID-19? You definitely don’t want to expose your child to sickness because the provider doesn’t prioritize cleanliness.
Do Your Homework
Putting your child in daycare is a big step, so don’t be afraid to ask a prospective center any questions you have. Their answers will help you choose the right provider and give you the peace of mind you need.