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What to Look for in a Daycare Provider

Mother playing with her daughter and son.

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You know your child better than anyone and understand what they need to thrive. And while that’s one of the greatest — and most natural — parts of parenthood, it can make putting your baby in someone else’s care challenging. But there’s no denying the many benefits of time spent in formal child care programs.

Learn more about how to find high-quality daycare for your little one, including the right questions to ask to ensure your kiddo receives all the best benefits.

Types of Daycare

The two main types of daycare in the U.S. are group daycare centers and at-home daycares. Depending on your needs, goals and budget, one of these options might be better for you.

  • Group daycare centers are state-licensed. Much like schools, groups of children are separated by age so providers can tailor class activities to each developmental stage
  • At-home daycare centers are sometimes, but not always, licensed. Generally, they are smaller operations with fewer children and are often run out of a provider’s home

Attending daycare comes with several benefits for your child and even some for parents, including:

  • Consistent developmental and educational opportunities
  • Strengthening your child’s immune system through lots of exposure to other kids
  • Socialization with other children
  • Time for parents to take care of themselves and the family as a whole

What to Look for in a Daycare

For starters, starting your search early is crucial — especially if you know you’ll want daycare when your child is still an infant. You’ll likely need to begin your search before your baby is even born since daycares often have a more limited availability for very young babies.

As you narrow down your daycare options, visit each daycare and spend time understanding how your child will spend their day. Take note of how caregivers interact with the children there and if the children seem engaged.

You may also consider working with a child care resource and referral agency or a group specializing in finding daycares in your location and budget, coordinating start dates and deciphering accreditations.

When you’re starting your search, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Licensing Requirements

Every state has different requirements for group daycare centers and at-home daycares. That includes ratios of caregivers to children and staff credentials. Look into your state requirements to understand what licensing means in your area. As a benchmark, group daycare centers can achieve a higher accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children. At-home daycares can earn a similar high rating through the National Association for Family Child Care.

Health and Safety Procedures

Daycares may differ in their cleaning processes. At a minimum, verify the daycare has separate diaper changing and food prep areas, cleans toys regularly, gives breastmilk to the right child and ensures caregivers and adults wash their hands before entering the play space.

Play and Disciplinary Actions

How you raise your child to play and how you discipline your child are deeply personal decisions. So, it’s important to understand how daycares work in these areas. On the flip side, find out how daycares handle disciplinary situations, including if they expel children for behavioral issues.

Questions to Ask When Looking for a Daycare

Your child will spend a large part of their day at their daycare. It’s important you feel comfortable with how it operates and that it’s meeting your child’s specific needs. Many daycares offer different benefits, so find the one that works best for you and your child.

You can learn more about how each daycare operates by asking probing questions during your visits. Here are a few ideas to help you start your list:

  • Are you licensed and accredited?
  • How long have teachers been on staff, and how have they been screened? What are their qualifications?
  • How many children does each staff member care for?
  • What are your health requirements for caregivers? Do staff and children have to be fully vaccinated?
  • What curriculum is used in my child’s classroom?
  • Are there any parents willing to give a testimonial?
  • How do you manage sick children?
  • How do you address disciplinary issues?
  • What will you be feeding my child?
  • Do you have a waiting list? How long will it take for a spot for my child to open?
  • What are your fees? Are there any other costs besides the weekly or monthly fees?
  • What is your schedule? Is there flexibility? What holidays or observances are you closed for?

For at-home daycare centers, it’s also important to ask who will be in the home when your child is there and what insurance coverage the proprietor has.

Your Care Questions, Answered

If your child needs a wellness physical or immunizations before starting daycare, we’re here to help. Our pediatric specialists can help you and your child have a healthy start as you prepare for their next milestones.

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