What To Look For In a Daycare: 6 Tips for Choosing Childcare

As our company grows and work becomes busier for me, we’ve made the decision that our little toddler needs to go to daycare. We toyed with the idea of an at-home daycare, or having someone come into the home to watch him, like a part-time nanny. But in the end, we’ve chosen to go with a large facility daycare.

Choosing a daycare is hard!

My first choice didn’t have any availabilities until February. (This is why you should get on a wait list EARLY. Yes, while you’re pregnant if you want – you can always change your mind later!) And guess what? I didn’t have a second choice. Finding the right daycare for my son was an overwhelming aspect. My town has over 20 daycares, some were proper facilities while other were at-home daycares, and I started narrowing down the list by availability.

In the end, we decided to go with a Waldorf-inspired daycare, which seems to be absolutely perfect for my son. But it was a process to make this decision and it’s not an easy one to make! After going through it firsthand, I thought I’d write a post about what to look for in a daycare, and how to find the right fit for your child. Hope this helps any parent out there who’s starting this search or even in the middle of it!

find-best-daycare 1. What kind of daycare are you looking for?

To find excellent day care for your child, you must first try and figure out what type of daycare you are looking for. Are you looking for a large facility with many children, or a smaller, at-home daycare with fewer kids? Are you looking for a play-based atmosphere or one with an educational curriculum added? Are you looking for features like bilingual learning? Is outdoor play important to you? How about creative arts and messy time?

Location can also be a factor in  your decision – should you choose something closer to work or closer to home? Would a Montessori-based facility be something that would fit with your child, or maybe a Waldorf-inspired setting? These questions should help you narrow down the list of potential daycares and help guide you to find what’s best for your child.

2. Do the research!

Make a list of local daycares that might interest you. Contact a local childcare resource centre for a complete list of licensed daycares, with phone numbers and possible availabilities. Check out a potential daycare’s website or Facebook page, and see if one sparks your interest. Many daycare websites show photos of their facilities and how kids interact in their surroundings, which will give you an idea of what the daycare is about.

There are some daycare review sites out there, which I didn’t find overly helpful for myself since I live in such a small town. But in a larger metropolitan area, there seemed to be reviews of many daycare facilities on there.

3. Ask Other Parents

Ask friends and family for referrals to great daycares. Contact your neighbours, ask parents from playgroups, and even at the local swimming pool. People in  your community are a great resource of information. Ask people on Facebook as well, look for a local parenting group and ask for people’s opinions on different daycares.

I’m very fortunate to live in a place that has a ton of children, and Facebook is highly used to find out about family-related events in town, information about schools and playgroups, and even where to find a pair of rain boots for your kid. When people love a daycare, they will tell you their honest opinion of it, good and bad. Be sure to keep in mind that they’re speaking from their own experiences, and yours might be different.

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4. Visit the Daycares

Booking a visit with a daycare will give you a glimpse into how their facility runs, how the teachers interact with the children, and what their daily schedules are like. Pay attention to cleanliness, what types of toys are available, how the teachers might discipline the children, and the overall atmosphere in the room (is it calm? does it feel overwhelming? are kids screaming? are children generally happy?).

Be sure to ask the administrator many questions, and see how they respond to your most important needs. I’m a firm believer of going with my gut, and if something doesn’t feel right, there’s usually a reason for it. Don’t be afraid to book another visit, or pop-in unexpectedly, if you’re not 100% sure about a place. You want to ensure that your child will be safe and happy while spending his days here.

Questions to Ask Your Daycare

  • What are the daily hours and how flexible is their schedule?
  • What availability do you have for my child?
  • Are there fees for late pick up?
  • What is the child to adult ratio?
  • What are the teachers and assistants credentials?
  • How do you handle separation anxiety?
  • What food is provided and what food must the child bring?
  • Are there any stipulations on food that’s allowed (ie. allergies, nutrition)?
  • Are nap times provided and/or mandatory? Where do they sleep?
  • Is there an education curriculum?
  • What is the daily schedule?
  • How much outdoor time is available to the children?
  • How are the children disciplined?
  • How is toilet training handled?
  • What is your sick policy?
  • Are you closed on holidays?
  • Are you closed for vacations in the summer?
  • Do you have a list of references?

5. Sign Me Up!

So you’ve found the daycare of your dreams? Before you commit to anything, book an hour or two for your child to be in the daycare, with you there, to see how he or she interacts with the environment. Depending on the child, you might want to go a few times.

Every daycare has a ‘gradual entry’ period, to introduce the child to the facility. The idea is to drop off the child for an hour the first day, two hours the next, etc, as long as the child reacts positively and is enjoying the daycare. This helps reduce separation anxiety, and gives kids the time to adjust to a new routine.

6. No Guilt, No Regrets

Most daycares also have a clause in their contracts that a parent is allowed to pull their child from the daycare within the first 4-6 weeks without penalty. If the child has been at their new daycare for a few weeks, and you simply don’t feel like your child is happy or flourishing there, it’s okay to change your mind. Realize that bad days do happen, but if problems continue it may be time to look for another program.

BUT DROP THE MOMMY GUILT! Recognize the advantages of having quality childcare – your child is developing, creating new relationships with other children, and learning things outside of the home. Don’t feel guilty about that! After picking up your child from daycare, keep your time with them easy and free – play with them, cuddle, relax and unwind so you can both enjoy each other and still have time together.

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Searching for the perfect daycare for your child can be a long process. You want to be sure that you’re leaving your child in the care of someone trustworthy, a place that your child will flourish and grow developmentally, and you want what’s best for your family.

Once you find the right daycare, you should feel comfortable in knowing that your child is in a place where he or she will be happy, healthy, and well-looked after.

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  • Your suggestion to visit the daycare was very helpful. Seeing the facility during hours will give you an idea of how it will be when your child attends. Taking the child with you may give you an idea of how your child will react to it.

  • My child has doesn’t do too well being away from me, and so I really like your question about how the day care center handles separation anxiety. I definitely want to make sure that my child’s emotional needs are met when I leave him at the center for the first time next week. However, what can I do to do my part in helping him adjust to going there so that he doesn’t have to feel as stressed about it?

  • Knowing what the sick policy is good for you to know so you don’t expect to drop your child off when in reality you won’t be able to. That could end up ruining your day, as you will need to find someone else to care for your child. Knowing beforehand will allow you time to either find someone else to watch your child or allow for you to take time off of work.

  • I like your idea on taking the time to research a daycare before you choose it. I would imagine that looking into a website before you choose them would give you useful information. I’m looking for a daycare for my son so I’ll have to do plenty of research before I choose one.