It’s often hard to think of questions to ask daycare providers before enrolling your child. For many parents, this is a brand new experience — and it’s hard enough trying to think about how you’ll cope during the day having someone else watch your kid, especially for new moms. Even if everyone you know has had a great experience with dropping their kids off somewhere, you might still be stressing entirely over whether or not you can trust someone new.
Of course, what to ask potential daycare providers depends on many different factors, including where you live. To help, we asked a few experts to weigh in on what to consider when choosing a daycare for your child.
What are the daycare’s policies?
Where do they stand on sick days? Time-outs for kids? How about the type of events that merit a call to parents? “Definitely ask about their policies — it might not seem like the most important thing when you’re looking for daycare, but it should be at the top of the deciding factors,” Undomestic Mom’s Taran Conwell, who ran a home daycare for five years (and has counseled many families on finding a daycare that is right for their family) tells Scary Mommy.
“A great curriculum won’t make up for an infant sleep policy that you’re not comfortable with. You can call most daycares during the initial stage of your search and ask for a copy of their policies and handbook. That way, you won’t waste time touring daycares that intrinsically don’t work for your family.”
How are the daycare teachers treated?
According to Conwell, a daycare’s staff should play a significant role in determining if the daycare is a good fit for your family since the teachers will spend the most time with your kiddo(s). “If you’re at a daycare center, ask about how the staff is treated. What is their sick leave like? Do they get paid vacations, benefits, etc.? It will always go back to the teachers; they will have the biggest impact on your child’s life, and you want them to enjoy their job and not be in a toxic work environment,” Conwell advises.
Dr. Jessica Biren Caverly — licensed psychologist, founder of Western Connecticut Behavioral Health, and mom of two kids in daycare — also suggests asking about the staff. “Do the staff stay with the same age group daily or rotate classrooms? I wanted teachers who were very familiar with my child and my child’s individual needs,” she says. For this reason, she considers staff that rotates between rooms daily to be a red flag, especially with the health and safety concerns associated with COVID-19.
Are there any restricted areas in the daycare?
Dr. Biren Caverly suggests walking around any area where your child will be cared for to check for parts that seem off-limits or inaccessible for the children. “I picked a daycare with a large window the length of the room so I could see everything going on in the room from outside the classroom,” she explains, underscoring the importance of transparency between teachers and parents. “In addition, without restricted areas, everything was out in the open and available for me to inspect.”
Even if children are not allowed in an area for safety reasons (for example, the kitchen), parents should always be allowed to see all spaces and ask relevant questions about the safety and monitoring of those spaces.
What type of play and enrichment programs do they offer?
The early education experts at The Goddard School, one of the largest early childcare providers in the U.S., recommend asking questions that pertain to how your child will be spending their recreational time.
“Find a school that puts a priority on learning through play. For young children, play is unstructured and freeing. It’s not about expensive toys. In fact, the simpler the toy, the more ways it can be used by a child developing their imagination. Toys and equipment should be carefully chosen — first for safety and then for how they stimulate young imaginations and help children develop,” says the Goddard School’s early education experts.
Also, does the daycare offer multi-cultural and developmentally appropriate materials and equipment? Do you feel a sense of respect for diversity and respect for various cultures? Both are important questions to ask, per Goddard’s experts.
How is daily communication handled?
Do you want to get updates about what your child is doing throughout the day? Or will you be content with a daily report given at pickup? Either way, you’ll want to know how your little one spent their time away from you.
“A modernized daycare will have an app that parents can download to keep informed about their child throughout the day, where a daily record of toileting and meals is kept,” says Whitney Rancourt, elementary school teacher, literacy interventionist, and founder of Mama Manages. “There will often be photos posted throughout the day as well.”
Other Questions to Ask Daycare Providers
Having a list of topics to discuss with a potential daycare can help you feel more confident. Aside from your personal questions, you should also look up reviews and ask for references from local parenting groups on social media. All three will help ease your mind and make you feel better about going back to work or tending to personal issues you need to take care of during the day.
Here are some other good questions to ask daycare providers. And remember, no question is a “dumb question” — when it comes to your kids, you have a right to feel completely secure about your decision.
- How many children are in the class?
- What’s the child-to-teacher ratio?
- Are you licensed?
- What is your procedure if a child is sick?
- How do you handle injuries that may happen during the day?
- How do you handle a child bullying another child?
- What are your methods for a child who becomes unruly?
- What are your techniques for discipline?
- How are you sanitizing your classrooms and meeting rooms for COVID-19 and flu season?
- How do you handle potty training? Do children need to be potty trained at a certain age?
- How often do you change diapers?
- What do you require us to bring from home on a daily basis?
- Do you have a lockdown procedure in case of a threat?
- What safety and security measures are practiced and actively reviewed?
- Do you provide an educational curriculum?
- Will parents get a heads up on the curriculum ahead of time?
- Are you a nut-free facility?
- How do you handle allergies?
- What kind of foods are served here, or does all food come from home?
- Will there be reports on what my child ate that day?
- What’s your policy regarding outside guests?
- What would you do if someone called in a threat?
- When are you closed?
- What are your hours? What procedures are in place if a parent is running late?
- Will I get to know the teachers and aides beforehand?
- How do you alert parents of special days and events?
- Do the kids go outside at all? What’s the protocol?
- When kids are outside, is the fencing secure? Is there any way someone can lure a child from outside the fence?
- Are there safe, age-appropriate outdoor play areas and playsets?
- Who do I contact if my child is sick?
- How many hours in advance do you need to know we won’t be coming in? Will we be charged?
- Do you hold any events outside regular hours?
- How can I find out how my child is doing?
- Do you send home reports, or have cameras that parents can access from home?
- How long have the current staff members been here?
- Does the staff have access to ongoing training?
- When is tuition due?
- What kind of background checks do you ask employees to undergo?
- Are employees CPR certified?
- I’m a nursing mom — can I bring in breastmilk?
- How will breastmilk be stored if I bring it in?
- Do you allow parents to stop in?
- How do you handle children who need daily medication?
- How do you handle nap time?
- What’s the procedure if a child refuses to nap?
- Do you celebrate holidays with children?
- Is there a dress code?
- Is this daycare welcoming of LGBTQ+ households?
- Are staff members immunized?
- Does this building have any class pets or animals?
- Are there separate sinks for washing hands and food prep for children?
- How often are the rooms thoroughly cleaned?
- How do you handle staff vacation days?
- Do you provide a tax receipt?
- Do you take pictures during the day? Are those available online?
- What degrees, certifications, or training does your staff have? Are background checks done on all your employees?
- How long has the current staff been working at your site? How high is the employee turnover each year?
- How do you keep parents updated on their kid’s daily activities or behavior? Do you offer a daily report, and if so, through which kinds of communication?
- Do you have a potty-training procedure?
Additional Questions to Ask In-Home Daycare Providers
- Who else lives in the home with you?
- Do any outside friends or visitors come by during daycare hours?
- What is your maximum class size?
- What’s your relationship like with your neighborhood?
- How long have you been in operation?
- Do you have any references I can call?
- What is your vacation or sick policy? Will someone cover in your absence?
- What holidays do you take off?
- How much screen time do you allow?
- What is your daily rate?
Questions to Ask Day Care Providers About COVID-19
As we move through the pandemic, COVID-19 is still very much a reality, and it’s essential we keep our little ones safe. It’s even more important to understand how your daycare provides that security and care. Here are a few questions to ask your daycare provider, so everyone’s on the same page and has peace of mind.
- What will you do if a staff member or child comes down with COVID-19?
- Will there be daily health checks? If so, will they be conducted in the home or on-site?
- Have any staff or children in your care been sick with COVID-19? What went well in your response? What do you think can be improved for next time?
- Will my child be required to wear a face mask?
- Am I still responsible for tuition/payment if my child is sent home sick?
- How will it be reported to families if there is a case of COVID-19 at the center?
- How are high-touch items and toys kept clean and sanitized?
- Do staff members always wear masks?
- How often do you clean and disinfect the facility?
- What is the protocol for staff who have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to a sick person at home?
- What are the handwashing codes?
- How many kids will be in my child’s group? Will my child stay with the same class and teacher all day or will they be switching?
- Are visitors allowed to stop by? Do you have a volunteer program and if so what health and safety procedures do they follow?
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