Weigh your options. The type of child care you want should be the first decision you make. Child care centers, in-home providers and family care providers offer a range of services. It’s important to determine what will work best for you and your child.
Make a wish list. Before you begin your search, list your expectations and preferences.
Know your budget and what value and benefit your child will receive from the care selected. Child care costs can be staggering, so consider your options and your budget carefully.
Start early. Some of the best child care providers also have the longest waiting lists. It’s best to begin your search well ahead of time. If your first choice isn’t available, get on the waiting list, while you pursue other options.
License, please. Know your state’s licensing regulations and make sure the provider qualifies with no history of violations. Find out whether the provider has accreditation from a respected authority, which can include National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or National Accreditation Commission (NAC).
Visit the facility. Consider bringing your child with you to observe his or her interaction with the provider.
Don’t settle. Even if your search gets exhausting, don’t settle on a provider until you are positively satisfied.
Friendly faces & warm hellos. Perspective parents should be greeted by staff with a smile and introduction. That speaks volumes about an organization. If parents are touring the site with their child, the teacher should greet the child and ask his or her name.
Kid-level conversations. Watch the room for teachers bending down or going on one knee to talk to kids at their level. Their tone of voice should also be positive and reaffirming.
A stimulating setting. Primary colors can be the go-to décor for some centers, but make sure the setting is more than just basic red, yellow and blue. Quality childcare providers should display lots of art featuring kids and real-life images. It should be hung at child height so they can see it. Good providers will often have classical or other kid-friendly music playing softly in the background to make the space more welcoming.
Learning labels. A quality environment should have lots of print or labels in areas where children store their belongings, games, art supplies, etc. This helps children learn vocabulary and writing. For Pre-K students, having examples of their writing on the wall is helpful for children learning to write.
Hands–on activities. Ask for examples of what the children will be doing during the day. This should include active, hands-on exercises and activities that stimulate the children’s senses. A great child care provider will have ways for kids to “learn by doing” and broach subjects ranging from home living to math and science.
Safety first. Ask the staff what procedures they have in place for sign-in, sign-out and visitors. Some locations even make copies of the IDs of individuals picking up the child.
Relax. Once you’ve done your research and made your choice, have confidence in your decision and faith in your provider unless you have reason to think otherwise.