Before you enroll your child in a child care center, make an appointment to see the facility in action to observe the caregivers and children. You will want to observe the environment to see if it is safe for your child and determine if the program is designed to enrich your child’s development and growth. Be sure to bring your child along. Here are some things to observe and questions to ask the center director.
Facility Information and Policies
- What is the center’s history, and how long has it been providing care?
- What are the center’s goals and philosophies, and what guidelines are followed?
- Has the center ever been cited for a violation of any kind?
- What is the rate of employee turnover?
- What are the hours and days of operation?
- What are the fees, what is included with the fees and when are payments due?
- If my child is absent for any reason, am I still charged?
- Is a fee charged if I am late picking up my child?
- What are the acceptance requirements? Are all ages accepted? Are children with special needs accepted?
- Does the center keep a daily log that I can examine?
- Have any accidents or injuries occurred?
- What happens in the event of an emergency, such as injury or fire?
- What happens if my child is sick? What are the rules about bringing mildly ill children to day care?
- Are parents allowed to participate in caregiving? Can I visit the center anytime to observe my child? How can I get more involved?
- What are children allowed to bring or not bring?
- How often are the facilities, toys and equipment cleaned?
- Do you have at least five references I can call?
- Can you provide me with any written information describing program policies, health forms, payment contracts, fee schedules, sample menus, etc.?
- Is your center accredited by any national child care organization, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)? (Be aware that only about 7,000 centers nationwide have NAEYC accreditation. Many excellent centers are not accredited, but those that are have completed a rigorous process.)
Staff Qualifications and Ratios
- What is the staff-to-child ratio?
- What formal training do staffers have?
- Do staffers have special training in infant/child CPR and first aid?
- Do staff demonstrate patience, friendliness and a sense of humor to children?
- What are the qualifications for being a main teacher or an aide?
- How many different caregivers will be with my child during the day?
- How are staff screened in the hiring process? Is a criminal background check completed?
- What is the pay range for staff, and how does it compare to other local centers?
- What is the turnover rate?
Philosophy of Care
- How many children are cared for at one time, and what are the maximum limits?
- Can you give me a chronology of an average day, such as what events and activities will occur?
- Do the children appear comfortable, happy and relaxed?
- How are classes structured: by age, ability?
- What are the disciplinary approaches used, and how are conflicts handled?
- How are chronic discipline issues addressed?
- If television is allowed, what kind and how often?
- What type of food is provided and when?
- Is there a designated rest time, and is my child allowed to nap if he or she is tired? What do the children sleep on during naptime?
- How often will I be given progress reports on my child, and will areas of concern regarding behaviors or conflicts be communicated to me?
Skills and Activities
- What is the schedule of activities?
- What new skills can my child expect to learn?
- What is the balance between structured and independent learning?
- Are there any field trips? How will my child be supervised? What is the mode of transportation?
- What activities are available for children to do independently? Are there designated areas for group vs. independent play?
- Do children participate in reading and music to aid in speech and cognitive development?
Questions about Infants/Toddlers
- Describe the type of activities or stimulation children receive.
- Are records kept on diapering, eating and sleeping?
- Is food provided, or do I bring it? Can I see a weekly menu?
- Are diapers provided?
- How is toilet training handled?
- How often are children brought outdoors?
- How long are children kept in cribs or playpens while awake?
- How is separation anxiety handled?
Questions about Children with Special Needs
- How many children with special needs are currently enrolled or have been cared for in the past?
- What training do staff members receive in caring for the special needs of some children?
- How large are the groups? Are children with special needs integrated into the mainstream classrooms?
- What type of special attention will my child receive?
- What are the planned activities? Can you include activities recommended by my child’s doctor or therapist?
- Do you have special equipment for my child?
- Are any support services available (e.g., occupational therapists, speech pathologists)?
- National Association for the Education of Young Children – Accredited Program Search: http://families.naeyc.org/find-quality-child-care
- American Academy of Pediatrics: www.healthychildren.org
©2020 ComPsych ® Corporation. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only. It is always important to consult with the appropriate professional on financial, medical, legal, behavioral or other issues. As you read this information, it is your responsibility to make sure that the facts and ideas apply to your situation.