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12 Questions to Ask a Potential Daycare Provider


12 Questions to Ask a Potential Daycare Provider

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, everyone told me to find childcare right away. As a new mom, I didn’t realize how long the waitlists for daycare centers and in-home caregivers could be. When it came to deciding who would be responsible for our child day in, day out, we had to consider our work schedules, budget, and parenting style. I worried about asking the right questions and not looking overly anxious, but I knew it was important to find the best fit for our family. That’s why we put together this list of 12 key questions to ask a daycare provider to help others going through the same process.

Once you’ve narrowed down your daycare options, be prepared to ask a lot of questions. It’s normal and expected. It’s the best way to determine the best fit for you and your family. Coming to an interview with a list of questions can keep your thoughts organized and ensure that you get all the information you need to make an informed decision. That’s why we’ve put together a quick list of the 12 questions to ask a daycare provider when you’re trying to make this decision.

12 Questions to Ask a Potential Daycare Provider

1. Are you licensed?

According to Brigida Aversa, founder and COO of Tiny Hoppers, the first step in choosing a daycare is to ensure they are operating legally and have the necessary documentation. Asking for all related information is essential to ensure your child is in good hands. Most traditional care centers are assumed to be licensed, but it’s important to ask to see documentation as well as a rating from the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). Also, it’s a good idea to ask in-home providers how long they’ve been offering childcare and request recommendations from other parents.

2. What are your rates?

During a daycare tour, it’s worth confirming rates and policies around extra fees. It’s important to ask about late pick-up fees and whether there are additional charges for early drop-off or late pick-up. Other questions to consider include the payment methods accepted, frequency of payment, and potential variations in rates based on the child’s age. If signing a contract, it’s essential to inquire about late fees and charges for cancellation or removal of the child from care.

3. What are your policies on vacation/sick days/snow days/summer hours/etc.?

Understanding how vacation time, sick days, snow days, and summer hours will work is crucial. Other important questions to cover include the duration of time a child needs to stay home when ill, daycare closures due to inclement weather, holidays when the daycare is closed, school closure guidelines followed, and options for vacation days with no charge.

4. What are your teacher-to-child ratios?

According to parenting and child safety expert, Krystal Rogers-Nelson, understanding classroom size and caregiver turnover can help determine if a daycare will provide a safe and happy environment for the child. It’s important to ask about the teacher-to-child ratio, staff turnover, caregiver tenure, and required certifications.

Meet the expert
Krystal Rogers-Nelson
Krystal is a mother of two with over 14 years of experience in managing education programs in the nonprofit industry. She is the Content Strategist at SafeWise.

“All caregivers should be certified in first aid and CPR, and ideally have a certification in early child development/teaching,” Rogers says. “Or, at least two years of college in early child development, as well as additional training/professional development each year that keeps up with the latest research and trends in evidence-based, quality care.”

For in-home providers, they should have key certifications such as CPR, but they may not have an education background or anticipate playing the role of a teacher. It’s important to inquire about the teacher-to-child ratio and the ages of the children they care for.

Observing how teachers interact with children during a tour or visiting an in-home when children are present can provide valuable insights into the caregiving environment. Ohio mom Lisa Deliberato emphasizes the importance of children being surrounded by adults who inspire them to learn, treat each other with respect, and make them feel safe.

5. Is there a weekly learning plan?

In my experience, the main difference between in-home and center-based care is the curriculum. Center-based care typically has structured learning plans, while in-home care tends to be more relaxed in this regard. Parents can inquire about the types of activities and screen time policies to ensure a balance between education and fun for their child.

Understanding the schedule of the day and the promotion of different types of play through a weekly or monthly learning plan at a center can be beneficial. It’s also important to know about outdoor playtime and temperature guidelines for outdoor activities.

Parents can also ask about playtime, including the play environment and activities, to make informed decisions about their child’s care.

6. What food and drink are provided?

Inquiring about the provider’s stance on food and drink, including meal and snack options, is essential. Parents should discuss their expectations regarding food preparation and handling, as well as the provider’s adherence to nutritional guidelines.

Deliberato emphasizes the importance of daycare options aligning with parents’ efforts to provide a healthy diet for their child. Parents can also inquire about alternative menu options and bringing their own meals for their child.

7. Can you tell me about your discipline policy?

Understanding the provider’s approach to discipline is crucial for parents. Asking hypothetical situations and making observations during tours can provide insights into the provider’s discipline, cleanliness, and safety precautions.

Parents should look for teachers who are firm but fair and maintain composure in handling discipline. Observing the environment, including bathrooms, kitchen, playground, and toys/playroom, can lead to constructive conversations about discipline.

8. How do you communicate with parents?

Communication methods between the daycare provider and parents, such as apps, texts, calls, or emails, should be discussed. The ability to check in during the day and receive updates about their child’s activities and well-being is essential for parents.

Daily reports and easy access to information through communication channels are valuable for parents.

9. Where do kids nap?

Understanding the daycare provider’s approach to napping, including sleeping arrangements, napping schedule, and handling of children who have difficulty napping, is important for parents of young children.

Jannae L. shares her experience of transitioning her child’s napping environment and highlights the impact it had on her child’s ability to nap in different settings.

10. What are your policies and childcare philosophies?

Understanding the daycare provider’s policies and childcare philosophies is crucial for parents to ensure alignment with their own parenting values and expectations.

Parents should ensure that the daycare provider’s policies work for their family and their child’s well-being.When choosing a childcare provider for your child, it’s important to consider their approach to care. According to Rogers, it’s crucial to ensure that the provider’s philosophy aligns with your own and that they have clear policies for handling sick children, emergencies, and payments. It’s also beneficial to look for a varied curriculum, opportunities for student-led activities, and caring discipline strategies that focus on guiding and redirecting rather than punishing or shaming.

Another important question to ask is how the staff members are vetted. Inquiring about the qualifications and background checks of the staff members who will be interacting with your child can provide additional peace of mind.

Understanding how the childcare provider comforts upset children is also important. This goes hand in hand with knowing their disciplinary policies and sharing how your child deals with stressful situations. Compassion is a crucial quality in a caregiver, so knowing you can expect this can be a significant advantage.

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