Selecting a Child-Care Center

Learn what to ask about and look for when sizing up a center.
Nov 28, 2012



Mother with toddler boy (1-3) near daycare centre

Nov 28, 2012

Put as much care into choosing the right child-care program for your child as you would into selecting an elementary school or even a college. Two important resources are the program's director and your tour of the facility.


Talking to the Director
Be sure to cover these crucial issues:

  • Normal hours
  • Days closed
  • Fees for care (full-time/part-time)
  • Other fees
  • Payment policies (including sick days and vacation)
  • Are meals and snack provided, and is the food nutritious?
  • Are diapers and wipes provided?
  • Can parents drop off a child anytime?
  • What is their policy when your child becomes ill and you cannot be reached?
  • What is their staff retention rate?
  • What is the average tenure of the staff?
  • Do they perform criminal background checks?
  • What are their requirements for teachers/caregivers and support staff?
  • Is staff training ongoing?
  • How many staff members have CPR and first-aid training?
  • What emergency procedures are in place?
  • How many caregivers/teachers are employed?
  • On average, how many children are at the center?
  • What are the age groupings?
  • How many children would be in your child's group and what is the teacher/caregiver ratio?
  • Does this ratio meet or exceed state requirements?
  • Please provide three parent references.

Touring the Facility
Look for the following keys to quality:

  • Teachers speaking kindly and firmly
  • Teachers sitting with children during various activities and helping them to find enjoyable activities
  • Staff washing hands before food preparation and before and after diapering
  • Staff responding promptly if a child is in distress or has a problem
  • Teachers resolving disputes between children fairly and calmly
  • Children seeming happy and relaxed and free to investigate their surroundings
  • Age-appropriate activities
  • Facility looks and smells clean
  • Toy materials are in good condition
  • Center is child-proofed
  • Children cannot leave a room undetected
  • There is active play and quiet play
  • Impact-absorbing materials surround play structures
  • Play area is fenced in
  • Adequate staff on hand at all times

Recommended Adult-to-Child Ratios
As every parent knows, kids need a lot of attention. So make sure that any family child care home or child care center has enough adults on hand. It's also important that the group size be small enough to permit control of the noise and energy level. Here are some guidelines:

  • Infants (up to 12 months): No more than eight babies per group; one adult for every four babies.
  • Young Toddlers (12 to 24 months): No more than 12 kids per group; one adult for every four children.
  • Older Toddlers (24 to 30 months): No more than 12 children per group; one adult for every six children.
  • Preschoolers (30 months to 4 years): No more than 20 children per group; one adult for every 10 children.
Choosing Schools & Programs
Age 2
Age 1
Early Childhood Care and Education
Child and Infant Care