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Day Care Dilemma

Making the right choice for your family

We make decisions every day. While some are important others are trivial. In the grand scheme, not many decisions rank with selecting someone to care for your child.

As you begin your search, there are a few thing you should consider before deciding on a day care provider.


You will have to decide whether you prefer a commercial setting or a private one. Private day cares are typically at someone’s home and usually consist of just the owner as the care provider and sometimes an assistant. The student count is less than a commercial setting and your child may feel more at home in this environment. If your child does better in a small group, this may be the ideal setting. A commercial day care center is going to have multiple teachers, a higher number of students as well as more space. If your child thrives in large groups and enjoys lots of interaction, this may be a good choice.


It’s important to know how the center handles situations as well as your child’s individual needs.

  • Do you have a written copy of all policies?
  • What is the policy when children are sick?
  • What is the discipline policy?
  • How is medicine administered?
  • How does the center get important information to the parents about illnesses and any other important issues or changes?
  • What is the hand washing policy and is it enforced? This applies to the employees as much as it does the children.
  • What is the policy for picking up a child? How do they identify a new person picking up your child in an emergency? Will they contact you before allowing someone to pick up your child?


We have a habit of noticing the obvious things. Sometimes, it takes a closer look to see what is most important. View the entire facility not just as a parent, but the way your child will see it. They tend to always find a way even when we don’t think a way is possible.

  • Are the licensing credentials and fire escape plan prominently posted?
  • Do they have fire drills regularly?
  • Are there smoke alarms?
  • Is there a log that shows the fire alarms are tested regularly?
  • Do the children have access to areas that are considered unsafe?
  • Can they get to the kitchen?
  • Can they easily get out of their designated area?
  • Are the bathrooms secure?
  • Are all doors to the outside properly locked?
  • Are the locks out of the reach of the children?
  • Are the electrical outlets covered?
  • Are there wires exposed?
  • Are the toys in each area age appropriate?
  • Are there small pieces that have made it in with the toddlers?
  • What condition are the outdoor toys in?
  • Is the equipment broken or rusted?
  • Can young children get to high places that are designated for older children?
  • Is there any possible way your child can get out of the playground area and make it to the road?
  • Are the children protected from strangers?
  • Is the kitchen clean?
  • Is food properly stored?
  • How are the kids given snacks/meals?


Regardless of the type of facility you choose, you are likely going to narrow your choices. Ask to view the facility’s license. Ask whether employees’ are trained in first aid and CPR as well as childhood development. Try to visit during drop off or pick up hours. This will give you several opportunities to meet other parents. Albeit brief, you will surely find someone who wants to rave about it or explain why they are unhappy. Make sure that they have an open door policy. Stop by unannounced during the day. You will get to see the actual workings of the day care and attitude of the employees.

Ask Questions

There truly is no such thing as a stupid question. Only bad answers. This is your opportunity to get all of the information you need and want.

  • Ask how many children there are for each staff member. In preschool age children, there should be 1 adult for every 10 students. In the infant and toddler areas there should be at least 1 adult for every 4 children.
  • Ask how they keep the facility, toys included, cleaned and disinfected.
  • Ask how they keep younger children separated from older children.
  • Ask if all children are required to have vaccinations before attending the facility?
  • Ask the owner why they chose to go into childcare. If they truly love their job, they should beam with pride as they talk about why they do what they do.
  • Ask about the employee turnover. Ask how long each employee has been with the center.
  • Ask what criteria is used in the hiring process. Ask if a background check is performed.
  • Ask about the turnover with the children. They should be happy to boast about those kids that have been with them since they were infants.
  • Ask if the workplace is a happy environment and if the caregivers are fairly compensated.
  • Ask what hours the caregiver typically works in a day/week.
  • Ask any of the caregivers if they like their job. If no one is around, a disgruntled employee is going to give you enough information that will help you decide. It doesn’t matter if it is a poor attitude of the employee or the poor working conditions of the center. Either way, they will impact your child in an adverse way.

It’s not always what they say, but how they say it. If the provider avoids answering or seems to dismiss your question, that may be a red flag. Someone who loves what they do, feels good about how they treat their employees as well as how the children are treated should be able to answer those questions without missing a beat. If the provider is offended by your questions, it isn’t the right center for you. A good day care provider will understand that they are being considered for the responsibility of your most cherished gift – your child. Be reasonable and respectful and the conversation should go off without a problem.

The First Week

Whether this is your child’s first day care or fifth, each experience is unique. Stay positive. If you did your homework and followed your gut, give the provider and your child time to adjust. It’s difficult to get in your car and have a productive day at work when your kid almost had to be surgically removed from your leg. But, they adapt. Listen to what your child says but reassure him that it’s OK. Often, after the parent leaves, the child has a great day. It’s only when mom or dad come around that they start to break down. Try to watch from afar before alerting your child that you are there to pick him up. You will be able to see for yourself how well he is doing.


If your child comes home every day and cries about not wanting to go back, only you can decide the best course of action. If your child has spent no real time away from you until now, this transition may not go as smoothly as you expected. You may need to be more patient. If your child is normally outgoing, happy and social but now complains, you may need to investigate further. If you feel something is wrong, speak directly to the director of the day care. They should be able to put you at ease as well as assist in getting to the root cause of the problem. If you feel avoided or dismissed, it may be time to search for a new day care.

There are an abundance of people out there who thoroughly enjoy taking care of children. Find the one that fits your family and will provide a happy, loving and educational atmosphere. Try not to spend all day agonizing over what kind of day your child is having. Remember that you’ll come home to the precious faces of your most cherished gifts−your family.

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