Before you enroll {questions to ask child care providers}

child care questions

Here is a checklist you can use when touring and interviewing both center based and in home daycares.

  • Is the center licensed?

Ask to see the license- it needs to be on display. Look and see how many children the center is licensed for and what ages and make sure that this matches what the provider has told you.

Ask to see the last licensing visit notes. These are the notes the state licensor has made and noted on his or her last visit. The licensor makes notes of any safety hazards and other infractions the center may have been issued. They must by law allow you to see this.

  • Is there an open door policy for parents, can you walk in at any time unannounced? If not LEAVE.
  • What are the operating hours? Is there a late fee if you are late picking up?
  • When is the center closed? Holiday, staff training days etc.
  • When is tuition due? Does the rate changes as your child ages?
  • How is the daycare secured? Is there a code on the door? How often is it changed?
  • What is the policy if someone other than you or your spouse is to pick the child up?
  • In home care setting who else in the family has access to your child?
  • Are other parents left alone with children other than their own while at the center?
  • What is the teacher to child ratio?
  • Are children segregated by age?
  • How are employees screened? How long have all the employees worked for the daycare? Expect some turnover, focus on any long term employees which is a very good sign! What sort of training and certifications do the care givers have?
  • Is everyone in the building trained in infant and child CPR, First Aid and bloodborne pathogens?
  • Has everyone working in the building been tested for tuberculosis?
  • How are the staff trained throughout the year?
  • How do staff members communicate with parents and vice versa? Many larger centers will have a daily sheet that records what the child ate, how long they slept etc.
  • What are the children fed throughout the day? Do you provide food or does the center provide all meals?
  • Is infant formula included? Can you bring expressed breast milk?
  • Is the kitchen clean and tidy?
  • How does the center deal with allergies?
  • Where are babies fed? Are they held when they are eating? Are you free and welcome to come in to nurse at any time?
  • Is there a fridge in the infant/ toddler classrooms to refrigerate bottles without the teacher having to leave the room?
  • How are bottles labeled? What do they do with left over formula/ Breast milk?
  • How do they avoid bottle sharing among mobile babies?
  • Are there appropriate diaper change facilities?What is the cleaning procedure for change tables? Are diapers/ wipes provided?
  • Does the room smell? Are garbage / diapers pails emptied out more than once a day?
  • Are babies allowed to sleep in swings? How do they deal with colicky babies?
  • Are babies put on their backs to sleep? Are staff trained re: SIDS ?
  • Does each child have their own crib or sleeping cot if older? How often are sheets and blankets cleaned?
  • How often are toys sanitized?How often are floors mopped?How often are rugs vacuumed?
  • How are medications stored? Who is authorized to administer the medication to your child?
  • What is the sick policy- when must a child be sent home?
  • What if the provider is sick- are there subs to replace the teacher or does the center close for the day?
  • Are there routine fire/ earthquake /tornado /lockdown drills? Where is this recorded?
  • Ask to see the disaster plan. There should be a safe place designated and a plan of action in case of evacuation.
  • Are the hallways/ fire exits clear of toys, furniture, and other hazards?
  • Are cupboards, storage closets, staff rooms and such locked and inaccessible to children?
  • What is the discipline policy?
  • How do they handle potty training? What about accidents in older children?
  • What do they do with children who bite/ get bitten?
  • Are there adequate toys? Are they in good repair? Do you see a lot of books?
  • What is the daily schedule? What sort of activities will your child be doing?
  • Ask to see a lesson plan if possible.
  •  How is sunscreen applied and do you need to sign any forms for it?
  • What vaccinations are required?

Tips for tours: Walk slowly and don’t allow yourself to be rushed through, stop and look at anything and everything. Look to see how teachers interact with the children, are they on the floor playing, holding infants or talking to them? Use all five senses: How does the center smell? Do you hear a lot of yelling? Is there music playing or books being read? Is there a lot of light? Ask to see the food that is served, would you want to eat it? Are the classrooms cheerful? Are the floors soft and safe to play on? After the tour return to the director’s office or somewhere quiet to talk- ask yourself if you are comfortable with this person caring for your child? Ask any questions you think of and don’t be shy! And finally ask if you can bring your child in and spend some time observing a classroom to help make your decision.

Most importantly how do you feel ?

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  1. says

    This is a perfect list to keep in mind when getting ready to enroll your child. I only have one child, so this is my first time going through this and I’m nervous. You made really good points I can refer to when I’m visiting the place, so I’ll keep an eye out for the smaller details like the cleanliness of the kitchen, and how it’s secured. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Amanda says

    All of these are EXCELLENT points to look at/for when choosing a daycare for your child but it makes me sad to see “look at the lesson plan” at the end of this list. Now, daycares are considered places for your child to recieve an early education. Look at things like: theme/ play based, cognitive and sensory throuhout the program, art and dramatoc play in tod/pre classes. Dont forget gross motor and outdoor play! Look into the difference between theme and play based and decide which one you prefer (I would go for play based). Its just as important to know what your child is doing during the day as it is to know the itty bitty health and safety details. Most centers can explain their policies and procedures to any parent, along with their employees training etc, very easily. All daycared require an ECE diploma and employees to have Cpr, first aid, police check and tb test.
    Education is important! Its not just a daycare.
    Source: Im a registered Early Childhood Educator

  3. Becky says

    As an early childhood teacher, I can say this is a good list of things to look for. I can only imagine how hard this task is. Bottom line, if you’re not comfortable with the place, your child won’t be either. Ask questions and take your time when choosing your child’s preschool.

  4. Betty says

    Ha, well I’ve been a home preschool provider for 25 years and my kitchen is never clean until the children go home. I can’t do childcare and housekeeping at the same time to go easy on us home providers. Otherwise, a good checklist.

  5. kiturak says

    I’m missing where the list checks for my kid’s actual well being, as opposed to safety concerns and the like. (Don’t get me wrong, I do think these are important.) Speaking as someone with failed experiences with daycares, none of which we were able to spot in advance, or were due to safety concerns.

    • Allison McDonald says

      That is harder to lump into a checklist, but the last thing being how to YOU feel, follow your gut. If you aren’t sure I’d ask to go back a few times to visit and see how you feel the 2nd and 3rd time.

  6. Nicole says

    I know this article is old, however I’ve seen it circulating on Pintrest and wanted to comment on a couple things.
    As a home daycare provider, there are a couple things in this article I have an issue with.
    This statement:
    “Ask to see the last licensing visit notes. These are the notes the state licensor has made and noted on his or her last visit. The licensor makes notes of any safety hazards and other infractions the center may have been issued. They must by law allow you to see this.”
    In MN, licensed (home) providers do not receive any such “safety hazards notes”. They receive a printout of the questionnaire that was sent to their clients, but are not required to show these to anyone who asks. Most of the time, I don’t even keep these as they’re pretty much fluff notes anyway.
    It may be different for other states, but not in MN. However, all violations can be looked up by a potential parent via DHS.

    Also, the statement “Is there an open door policy for parents, can you walk in at any time unannounced? If not LEAVE.” is rather harsh.
    Most of the providers in my area have a similar policy as I do: If I am not expecting you, the door is locked- for the safety of EVERYONE in the home.
    We have a busy day, and I won’t always be able to answer the door if I’m not expecting you (or we may be at the park). I don’t mind if you want to give me a 2 minute warning via call/text to PICK UP. But, I wouldn’t be too happy if you showed up at my door at lunch announced, disturbing our routine and exciting the kids, then leave because it was just a “drop in” checkup. I can guarantee your child would be so upset if you showed up early, just to leave them again. It would take quite a long time to console that child after you left; and that’s not fair to the child, the other kids in care or the provider who had to take time to transition that child back into their normal day.

    • Allison McDonald says


      You are right childcare regulations including licencing will be different state to state. However I stand by the open door policy. I wouldn’t want parents to abuse it but a parent should be able to stop in without having to call ahead even if it’s not pick up time. There should be no need to be prepared.

    • Sarah says

      I completely agree with this. I need to at least know you’re coming so I can make sure your child is aware mommy is coming, and get the other kids moved to another room. I can’t have a visiting adult around other people’s kids and I’ve had parents drop in without me being able to tell a child mommy is on the way and the child will just break down in hysterics. I also just started watching a child who’s mother thinks she can just walk into my house without warning. I went upstairs to grab a bandaid and came downstairs to find her hanging out in my living room (no kids were in there at the time). That is completely unacceptable.

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