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 Blood borne pathogens?
- Has everyone working in the building been tested for TB?
- 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.
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 directors 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 ?