Childcare Centers: What to Look For and What to Avoid thumbnail

Childcare Centers: What to Look For and What to Avoid

Published Jun 04, 24
5 min read

The decision to choose the best childcare center for your children is one of the biggest decisions you will make as a parents. It is important to choose a childcare center that provides a nurturing and safe environment for your child, and one that aligns itself with your family values and your needs. This article will guide you through the process of selecting the perfect childcare center for your little one.


Understanding Your Needs

Take time to consider the specific needs of your family before starting your search. Think about the age of your child and the type of care they require. What is your preference? Do you want full-time or partial-time care for your child? How many hours will you require coverage? Take into account the location and the ease of access to the childcare center. Determine your budget, and what you are able to spend for childcare.

Types of Childcare Centers

You can choose between a variety of childcare centers, each with their own philosophy and approach towards early childhood education. Some common options are:

  • Daycare centers: These facilities provide general care and supervision for children of various ages.
  • Preschools: The focus of preschools is to prepare children for kindergarten by providing structured learning activities.
  • Montessori schools: These centres follow the Montessori method which emphasizes hands-on learning and self-directed experiences.
  • Reggio Emilia Schools: This method focuses on project based learning and encourages the children to express themselves using various media.
  • Waldorf schools emphasize creativity, imagination and experiential learning.
  • Religiously-affiliated centers are those that integrate religious teachings and value into the curriculum.
  • Corporate-sponsored centers. Some employers provide childcare services on their premises as a perk to employees.

License and Accreditation

When evaluating childcare centers, it's crucial to ensure they meet state licensing requirements and adhere to health and safety standards. Look for centers licensed by either the department of Human Services or Department of Education in your state.

In addition to state licensing, some childcare centers may be accredited by national organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). Accreditation shows that the center is committed to quality improvement and has met strict standards.

Safety and Health

If you are choosing a child care center, the safety and health of your children should be at the top of your list. Look for centers that conduct thorough background checks on all staff members and maintain appropriate child-to-caregiver ratios. The facility should be equipped with secure entrances, well-maintained playgrounds, and areas that are child-proof.

Inform yourself about the cleanliness of the facility, including its diaper changing practices and handwashing rituals. Ask about their sick child policies and how they handle medical emergencies. A center that is reputable should also have a comprehensive preparedness plan.

Curriculum and Learning Philosophies

The educational philosophy and the values of your family and child should be considered. Search for activities that are age-appropriate and promote cognitive, emotional, and physical growth.

Some centers will emphasize play-based education, while others may have a stronger academic focus. You should ask about creative opportunities, outdoor play and self expression. If technology is part of the curriculum, find out how it enhances learning.

Staff Qualifications & Training

The staff's expertise and commitment is key to the quality of any childcare center. Ask about the required education and certifications for teachers and caretakers. It is ideal for staff to have degrees and training in early child education or a similar field.

Ask about the turnover rate and if there are any opportunities for staff to receive ongoing training. Low staff turnover can indicate a positive work environment and consistent care for your child.

Communication with Parents

Communication between parents and childcare providers is key to a successful experience. Inquire about how the center informs parents of their child's daily activities and progress. Regular updates, such as daily reports or weekly newsletters, can help you stay connected and involved.

ASK ABOUT FAMILY EVENTS AND PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES. Some centers will also accept parent volunteers, or may have a board of parent advisors to promote input and participation.

Equipment and Facilities

The best way to ensure that the facility is safe and secure is to tour it. Search for well-maintained spaces, which are clean and have furniture and learning material that is age-appropriate. Outdoor play zones should have secure equipment, ample space and be equipped with safety features.

Ask about the use of technology, such as tablets and computers, to enhance learning.

Food and Nutrition

If the childcare facility provides meals and snack, ask about their nutrition policy. Look for centers that offer healthy, balanced options and accommodate special dietary needs. Inquire about the food safety procedures and how the meals are prepared.

Scheduling a Tour and Evaluation

You should visit the childcare center you're considering before making a final choice. During your tour, pay attention to the interaction between caregivers with children. Are the caregivers patient, engaged and nurturing? Do the children appear happy and at ease in their environment.

Prepare a question list to ask the staff regarding their policies, educational philosophy and procedures. Listen to your gut instincts, and be alert for any red flags that may arise during your visit.

Making the final decision

Compare the different centers according to your preferences and needs. Take into consideration factors like safety, educational quality and staff qualifications.

Trust your instincts when choosing the center for your child. Ask about any waitlists and enrollment procedures once you've decided. As you work with the centre to create a smoother transition for your children, ensure that they are prepared.


What is a difference between a childcare center and a school?

Preschools are designed to prepare children for kindergarten. They provide care and supervision of children of different ages. Preschools may have a greater educational focus, and they may also follow a particular curriculum.

How can I determine if a child care center is accredited and licensed?

Contact the department of human service or education in your state to determine if there is a license for a childcare facility. They can provide information on a center's licensing status and any violations or complaints. You can verify accreditation by contacting the accrediting body, such as NAEYC and NAFCC. Or, you can ask the center to provide proof of accreditation.

What should I pay attention to during a visit to a child care center?

Observe how caregivers interact with children. Be sure to look for an environment that is clean, safe and inviting, complete with appropriate learning materials, equipment and other amenities. Ask questions regarding the center's policy, curriculum, or qualifications of its staff. Pay attention to any concerns during your trip and trust your instincts.