Finding a Daycare

QUESTION

Dear Mr. Dad,

My wife and I are shopping around for day care. How can we tell if the facility will offer the proper care?

ANSWER

Finding a quality daycare center or provider can be incredibly stressful. Here are just a few things to look for in a day-care center:

  • The level of training of the staff -- Some have degrees in early childhood education; some aren't much more than warm bodies
  • Safety -- windows, fences around yards, access to kitchen appliances and utensils (knives, ovens, etc.)
  • Is it licensed by the National Association of Education and Child Care?
  • Overall cleanliness
  • Caregiver/child ratio (In California, one licensed caregiver can take care of as many as four infants, in some other states it's a lot more)
  • Staff training -- Do the people working there have training in early childhood education?
  • Staff consistency -- How long have the staff been working there. Is there a lot of turnover?
  • Quality, condition, and number of toys.
  • Security -- what precautions are taken to ensure that kids can be picked up only by the person you select? Do strangers have access to the center?

Before you make your final choice, be sure to take a tour. Spend half an hour or so-when all the kids are there-observing. Are the children happy? Are they doing the kinds of activities you expected?

Finally, in the weeks after you pick the perfect day-care center, make a few unannounced visits -- just to see what goes on when there aren't any parents around.
-- "Mr. Dad"

Armin Brott

A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the bestselling author of The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-To-Be, The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, Fathering Your Toddler, The Military Father: A Hands-on Guide for Deployed Dads, and four other books on fatherhood. He has written on parenting, fatherhood, and health for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek, and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts "Positive Parenting," which airs on a dozen stations in the US and worldwide on the American Forces Network. Armin lives with his family in Oakland, California. You may visit his website at mrdad.com to learn more.