Take Care: Choosing Quality Child Care
A women waves goodbye to her mother and son from across the street as she leaves the house.

Take the right steps for finding childcare that will enrich your child’s days and life

As a parent, raising your child in a safe, nurturing, and engaging environment is one of the most important jobs that you will ever have. Finding a child care provider means that you’re taking on a partner in that endeavor which makes the decision-making process vital, not only for the safety and well-being of your child but also for your own comfort and confidence while you’re away from your little one.

There are many different options and avenues for child care, and a lot of different decisions that go into determining what works best for your situation and child. Research says that 90 percent of brain development happens in the first five years of life, which means that early experiences are impactful and act as essential components in influencing social and emotional development and academic potential. Making the right choice can have consequences that can benefit your child far beyond their pre-school years. Learn how to find and recognize quality child care that will fit your family’s needs.

Quality child care should:

  • Encourage social and emotional skills
  • Promote curiosity and inspire a love of learning
  • Prepare the child for school and interaction with peers
  • Create a safe and trusting connection with caregivers
  • Provide a range of interaction and activities that help a child learn, think, develop, and behave

References

Personal experiences and anecdotes from other parents can provide the best clues as to how a child care provider operates on a day-to-day basis. Ask friends and co-workers about who provides care for their children, check with your pediatrician for recommendations, post inquiries on local parenting message boards, and read online reviews for both positive and negative responses.

Visit

Stop by unexpectedly to check out the provider with your child present to assess the environment and interactions before enrolling. Does the site feel safe, clean, bright, and fun? Are caregivers actively involved, such as playing, holding, or teaching the children? Do the children seem happy and comfortable? Does the ratio between adults and children seem appropriate? ChildCare.gov recommends a ratio of one adult for every three babies for children under 24 months old.

Ask

Have a list of questions prepared that will help you evaluate the appropriateness of the level of care. Suggestions include:

  • What level of training or education do staff members have?
  • Are parents permitted and encouraged to visit at any time?
  • Is each baby allowed to eat and sleep on their own schedule?
  • Is a daily schedule posted for toddlers so they can understand the rhythm of their days?
  • How does the caregiver handle discipline? Weaning? Toilet training?
  • What would a typical day look like for my child?
  • Are you licensed by the state?
  • What is the adult to child ratio?
  • Have all of the adults that interact with children had state and national background checks?
  • Has the staff been trained in pediatric CPR and first aid?

Also, incorporate any questions that may have come up while reading online reviews or during your onsite visit.

Child care isn’t a one size fits all situation; every child and family has unique needs and expectations. A lot of different factors go into finding a caregiver who will go above and beyond for your child and family, and some items on your list will take precedence over others. Develop a good understanding of what you’d like to see in a caregiving environment, research your options, and make a decision based on not only what fits your criteria, but also feels right on a personal level.

The VA Infant & Toddler Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.