Where Do You Start?

As a working parent probably one of the most difficult and emotionally challenging decision that you will ever have to make is choosing a daycare for your child. Not only can you feel guilty about not being there for all of your child’s firsts, you have the added worry about whether your child is safe, happy, well cared for, well fed etc….

Daycare experiences have a powerful influence on the growth and development of children and they affect the adult your child will become. The daycare you choose will in the end, no doubt be one of the most important decisions you will make for your child.

So is it any wonder that so many parents become confused and overwhelmed as to where and how to begin the search in selecting suitable childcare. Childcare comes in so many sizes and shapes.  How can a parent possibly choose which care option is best for them?

Here are some helpful tips as to what I believe you should be looking for when selecting suitable childcare.

  1. Allow yourself as much time as possible to find care, don’t leave it to the last minute, some daycares have waiting lists.
  2. Explore the different types of care available such as
    • center-based programs
    • family home daycare
    • in home care (i.e. nanny)

    and then evaluate how each one would best meet the needs of your child

  3. Familiarize yourself with the provincial regulations on home daycare. It is particularly important to know the legal number of children that a home childcare provider may care for at any given time. This will ensure that your child is not put at risk
  4. Discuss with your partner what environment you want for your child. It is important to take your child’s personality and temperament into consideration. Some children will thrive in large centers while others will prefer a smaller group. When searching for childcare, ask for recommendations from:
    • Family Friends
    • Coworkers
    • Neighbors
    • Member of organizations you belong to such as church
  5. Call several daycare providers and ask some basic questions. These questions will help you develop a short list of a few places you want to visit 


    • Do you have any openings for the age of my child?
    • How many children do you currently have in your care?
    • What are the ages of the children in your home?
    • How many years of experience do you have?
    • What training have you had?
    • Do you have insurance?
    • What references you can give me?
    • What are your fees and hours?
    • Do you have training in CPR or first aid?
    • What activities do you offer as part of your daily routine?

When you visit the home daycare facility, carefully observe and notice the following

  • Does the provider greet you and your child at the door with a smile? Is she friendly? Does she interact with your child?
  • Is the facility clean?  (Is it too clean? This could be an indication that not enough time is being spent with the children.)
  • How much space is available for the children to play?
  • Are the toys and age appropriate? Are they in good repair?
  • Are the toys placed at a height appropriate to the children?
  • Are activities offered?
  • Does the provider have the same values as you?
  • Is there rest time?
  • Does she openly and willingly discuss the policies and activities of a typical daycare day?
  • Are there developmental activities offered?
  • Do the children go on field trips? If so ….are there enough seats in the vehicle for the number of kids in care? Are care seats provided?
  • Are nutritious meals and snacks served?
  • Are the electrical outlets covered?
  • Are stair gates located on all stairways?
  • Are there written policies regarding illness?

Questions to ask a provider: add your own to this list 

  • How did you get involved in Childcare?
  • What do you like about running a home daycare?
  • What would you do if one of the children had to go to the hospital?
  • Can you give me an idea of the activities my child will be involved in during an average day?
  • What would you do if my child hit another child?
  • What meals are you serving this week?
  • Do you have a quiet time?
  • Where will my child sleep?
  • Are the children allowed to watch T.V? what programs are offered? How much T.V?

If possible do not let $ amount influence your final decision. I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for. Remember that the average overhead a provider has for each child is $9-$12 per day.

Never place your child with a provider who exceeds the government regulations on the number of children you can have in your care at one time. Ask yourself this… how can they provide my child with adequate care, what happens in an emergency such as a fire with high number of children someone’s child has to be left behind while they evacuate …you can only carry so many children at once. Are you willing to take that chance? What about on outings how are all (8, 9, 10) fitting in that vehicle that only seats 7 or 8?

Most importantly choose someone you and your child feel comfortable with……Don’t forget you are the expert on your child and always trust your gut feelings.


Written and submitted by: Kathleen Roberts Home Daycare Provider – Toledo Ontario 2004