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Motherhood

Questions to ask a Potential Daycare

When I discovered that I was pregnant with Charlotte, I considered signing her up for a daycare that was different from the one I work at for two reasons. The main one was that I felt like if I brought Charlotte with me to work, she may get extremely upset if she sees me but can’t be with me. If she is with me, she may get jealous if I try to address another child.

While I was playing with my decision, I didn’t know the type of baby Charlotte would be. However, I have had my fair share of babies become possessive of either myself or another staff member and that can cause some chaos in the room. I really didn’t want that for Charlotte. Especially now that I know who she is – I know that she would have a hard time being in my room but not getting the same attention she is used to.

Ultimately, I decided to sign Charlotte up for the daycare I work at because of the finical support my work offers. I also talked to my boss and we agreed to make sure that Charlotte will never be in my room, and that we will try to keep her from seeing me until home time.

However, while I was considering signing up Charlotte at a different daycare, I called around, got tours, and asked lots of questions!

Eight month old Charlotte lying on the ground "reading" her favourite book!


Here is my list – use these questions to guide your search for a daycare provider that suits your needs!

  1. Is the daycare licensed or unlicensed? Unlicensed daycares are usually at-home ones that tend to be cheaper but not closely monitored. There are some great ones out there, and you can find them with these questions.
  2. What holidays are you closed for? Are there any day of the year you close early? 
  3. What is your daily/weekly/monthly fee? Is there a different fee for half-days? Is pay required on sick days or vacation days when my child will not be attending? Does the rate change if my child is potty trained? (Some daycares reduce the cost by 25% when the child is potty trained.)
  4. What is your sick policy? Can they come to daycare with a runny nose? How long after a fever breaks can you bring the child back? Will staff administer medicine? Do you have to call in to let staff know the child is sick? (Some daycares have a different policy between sick days and absent days.)
  5. What is the child-to-staff ratio? Do you have a limit on how many children per room? 
  6. What is the staff turnover rate? Are the employees experienced? Are they trained in CPR and first aid? Do they undergo background checks? Do they rotate between the rooms or are the assigned to one specific room? (Having a consistent childcare provider is important for children to feel safe. A lot of daycares try to have at least one consistent member per room, but most try for all members to be consistent. If the staff turnover rate is high, that could be a serious red flag.)
  7. What is the drop-off and pick-up window? Is there a late fee policy?
  8. Are healthy lunches and snacks provided? Is it a delivery service? How often does the menu change? What if kids are still hungry after finishing lunch? Will they give a hangry child a snack at 5:30 p.m.? Do you cater to dietary restrictions or allergies?
  9. Is there a daily, structured routine? How often does the day stray from the routine? (For example, the routine may include outdoor time which may be replace with indoor play on rainy days.)
  10. What are the expectations around toilet training and diapers?
  11. Does the daycare accept subsidies?
  12. Do the kids take two naps a day or one? Are kids allowed to sleep when they’re tired or is there a set naptime for everyone? How are they supervised during naptime? (It’s important for staff to be monitoring children the entire duration of their sleep. At my workplace, in the baby room, we are required to be in the same room as the children at all times and do a check every fifteen minutes.)
  13. How do they handle squabbles, such as two toddlers fighting over a toy? (Redirection or discipline? Do they use timeouts? Do they use coloured charts to reward good behaviour?)
  14. Is there an outdoor space? How much time do the kids get to play outside? (If you are seeing the daycare in person, take into account how many toys are out there. Is there enough for the entire class to be out at the same time? If not, how does the daycare monitor sharing?)
  15. Are children given screen time? How often? (It’s not often you want your daycare to provide screentime, even if it is just a movie night. So try to get an idea if there will be any.)
  16. Do any families opt out of vaccines? Are children required to be up to date on their immunizations?
  17. What supplies do I need to provide? This can include things like diapers, wipes, extra clothes, winter wear, etc.
  18. Will I receive a daily report sheet telling me what my child ate, when they slept, their bowel movements, etc?
  19. Will I get progress updates on my child’s behaviour and milestones reached? (My daycare provides one duo-tang per room that includes a weekly update on the child, their behaviour, accomplishments, art work, funny stories, etc. The parent can review them any time they come in, and gets to keep them once the child graduated into the next room.)
  20. What are the cleaning policies? How often do outbreaks occur in the daycare? (Outbreaks can be connected to toys or furniture not being cleaned properly or regularly.)
  21. Do you foster a learning environment? It is important for children to play, but it is also important for them to be taught skills that fall into categories such as gross motor, fine motor, cognitive, speech, sensory, self-care, and social/emotional. Some daycares create plans on their goals for the week based off of the children’s interest, and some daycares have a list of activities that they draw from each day.

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2 COMMENTS

  • Film Base

    I live in Utah and below these are the resources I used to ask questions and make an informed decision on selecting a daycare. The checklists and questions to ask are very good and helpful across states.

    • Stephanie Anderson
      AUTHOR

      I’m really glad this checklist translates well across countries, given that I wrote it with a Canadian-perspective!

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