Family Checklist for Evaluating Childcare Providers

Finding the right daycare for your child is one of the most important decisions you can make. The first five years of a child’s life are the most important for development, so finding the right place to partner with you as you rear your child is key.

As you visit different centers, you are going to want to know what you’re looking for. Just like when you are looking to buy a car, you do your research. Well, finding the right center for your child is way more important, so why not put in the work beforehand so you know exactly what to look for. Not every daycare is the right fit for every family.

Here’s a checklist for you to take with you as you do your visits. After seeing a few, you’ll get into the swing of things for sure, and hopefully, you will find the perfect place for you and your family.

And if you’re a childcare provider, make sure you’re meeting all of these requirements!

Childcare Evaluation Checklist for Parents & Families

Good communication with director/admissions

  • Did you get a good response when you sent your inquiry? 
  • Were all of your questions answered? 
  • Will they allow you to come take a tour based on your availability?
  • In what ways does the director communicate besides email?
  • Can your child come with you for the tour? 
  • Before first day of school, will they allow you to do a “visit day” where the child comes for a few hours as “practice” to ease her in?

Security door

  • What kind of security is there? Do I need a key fob or code to enter?
  • Who is allowed in the building and how is that monitored?

Emergency plan

  • What is the procedure for if there is a fire, flood or other emergency?

Clean facility

  • Is the facility professionally cleaned? How regularly?
  • What products are used to clean the facility? 
  • How are toys cleaned and how often? 
  • Rooms are not cluttered
  • Natural light in classrooms

COVID safety

  • Masks or no masks?
  • How does the school handle when a student or employee is exposed or tests positive?
  • What extra measures are taken to keep the facility safe? 
  • Are parents allowed in the building?

Tuition

  • How is tuition collected?
  • Are any discounts available?
  • What are the options for payment? (method and frequency)
  • Is subsidy accepted?
  • Compare costs to area providers
  • Is tuition the same when on vacation or out for a few months in the summer? 
  • What other fees are required besides tuition? (registration fee? Supplies fee? Field trip fee?)

Curriculum

  • What kind of curriculum is used?
  • Do they focus on “play” enough? 
  • Is it developmentally appropriate? 
  • Who chooses the curriculum and why?
  • What is the philosophy of education?
  • What programs are they members of? (NAEYC, STARS, etc.)
  • What topics are taught? 
  • Is it culturally sensitive?

Discipline

  • What is the philosophy of the school for discipline?
  • Do they do “time out” and if so, how is that done?
  • How does the school handle kids fighting, biting, etc.?

Special services

  • If a child has special needs, how is that handled?
  • Does the school allow therapists to come in?
  • If a teacher suspects a child has special needs, how is that topic approached?

License

  • Who are they licensed with?
  • Is their current license posted somewhere?
  • How have their last three inspections been? Anything concerning? (This is something you can look up online and is public record)

Toys/resources

  • Current, good condition
  • Open-ended toys (blocks, magnatiles, dramatic play, art supplies accessible, etc.)
  • Age-appropriate toys available
  • Centers/stations set up around the room

Teacher qualifications

  • Degreed teachers
  • Low turnover (ask how long each teacher has worked there; if everyone has been there for under a year, that can be a concern).
  • Background checks are all current for all teachers
  • What kind of training do the teachers receive and how often?
  • On your tour, notice the interaction with teachers and children. Are teachers sitting on the floor or alongside the children engaged in play or are they away from the children on their computer or phone? 
  • Gentle tone with students

Parent community

  • How do parents stay involved? Are there volunteer opportunities? Are their special events that families can go to?
  • How do parents find out what is happening? Is there an app used (like HiMama!), and how often is that updated?
  • How can parents contact the teacher if needed?
  • Are their any parents that can be a reference and talk about their opinions of the center? You can ask the director or whomever is conducting the tour for a parent who would be willing to be a reference.
  • Are there any local Facebook groups who you can ask about the different schools you are interested in? Sometimes this can be the best way to get real feedback, but don’t take everything on there as 100% truth. But definitely be concerned if there are 20 comments about one school, and they all say the same negative thing.
  • Parent/Teacher Conferences 
    • How often? 
    • What to expect

This can be such an exhausting task, but again, it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make. It is imperative that you go on a tour of the facility and that you bring your child if allowed. The daycare provider will also want to see how your child interacts with them and with other kids, understanding that most times children are shy in this environment. Tours are a great way to see everything in action and hopefully meet some parents who can give you the inside scoop. Don’t be afraid to ask all of the above- this is a HUGE decision, and you want to have a good feeling about the place you send your baby. No matter where you choose to send your child, just know you’re not alone in this daunting journey, and many parents who choose the same daycare end up being the best of friends. It is like a big family, so enjoy all the wonderful perks of belonging to a daycare community! 

Missy Knechel

Missy is a professor in the early childhood department at Eastern University and director of Victory Early Learning Academy, a childcare center that she started ten years ago. Prior to that, she taught Kindergarten and second grade for a total of 10 years. She has been married to her best friend, Jason, for 15 years, and together they have four beautiful children ages 5, 7, 9 and 11 in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. In her spare time, Missy loves to bake, read historical fiction, sing karaoke and travel to Central America on short term missions.

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