When looking around and touring different daycare centers to figure out which one you feel safest enrolling your little bundle of joy in, be sure to bring along the following list of questions with you – in your head, jotted down on an app in your phone or on a piece of paper if need be.
Even if a daycare doesn’t require you to have a tour around the place before you put your kid’s name on the waiting list, it’s still best if you ask for a tour regardless.
Answers you get to these questions will help you make the most of your visit to the daycare center, and reassure you that little baby is going to be in safe hands pretty soon – especially if this is your first ever child you’re enrolling in a daycare.
Different parents have different priorities as far as their little ones are concerned, so we made sure to come up with a list that covers the important stuff for everyone combined.
Important Questions To Ask Daycare Centers When Looking Around
Obviously enough, one of the first burning questions you’ll have in mind – if not the first – is about how much it’ll cost for you to enroll your child in their daycare center.
What’s the monthly fee you’ll have to pay? Or, what’s the daily fee (if they work that way) instead. How will you bill me? And every how often will you bill me?
Also don’t be afraid to ask about what discounts they offer (if available) in special cases. For example, you might get a special price if you enroll two kids at once instead of just one.
Also, what supplies will the center be providing for your baby with the price you’re paying?
Some centers include supplies such as formula milk, diapers, diaper rash cream and wipes with the money you pay to enroll your child, while other centers don’t include any of this within the stated fee.
How long have you been in business for? Have you been around for a while or are you new to the industry?
Ideally, you’d want a daycare center that’s been around for a while and has a proven track record to show newcomer parents.
What’s your outlook on childcare like? What do you believe in most? What are the core values you stand by? What do you stand against and strive to change in the industry?
4) Number Of Children
If I enroll my child in your daycare center, how many other children will also be there? What’s the upper limit?
5) Number Of Caregivers
How many caregivers operate in the daycare?
This is very important for you to know, so you figure out the ratio of children enrolled in the daycare to caregivers who work there.
Generally speaking, the less children one caregiver in the center has to look after, the better – since that would mean your child gets more attention and more one to one time with the caregiver.
On average, one caregiver in a daycare center should not have to look after more than 5 children aged 2-3 years old at once, 7 children aged 3-4 years old at once, and 15 children aged 5+ years old at once.
Is food provided for children in the daycare center? If so, what kind of food is given to children enrolled? Will it be cooked in the daycare center itself or will it be delivered to the center from outside?
Also, what if my kid’s still hungry after finishing the food they’re given? Will they be given more or will they be left hungry till I pick them back up and get them back home? Will I be charged extra for more food they consume? The more specific they can be with their answers here, the better.
It would be perfect if they have a handbook for you to see with all the food, meals and snacks they give children enrolled in their center clearly listed. Is this a fixed menu or does it change? If so, how often does it change?
You’ll want to make sure your little one will only be given healthy lunch and snacks, junk food should be off limits – or at the very least kept to a minimum. After all, kids should be served nutritious food.
Or is it the parent’s responsibility to provide food for their kids?
What are your policies about bottles and sippy cups? Depending on whether or not your child has made the transition yet, this might be an important question for you to ask them about.
What kind of activities do children enrolled in your center engage in? Do you organize anything outside of the center itself? If so, what kind of activities are we talking about here? Or does all the action only happen in the center?
How often is the activities program changed up? Or is it just the same old, same old activities instead of incorporating a variety of activities?
Look for a center that changes things up and incorporates a variety of different activities into their program since that keeps children from getting bored and ensures that they’re always developing new skills.
9) Spacious Facilities
Are the facilities spacious? Is there enough room for all children enrolled to be comfortable? We’re not just talking about ample room in the classrooms, we’re also talking about ample room in the playground when they’re all in there together roaming around.
In case of activities taken part in outside the daycare center – or if there’s any other reason my baby should be transported anywhere outside the center – will they be transported in a vehicle? If yes, ask to see the vehicle.
For example, if a shuttle service is used, the vehicles should be certified and should adhere to all safety procedures.
If the center you’re doing your homework on won’t allow you to inspect the vehicles they use, you’re better off taking your child elsewhere. Transparency is key here.
11) Behavioral Problems
What’s your philosophy and policies on dealing with children that have behavioral problems? For example, how do you deal with children that tend to play rough with their peers? Do you rely on techniques such as time outs? Do you prevent them from participating in certain activities with the other kids when they’re acting poorly? What other methods do you incorporate?
Also, how do you reward good behavior? Color charts, perhaps?
What’s your stance on bullying among children when they interact? How do you handle these cases? Did you have any previous bullying cases in your center that you dealt with? If so, how did that go?
You learning about a real life example(s) that they worked with would be ideal.
Teasing and bullying are fairly common among children of different age groups, so learning about how a daycare center handles this and protects children from their damaging effects is vital.
What’s your policy on diapers like? Is there a specific type I have to adhere to using? Or am I free to decide between using cloth diapers or disposable diapers?
Supposing you choose to directly breastfeed your baby, what’s their policy like? Do they allow you to pass by the center whenever you want to do that? Or is their center a no breastfeeding zone?
15) Breast Milk Or Formula Milk
Do you have a refrigerator that can store my kid’s breast milk bottles or formula milk bottles so they don’t sit out for long and go bad?
How do you go about bottle feeding my baby? Do you wait for them to get hungry and show signs they want it? Or do you follow a set bottle feeding schedule?
16) Passing By
Other than being able to drop by to breastfeed your little one (if that’s a priority of yours), what’s their general visiting policy like? Are you allowed to drop by whenever throughout the day? Or do you need to inform them beforehand and agree on a specific date and time?
Are you only allowed to pass by alone, or can other family members join as well? Ask about the limitations you should know about (if any).
The best daycare centers will allow you to visit whenever you’d like, as long as it’s not nap time (which is completely understood and standard practice).
Besides nap time, you should be able to visit the daycare center whenever you’d like without having to set an appointment beforehand.
17) Potty Training
What’s your potty training policy like? Do you take care of potty training my little one for me, or is this something that I’m going to have to take care of entirely myself?
How does the staff handle toilet accidents when they happen? Has the staff been properly trained to handle toilet accidents?
My child will be putting all sorts of different objects and items in their mouth, such as pacifiers, baby toys, etc .. What’s your sanitizing policy like? What are the practices you follow, and how strict are you about hygiene issues like this?
19) Staff Credentials
Do not be afraid to ask about the credentials of the staff working at the daycare.
Inquire about the degrees they hold, where they graduated from, any certifications they have, what kind of training they’ve received in the past, what kind of training they receive on a regular basis (if available), whether they have previous experience taking care of kids or are still new to all of this, etc ..
Also ask about whether or not staff hired at the center undergo background checks. If you think you’re the only one worried about this, think again – we all have this burning question in our heads but only a few of us manifest enough courage to actually ask about this and request proof that it’s being done.
If you’re trusting your kid with someone, you best make sure they deserve to be trusted.
20) Daycare Center Credentials
You don’t just want to ask about the employee’s credentials, you should also ask about the daycare’s credentials.
Ask if they’re licensed, and don’t be afraid to ask to see the license yourself for reassurance purposes.
Also ask about whether or not they have any accreditation, and who it is they’re accredited by if that’s the case. For example, some of the best daycare centers you can put your kid in are accredited by the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children).
21) Employee Turnover Rate
Have your employees been working at the daycare for a long period of time? Or do you have a high employee turnover rate?
High employee turnover in a daycare means your child (or children) will have to get used to new faces every once in a while – not exactly what you want to hear.
Note: For this question, you’re best off asking other parents – just like you – who have their kids enrolled in the same daycare center. You might not get the most accurate of answers from staff, for obvious reasons.
22) Medical Attention
What happens if my kid gets in trouble and needs medical attention? Do you have a nurse at the daycare that can provide adequate medical care?
Are the teachers CPR certified? If yes, do they receive regular and ongoing training to keep their skills sharp?
Do they have a strict policy on specific times you have to drop your kid off to the daycare center and pick them up? If so, what happens when you’re late?
Make sure you get this question thoroughly answered, because some daycare centers have hidden fees that you find out about later, in the form of additional payments you have to make for every minute late.
Do they accept subsidies?
25) Sleeping Areas
What’s the nap time standard practice like? Is there a specific nap time that all kids in the center have to adhere to? If so, how many naps are they allowed to take a day? One nap? Two naps?
And what time does this usually happen? Or are they allowed to nap freely whenever they feel like it regardless of what time it is?
When it’s time for a nap, where will my kid sleep? Is there a designated room with cribs they can sleep on? Or will they have to make do with nap mats instead?
What does the sleeping area look like? How often is it cleaned? Can I see it? You’ll want to make sure there’s nothing in there that might put your baby’s safety at risk.
Speaking about safety, will my kid be supervised even when they’re sleeping? This is important because in case anything goes wrong, a caregiver should be there to solve the problem right away.
What policy do you have for illnesses? Do you give kids over the counter medication? How do you determine when it’s something your staff can deal with in the center, or you need to call the child’s parents and notify them about it?
What’s your policy like for days my kid spends at home because they’re sick? Will you also charge me for these days or will they be deducted from the amount I have to pay?
In what cases do you require a kid to be left at home to recover from an illness and not be present in the daycare center among all the other kids? Is something as simple as a runny nose enough for you to ask the parents to keep their child home until they get better? Or is this reserved for some more serious cases such as a fever? Again, you’ll want as clear and detailed an answer you can get regarding this question.
Do you require all kids enrolled in the daycare center to be vaccinated? Or do you leave this up to the kids’ parents to decide?
What kind of evacuation plan do you have in case of emergencies? Supposing a fire erups all of a sudden, what kind of system do you have in place to ensure everyone’s safety?
What kind of training do your staff receive to make sure they’re efficient at doing this in case the need arises? How often do teachers practice evacuation drills with enrolled children?
Don’t just ask about fire emergencies, also inquire about other emergencies such as earthquakes, intruders, and so on.
What’s usually done to keep the child entertained? Is watching TV and playing video games heavily incorporated? Or is regular physical activity and more focused on? What about incorporating games (toys, puzzles, etc …) that work on improving a child’s intellectual development?
You need to make sure you pick a daycare center that shares the same values and philosophies that you have in your house.
30) Involving Parents In The Process
How much do you involve parents of enrolled children in all of this? Do you strive to form relationships with parents, listen to input they might have about different issues, take their opinions into consideration, etc .. ?
31) Different Groups
What age group will my kid be placed in? Different daycare centers have different policies, so make sure you’re super clear on this point from the start.
It can make all the difference in the world if your 3 year old is only placed with other 3 year olds, or is placed with 4 and 5 year olds as well.
What kind of security system does the daycare center have in place? Do you need to provide ID or card to enter the premises? Or is just about anyone allowed in regardless?
You really need to know how safe it is for your kid to be there on a daily basis.
33) Proof & Peace Of Mind
Are there cameras installed in classrooms and play areas? Any top notch daycare center will have such a system in place so that in case anything were to go wrong and/or the parents have suspicions about anything, they can request video footage that serves as proof.
34) Progress Reports
Do you give parents progress updates on how their children are doing? If yes, how often are these progress reports handed out? And what do they include, exactly? Do these reports only cover how my child is behaving? Or do they also cover how they’re developing across different areas, and what the staff at the center is doing to help my child develop in all these different areas?
What about reports that cover what my child did for the day? Such as how many naps they took, how many bottles they drank, what they ate at lunch and for snacks, what kind of activities they took part in, etc .. How detailed are these reports? What should I expect to see?
35) Cleaning Policy
What’s the cleaning policy you have in place? Are floors cleaned multiple times every day? If so, every how often? Also, what about disinfecting items such as toys? With all the kids and employees around touching everything, germs are everywhere.
You can also tell a lot about a daycare center by seeing how clean their bathrooms are, and how often they get cleaned in a single day’s time.
Do you close on holidays and make my kid spend the day home? Or will they be able to spend the day at the center because you keep operating during the holidays? Ask about any holiday that comes to mind, be it Christmas time or any other time of the year.
Kids aren’t always little munchkins running around looking to cause trouble, sometimes they can feel down or upset too and need to be comforted.
How do they usually provide kids in the center with comfort when they need it? Do they do anything about it at all to begin with, or do they just call you to notify you about what’s going on? (That’s if they call you in the first place).
Emotional development is a very important aspect in your child’s life, and any center worthy of you enrolling your kid in must get this part right.
38) Child Proofing
Are all the different areas children are allowed access to childproof?
Is there a list of past and present references you can supply me with so I can give them a call and ask a few questions myself?
When trying to find references you can call, don’t just ask for contact information of people who currently have their children registered at that daycare center.
On the contrary, you should try to find a few people you can call who no longer have their children at that daycare, so that you can ask and find why they no longer have them enrolled there.
Other Important Issues To Keep In Mind
Look At What Others Have To Say
Who said your research has to be limited to physically going to the daycare center and asking questions there? Hop online and run a quick search on the daycare center you’re considering dealing with, and look for real reviews left by parents who’ve been there already.
Surprise Visits During Peak Time
One of the smartest things you could try when doing your homework on a daycare center is to make a surprise visit when they’re at their busiest.
Sure, you can visit the daycare center at a calm time by agreeing on a pre-determined appointment, but you can really put them to the test by visiting them during a busy time and observing how the staff works under pressure.
If it’s hectic and disorganized, that’s a huge red flag right there.
Do Your Research Ahead Of Time
If there’s one piece of valuable advice we could give you, it’s that you should do your research and try to find a good enough daycare center way before you actually need it.
If you wait too long before doing your research and finding a suitable center, you’ll feel too rushed and short on time. Not to mention that when you do find a center you like, there’s a good chance they’ll have already met their capacity for enrolled children.
Spend Enough Time
Don’t just try to get in and out of a daycare center when touring around so that you can “save time”, you’re only doing your research phase injustice. Spend enough time in there so that you actually get a true feel for the place and what it has to offer your little one.
Experts advise that you spend up to an hour of your time in a daycare center before deciding whether it’s a good fit or not.
Some Questions To Ask Yourself
Besides questions you need to ask the people at the daycare center, there’s also some questions you need to ask yourself so that you can make up your mind on whether or not this is what you’re looking for.
Look at the employees taking care of the kids there, do they seem happy? Do they seem to be passionate about what they do? Or are they just there for the sake of it? Observe how they interact with the children enrolled there and decide for yourself whether or not you’d be comfortable for your child to be placed in such an environment.
Look at the children being taken care of, do they look happy?
Wrapping It Up
Remember, if a daycare fails to answer an important question you have in mind or doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, you’re better off taking your precious child elsewhere.
Most professional daycare centers that know what they’re doing and are good at it won’t wait for you to come their way with a list of questions anyways.
On the contrary, they’ll be well prepared for your visit beforehand and will hand you a policy handbook that already covers most – if not all – of the questions you have in mind.
That’s what you should strive to see in a daycare center, anyways – people who value your time enough to have everything clearly stated and organized for you to see so you don’t even have to think about any of it.
Whatever you do, keep in mind that the process of finding the right daycare for your precious son or daughter can take quite a bit of time, and that’s completely normal.
Going out there and expecting to come across the perfect daycare center for both of your needs after the first or second place you visit is unrealistic – yet definitely not impossible.