If you are lucky enough to have a choice of places, I recommend a quick visit first and if you like what you see and hear, then bring your child/ren to do a proper tour. This reduces the number of new places your child/ren will see and also helps make the subsequent visit easier, as you will be more relaxed knowing a bit about what to expect. There are five main criteria to consider:
1. Their belief system
- What do the leadership and teachers believe leads to healthy and well-developed kids?
- What is the schedule like?
- What activities are offered?
- How do they handle discipline?
- What accommodations do they offer to the individuality of each child’s needs and your own beliefs and needs?
2. The people involved – do you like them?
Think of both the leadership and teachers. Imagine what it would be like to be stranded on a desert island with them for a day or two – would you run out of topics to discuss? If you get along well, chances are, so will your child/ren.
3. The environment – how safe is it?
both how safe it is and how child-friendly it is, as well as for accessibility and opportunity for playing and exploring. Is it well lit? How well maintained is it? Is there an outdoor play area? Is there soap in the bathroom?
4. How happy are the kids you see?
It’s important to see if they are happy and engaged. Some daycares insist on an after-hours interview. If this is the case, make a point to go back and at least get a glimpse of what it is like when the children are there.
Ask to speak to three parents who are current or recent users of the service. Interview them carefully about what they liked, how they made it work better, and if there is anything that they had wished someone had told them about the service before they signed on (this last question is gold).
Need to know more? Our free guide to child care options provides answers.