We are definitely going full steam ahead back to “normal” in the corporate world. That means, a lot of parents will be leaving their remote work stations and heading back into the office.
This would also be helpful for anyone coming to the end of their maternity or paternity leave and need a game plan for finding the perfect daycare for their child. If either apply, you are in the right place!
There a few key factors that will play a huge role in finding a daycare center that works best for you. Let’s discuss them here:
- Hours of Operation
Before diving into each individually I would like to throw out a disclaimer or two. Every person is going to have a unique set of needs and experience when it comes to choosing a childcare provider. This post should solely serve as a starting point resource with tips that may help you gather the information you need to make a decision.
Location of the Daycare is Key
For us, location was really important. Both Darrin and I worked full time when Cassidy started Montessori. We also worked far apart from each other as well, so we aimed at finding a provider with a central location that was convenient for both of us. It was really important to me that the location was in a decent part of town and wasn’t a part of an after school program. Less traffic in and out for quicker drop offs and pickups as well as limiting the amount of people coming and going from the building.
Typically having a child care center close to work is ideal in case your child is sick. It also helps getting to work on time or to the center in time for pick up. Based on your daily routine and schedule, pick a location that is convenient.
What are the Hours of Operation?
Knowing the center’s hours as well as set schedule options is important. Some centers charge weekly for Monday through Friday, where some have plans that are 2, 3, or 4 days a week. Be sure to ask if they allow “drop ins”, this is where they allow you to use them as needed for a daily rate. I didn’t really want that to be an option at the provider I chose. You might not see a problem with it, I just worry about staff ratios causing inconsistencies in daily routine.
The provider might also offer half days on certain days of the week if you aren’t needing a full work day of coverage. The provider we chose, for example, offers: 8am to 12pm, 730am to 240pm, and a 730am to 6pm option.
Can you afford their prices?
It is no secret that childcare costs more than what some people make in a week. To some degree I feel like you get what you pay for. Some child care providers have their tuition schedule available on their websites, but if they don’t, call and ask. I looked at prices before I looked at anything else. I approached choosing a childcare provider with, this is what I can afford, now which is the best option.
One thing that isn’t commonly talked about is corporate discounts. Some companies offer tuition discounts with certain child care providers. For example, at my last job, we got 10% off at KinderCare locations. Be sure to check your employee benefits page, if you can’t find anything there, make that a question you ask. It may not be something they advertise. They may also give discounts to healthcare workers or first responders. Don’t be too proud to ask.
Do they use a curriculum?
There are many different types of childcare providers. Some are there to watch your children and some have education woven into their service. Putting Cassidy into a school where she could learn and play was important to us. We opted for a Montessori school. However, there are many different curriculums used by child care providers so definitely make sure you ask what their learning environment is like. It could be Montessori inspired, preschool readiness, or even second language immersion.
Check their website for information on their philosophy about learning and how they separate the children. Some places do it by age, others by development. Do they have separate rooms for the different age groups? Are there age appropriate toys or learning activities? Staff ratios also vary by age as well, so keep that in mind. I believe staff ratios are different in every state.
Have you checked their reviews?
I start every search online. Check out their website if they have one. Search them on Facebook and Google. Go through the photos they post. See if there are reviews on Google. When looking at the reviews try to gauge if what they are saying matters to you. For instance, someone could be complaining about a fee for being late to pick up their child, when it is in the rule book.
Another great place to get word of mouth reviews and referrals are local Facebook motherhood groups. Again, see what they are saying and determine if it’s concerning to you. Through local motherhood groups you may even meet someone who has a child in the childcare center that you are looking at. Ideally, you will have positive reviews to look through.
What type of environment is it?
There are a few questions in this category that I would ask:
- Do they offer drop ins?
- How long have their current staff members been employed there? (Gives you insight on turnover)
- Can they give you an approximate length of time their kids usually stay enrolled? For example, Cassidy is still with 60% of the kids she started with 4 years ago. They have a really low turnover in staff and children.
- How many kids are in each group? (Tells you how much attention your child may get)
- Do they have a rough timeline of the average day they can go over with you? What is their routine?
- Is there an outside space for the kids to get out and play? If so, do they have outside time each day that the weather permits?
Will your child be safe there?
This is huge. I know everyone has different red flags that they look for but let me explain to you how I go about checking which facilities are safe for my child to attend and what questions I ask about safety at the child care center.
Each state has statutes that dictate staff to child ratios as well as rules the childcare provider has to follow in order to be open for business. In order to make sure that a facility is operating in compliance with the state statutes, random site audits are completed by state agencies and their results are available for the public to view.
You heard that correctly, you have the ability to look into the history of audits at that facility in order to determine how safe your child will be there. In fact, I wrote this blog post because in a mom group recently I talked about this and nobody knew they had this resource available to them.
Click your state below to be taken to the childcare provider search in your state!
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Did you know that this tool was available for you? I’m curious. I made a free printable in my resource library with questions to ask with an area for notes! Click HERE to access this free printable question guide to help you get started on your search to finding the perfect child care provider for your child.