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How to Choose a Daycare

by Margaret Breen • March 7th, 2016

Choosing a daycare for your baby can feel incredibly overwhelming. Finding someone you trust with your child is stressful enough without the added pressures of cost, pickup schedules and sick policies. We hope these steps streamline your process so you can feel good about your choice.

1. Research online the daycares around your home or work, depending on which might be more convenient for you and your partner.

2. Ask around. Do neighbors, friends or co-workers, have recommendations? Take suggestions graciously, but don’t feel cornered into picking based on those suggestions. This is your baby and your decision.

3. Create a list. You can Download our Daycare Spreadsheet to make things easier.

4. Based on online research and a phone call or two, start to fill in your spreadsheet to help you narrow down choices. Differential information is listed below and on the Daycare Spreadsheet.

  • Location
  • Nanny, in-home daycare, or a daycare center
  • Price and frequency of payments
  • Hours
  • Mixed ages vs. same age groupings
  • Caregiver to child ratio
  • Staff qualifications, training, experience and turnover of staff
  • Appearance (clean, organized, safe, age-appropriate toys)
  • Space Availability (Waitlist?)
  • Policies (sick, late, discipline, drop-in)
  • Structure of day (curriculum, enrichment opportunities, organization, structure)
  • Supplies parents need to bring vs. daycare provides
  • Contract needed?
  • “Flex Care” options for additional days/hours?

Background checks/references

5. Make appointments to visit your top choices. Try and schedule them when children are present and be sure to give yourself plenty of time at each center. Visiting a few centers, even if you are pretty positive about one, is good because it gives you comparisons.

6. Most of the time, parents say it comes down to a gut feeling they get when they walk in and speak with the staff. Make your visits count! Bring a pen and a notepad, along with a list of questions that are important to you. Remember, this is your baby and your life. Don’t be bashful asking personal details or taking too much of their time.

We’ve compiled a list of questions in a separate blog post. Read Interview Questions for Daycares, here.

7. Call the references each daycare gives you. Better yet – ask parents you see in the parking lot how they like the daycare. They haven’t been pre-screened and might give you more honest answers.

8. Make your decision and secure a spot for your baby. Pat yourself on the back – this is really hard work!

Looking for more resources for expectant parents who plan on returning to work? Check out our New Parent Work Program!

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