What the Research Says about How to Choose Child Care

When you choose child care you’re making one of the most important decisions of your child’s life.

Research tells us the first few years of life are crucial to healthy development; physical, emotional and mental. This makes it hard to choose child care. It’s such a big decision!

Thankfully the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care put together this list of “13 research-based guidelines to think about when choosing a child care program.” (source)

All mothers planning to go back to work after giving birth need to start thinking about childcare while pregnant. It may take a while to research and find quality childcare options.

Generally speaking, the most trusted caregivers usually have a waiting list so start searching as soon as you can.

Types of Child Care Options

  • Daycare Centers

Daycare centers are privately owned or run by corporations, churches, schools, national and regional franchises. Ask your friends where they took their children for daycare.

Daycare teacher teaching children

When searching online, two good resources are:

At a minimum, the center should be accredited by the state you reside in. But this is your baby we are talking about; you want more than just the bare minimum, right?

  • Home-based daycare

Home-based daycare centers are run out of the caregiver’s home. The caregiver usually has children of their own that they care for at the same time. These centers are usually cheaper than daycare centers but may be inconvenient. For example, the caregiver could decide to go on a trip out of state in the middle of the week.

Home-based daycare centers must be licensed by the state and have clear hygiene and discipline policies.

Each caregiver should not have more than 6 children under their care. No more than two of these should be under two years of age

  • Nannies and Au pairs

Most parents prefer very young children to be cared for in their home. This is an expensive approach that requires backup whenever your nanny needs personal time.

One good source for finding a nanny is the International Nanny Association (www.nanny.org).

Visit each center or meet with the prospective nanny severally to observe them. Are the children happy? Do you like the caregivers?

How to Choose Child Care

Consider the guidelines below before deciding to leave your child in any type of daycare center:

1. Supervision

How are children disciplined?

Are the children under constant supervision, even while asleep?

2. Hand washing and diaper changing

Is the diaper changing station clean?

Do caregivers wash their hands often, especially before and after diapering and eating?

Do soiled diapers dirty other surfaces, and if so what do the caregivers do about it?

Are surfaces cleaned and sanitized after the changing process?

3. Qualifications

Who is the director of the child care center?

Daycare teacher teaching children

Does he or she have a bachelor’s degree in a child care related field?

Do they understand what children need to grow?

Are they patient when answering questions you have?

Who is the lead teacher of the daycare center?

Have they been in child care for at least 2 years?

Does the teacher give children age-appropriate toys?

4. Children-to-staff ratio

How many children are in the daycare center?

How many caregivers are available to the children?

  • The fewer the children, the more personal attention each child is given. State laws dictate that each caregiver should have a maximum of 6 children, with no more than two under the age of two.

Family home caregivers should have a maximum of two infants. Be sure to choose child care where the caregiver isn’t overextended with too many children!

5. Immunization

Does the daycare center have records that prove all the children in the center are up-to-date with their immunizations?

Is your child up-to-date?

6. Toxic substances

Is poison control information posted?

Are cleaning supplies and pest killers kept away from children?

7. Emergency plan

If a child is injured, sick, or lost, what happens?

Are first aid kits readily available?

Does the program have emergency contact information?

Do they have a plan in case of disasters such as floods or fires and tornadoes?

Are practice drills conducted regularly?

baby crawling at daycare

8. Child abuse

Have all caregivers undergone background checks?

Are they trained to recognize signs of abuse?

Do they know how to report suspicion of abuse?

Are caregivers in view of others at all times so a child is never alone with one caregiver?

9. Medication

Where is medication kept?

Are they labeled?

10. Staff training

Are the caregivers trained to keep children healthy and safe?

Do they know first aid?

Do they understand how to meet the needs of children of different ages?

Are all caregivers trained to implement safe sleeping policies?

11. Playground

Is it surrounded by a fence?

Is the sandbox clean?

Is the equipment age appropriate?

Is it inspected regularly for safety?

Are your children in daycare? Was it easy for you to choose child care? How much do you know about how it’s run? 


First published at childcareaware.org

Featured image source: www.parentingwithunderstanding.com

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