Interviewing and selecting daycare options can evoke a lot of emotions. Of course, no one can care for your little one the way you do, and when considering the best daycare to send your baby or young child to, only the best will do. Perhaps work demands mean a daycare is a necessity. Or maybe being a full-time caretaker isn’t feasible for you. Whatever the reason, it can be a stressful, tearful, worrisome process full of many questions and concerns. The good news is you can be prepared and go into this experience feeling confident and calm by knowing what questions to ask when interviewing daycares.
Between digital reviews, word of mouth, your pediatrician’s recommendation, and your next-door neighbor’s opinion, knowing what to ask and how to prepare for interviewing daycare staffers can feel overwhelming. But once you have all the information in front of you, it will be much easier to decide the best selection for your family.
What to Look for When Choosing a Daycare
When speaking with a provider, ask them to set up a time for an in-person visit when you can take a tour and ask questions. You can plan for the visit to last between 30-60 minutes. While you may not need all that time, you should be able to see all the areas your child would have access to, including common areas, classrooms, bathrooms, eating areas, and outdoor play areas.
On tour, you can visually assess the situation and see if the space seems clean and inviting or if the staffers seem happy and calm or frazzled and disinterested. Look to see how the teachers speak with children. Do they talk with them at the children’s eye level by sitting, crouching, or kneeling? Do they greet each child? Ask about the program and try to meet some of the caregivers. You can bring a pen and paper or take notes on your phone to reference when it’s time to make your decision, so you’re not overwhelmed by all the information you’re getting.
Licensing is a Standard
State-level licensing is the minimum standard for care regulation. A license is a permission to run the business, but it does not indicate care quality. In addition to licensing, high-quality care centers will seek national accreditation from organizations such as:
- National Association for the Education of Young Children
- National Accreditation Commission for Early Care and Education Programs
- National Early Childhood Program Accreditation
Questions to Ask When Interviewing Daycares
To help streamline this process, here’s a list of all the questions you should consider asking when interviewing potential daycares. You’ll be able to answer many of these questions through your observation during an in-person or virtual visit to the facility. Still, other questions are best to ask the management or teaching staff directly.
In addition to this list, Child Care Resource & Referral agencies (CCR&Rs) are designed to help families find childcare. You can consult the CCRR Directory map to find the phone number of a CCRR in your area.
Daycare Class Structure Questions
What is the student-to-teacher ratio?
How many students are in a class?
Do children get screen time here? Does the program use TV, computers, or other types of technology with the children? If so, how often are these materials used and for what purposes? What are the programs that are being used?
Are there different areas for resting, quiet, and active play?
How long are babies in devices that restrict their movements, such as swings, highchairs, bouncy seats, or cribs?
What qualifications do teachers need to have to teach at this school?
What is the turnover like?
Where do most of the children attend kindergarten?
How do you handle conflict among children? Do caregivers discipline children, and how?
How often do caregivers share observations and ongoing assessment information with parents?
Do caregivers share and talk to parents about their child’s daily activities, either at drop-off or pick-up?
Do caregivers always keep a hand on the child while diapering? How often are babies’ diapers checked and changed? For toddlers, how do you encourage and help with potty training?
During rest time, can staff always see and hear infants and toddlers?
How do you invest in staff development?
How do you develop and improve your lesson plans over time? What local and national organizations do you tap into to help guide your process?
Does the program have a written supervision policy or plan that ensures children are always supervised?
Does the program have a policy regarding when your child and other children should stay home because of illness?
Are the caregivers, teachers, and directors involved in ongoing training or continuing education programs?
What are the full- and half-day and full- and half-week options and prices?
Daycare Safety Questions
What measures does the school have in place to ensure safety?
When are drop-off and pick-up? Does the program have a policy regarding drop-off and pick-up times, including who can pick up your child? Are there fees for late pick-up?
Are there straightforward check-in and check-out procedures?
Does the childcare program have records proving enrolled children are up to date on required immunizations?
Are the infant and toddler sleep spaces free of soft objects, toys, crib bumpers, and loose bedding?
Have caregivers been trained in CPR and first aid, and are those certifications current?
How often are toys and materials sanitized and cleaned?
What appropriate touch and affection do the staff give the children?
What are the protocols in case of an emergency?
Do you practice fire drills?
What are the procedures in the event of a natural disaster?
Do you have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors?
When does the school year end?
Does the daycare close for any holidays?
What’s the application process look like?
Is a uniform required?
How do you communicate with parents?
What is provided for the children while there?
Food and Mealtime Questions
How does the daycare respect food allergies or dietary restrictions?
Do the teachers keep a log of meals so I know how much my child has eaten?
Are there hot lunches available or do parents need to provide the snacks and meals? If food is available, where is the food from? Do we get a list of the weekly or monthly menu?
Before choosing a daycare, consider stopping by unexpectedly on another day to get an authentic feel of the daycare when the staff isn’t ready for a visitor. While there is no guarantee of quality in childcare programs, you play a crucial role in ensuring your child is safe, cared for, and has a wonderful experience. By doing the important but challenging work of thoroughly researching facilities, you can feel confident dropping your little one off in the morning. Before you know it, your little one will be making new friends, learning new skills, and gaining valuable exposure to fun, new experiences in a safe environment you can trust and feel secure in. Observing adult and child interactions, knowing what questions to ask when interviewing daycares, and checking in on regulations and inspections of programs are all essential tools to help you stay informed.