Choosing a day care provider is a big decision working parents face. Is it close to work? Is it close to home? What are the necessary questions to ask a day care provider in an interview before you choose?
We started off with a nanny situation and had an interview with her before she started when my son was about 6 weeks old. I went back to work when my son, Ri, turned 11 weeks old. We were doing a mix of the nanny and my mother watching Ri.
When my mother’s situation changed when Ri was 9 months old, we needed to find a day care as our nanny wasn’t available for us full time.
Finding a day care was pretty overwhelming. Unlike other parents, this wasn’t even on our radar. Every place we called was more expensive than our rent with a year long waiting list.
No wonder everyone said “Get on a list as soon as you find out you’re expecting!”
We started looking into home day cares with providers who were accredited by the county and state out of their house. We were super lucky to find our current day care provider who had an opening in the new year once her paperwork cleared. She had been in business, but with a move to a bigger place she needed to reapply for everything.
We did a 15 minute phone interview before checking out the in home day care center with our list of questions to ask of our hopeful new
Bring this list of questions to ask your day care provider before choosing which center is right for you!
17 Questions To Ask A Day Care Provider
1. What is your sick-child policy?
A sick-child policy is very important for a day care center and you’ll want to make sure one is in place.
Our in home day care has a very strict policy on picking up kids who are running a fever and if there is a rash (not diaper), but I am grateful for that. I don’t want Ri around kids who should be home resting, and I want him home resting if he’s not feeling well.
I am lucky that I can work from home most days if my son is sick or my husband can take off as needed to care for our son.
2. What is your policy on immunizations?
Immunizations may be a hot button issue, but most parents agree vaccines are necessary. Don’t be afraid to shy away from this question regardless of your stance. If your child is immunocompromised, you’ll need to make sure all vaccinations are up to date and that the day care center takes vaccinations seriously.
Our day care provider requires vaccinations.
3. Does the day care have all its legal paperwork?
Legal paperwork and certificates should be in clear view and available if requested. If the day care provider winces at the question, move on.
4. What is the staff-to-child ratio? Does this change?
Your state will require each day care provider to have a certain amount of qualified staff members available to take care of a specific number of children at a certain age. Find out what this is for your state and make sure your day care adheres to this regulation.
5. Are the children grouped by age?
It’s important to see where your child will be placed when he or she enters a day care situation. Often times, there are infant, pre-toddler, and toddler groupings designated with the appropriate staff.
You’ll want to see a smaller group of children to each adult.
6. Do you have a set daily schedule?
I can’t be the only mama that thrives on routine…
This was actually the first question I asked of our day care provider. I need the routine to maintain some balance and control in my life. I never thought I’d be that way, and then I had a kid and it all went out the window.
Our day care has a schedule, but adjusts for the much younger infants. We keep the same schedule at home to keep things running smoothly.
7. What are the qualifications of the staff here?
I wanted to know all of the qualifications, education, and training the staff at our in home day care has gone through. Our in home day care has one staff member, and it was important to me that she was qualified in child care.
Some additional questions you can ask on this topic are:
- Why did you get involved in child care?
- Do staff members get breaks?
- What happens if a staff member calls out? Is there someone on call to make sure ratios are met?
8. Is the staff trained in CPR and First Aid?
No one wants the bad things to happen, but it’s incredibly important that all members of the day care are properly trained and up to date in their CPR and First Aid certifications. Make sure your day care provider is current in these certifications.
9. If meals are provided: What foods are the children eating? Are the foods allergy friendly?
Ri was diagnosed with a milk allergy at 19 months old so allergy friendly foods are always on our mind.
Our in home day care provider supplies all food, except our dairy free items, like coconut milk yogurt and almond cashew milk, due to a state regulation. No big deal for us.
We go over his menu often so our day care provider can pick up new foods our son will eat and if we need to make adjustments. Toddlers are picky, man.
Ask your potential day care provider what foods the children are being fed and don’t be afraid to ask to see what it is and read labels for yourself.
10. How often are the toys cleaned and replaced?
How often toys are cleaned is important to keep germs away. I may not clean the toys as much at home as our day care provider does! It’s comforting to know she does wipe down toys and wipes them down more often if a child has a runny nose.
Replacing broken toys is necessary, too.
11. How do you communicate with parents? Is there a daily report?
You’ll want to know in all situations how is an issue, concern, or good behavior reported to you.
A daily report is a really great way to keep up with what’s going on at day care. Pick-up can sometimes be a bit chaotic if other parents are there at the same time. Getting a daily report will be a great way to keep up with what’s happened throughout your child’s day and raise questions if needed.
Keep the line of communication open. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions in regards to the care of your child.
12. What is your discipline policy?
This is important for children a little older. When we started doing time out, we let our day care provider know exactly what we were doing so she could do the exact same thing as well. It’s been effective for both home and day care.
13. How do you comfort children?
Kids cry. Especially the younger ones who aren’t communicating with words yet. How are they comforted when they’re upset? Our day care provider remains calm when the children are upset and offers hugs if the children need it.
14. Where do the children nap?
It’s important to see where the children are napping. You’ll want the day care to follow the guidelines set forth by the American Association of Pediatrics regarding a safe place for infants to sleep as well as being placed on their back.
We had to provide our in home day care provider with a note that Ri was allowed to stay on his belly if he rolled over during sleep, which he would within a few minutes of dozing off.
15. Who may pick up my child?
Give your day care provider of a short list of people who can pick up your child. Provide photos. Ask the day care provider to check IDs.
Our list has a whopping two people on it: me and my husband.
I realize we do not live in close proximity to family who would be picking up our son, but the smaller this list is the less room for the worst case scenario.
16. Is there a holiday schedule? Can you provide a list of days the day care center is closed?
Make sure the list of holidays for the day care center or in home day care provider match up to your schedule. Also, you’ll want to know far enough in advance to make arrangements if the center is closed on a day you will have to go into work.
Our in home day care provider celebrates Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, two very holy days in the Muslim calendar. She lets us know the days she will take off, especially if she is fasting as part of her religious customs.
17. What are the fees? Is there a late pick-up fee?
An important question to ask! Day care can be a high cost for quality care, especially in city areas. Here in the DC area, most day care providers are close to or over $2,000 a month.
Check on any additional yearly feeds or late pick-up fees. Late pick-ups happen! Make sure you know in advance if you’ll incur any additional charges and when those fees are to be paid.
- Bring a checklist and take notes as you tour the day care center
- Make sure the operating hours fit in with your work schedule
- Ask for references and follow through with contacting them
- Check out the National Association for the Education of Young Children