choose the best child care center

October 19, 2022

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How To Choose a Day Care

Depending on where you live, you may need to leave yourself a little more time to find a day care.

It's a good idea to start looking well before you plan to go back to work; in fact, you probably want to start checking out your options before your baby even arrives. Here are a few steps to take:

Do Your Research

Get recommendations from other parents (at work and among friends) and your pediatrician. If you don't know other parents, consider asking those you meet in your OB/GYN or pediatrician's waiting room, the playground or a mommy-and-me class. You can also check online resources for childcare referral services or with the state regulatory agency.

Interview Centers

Screen centers and in-home day care providers over the phone. (See questions to ask below.) If the center's hours are inconvenient or the staff isn't forthcoming, scratch it off the list of places to visit.

Check The Center Out In Person

Once you've narrowed down your choices, visit in person and see if it checks off all the basics (again, see below). Then trust your gut: If something doesn't seem right to you, it probably isn't right for your baby, either.

Check References

Take the time to call former and current clients to find out how happy they and their kids are with their experience. As tempting as it is to rely on the glowing letters of recommendation that providers may supply, don't. Letters are easily edited (or even forged).

Drop By Unannounced

Before you make your final choice, consider stopping by unexpectedly on another day to get a truer picture of what the group day care center is like when the staff hasn't been prepped. If the center doesn't allow unscheduled visits of any kind, you may want to cross it off your list.

Ask About Their Accreditation

For group day care centers, those accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) meet even higher standards, including a good ratio of adults to babies; low turnover in caregivers; and a philosophy that promotes the health, safety and development of kids in its care. For in-home day care, if it's accredited by the National Association for Family Child Care, the provider has met higher standards.