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How to Find the Very Best Child Care for Your Family in 8 Simple Steps

5-minute read 

Research shows that choosing a quality preschool for your child will put them on the path to a fantastic future. Here is our checklist for families with children ages 6 weeks to 6 years old. 
  • Choose a childcare center close by, it can be a real sanity saver. 
  • Nationally accredited centers meet high standards in teacher qualifications, curriculum, and safety. 
  • Make a list of what matters to your family and use it as a guide.. 
  • Look for cleanliness, nutrition and health and safety information. 
  • Speak with the teachers and see if the classrooms encourage exploration, reading, and a sense of belonging. 
  • Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to ask questions before deciding. 

Research shows that choosing a quality preschool for your child will help them get kindergarten-ready—and put them on the path to a fantastic future.  So, choosing the right childcare center is a pretty important decision, and maybe a little overwhelming. We get it—and we are here help you and your child meet this moment to find a place that will make your family’s life better. 

How do you know “high-quality” versus so-so or no-go on your search? Using insight from our childcare experts with nearly 50 years of experience, here is our checklist for families with children ages 6 weeks to 6 years old to find the best preschool for you. 

Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

Step #1. Make It Easy on Yourself, Pick a Center Along Your Commuter Route

The rhythm of drop-off and pickup will soon become a reality of your days. There are no hard-and-fast rules here, of course, but having a childcare center close by can be a real sanity saver—especially on those days when you’ve got an early morning meeting or shift, and nothing is going right. Consider things like, what’s more important to your family—being closer to home or closer to work or somewhere in-between?

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Step #2. Find a Center That's Nationally Accredited

Nationally accredited centers will give your child everything they need to reach their full potential. Think of accreditation as a big gold star in the world of early childhood education. Awarded by an independent organization, accredited centers meet rigorous standards in everything from teacher qualifications to curriculum to safety. (Nationally, only about 10% of centers are accredited; 98% of KinderCare Learning Centers are!) 

The National Association for the Education of Young Children's (NAEYC) handy search tool makes finding an accredited center easy. Simply plug in your ZIP code and boom, you get a list of accredited centers in your area. NAEYC isn’t the only accrediting body; you’ll find a similar search tool for the Association for Early Learning Leaders too. 

Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

Step #3. Make a Short List of What Matters Most to Your Family

The right center will honor and celebrate your family, including your structure, needs, beliefs, and little quirks. To help in your search, create a list with what you need from a center, what you want for your child, and any concerns you may have, no matter how large or small. 

Do you need to be close to home? Do you want your child to be super-duper ready for kindergarten? Are you concerned about how the teachers will manage your spirited child when they knock down other kids’ block towers? Use your list as a conversation guide when speaking with centers—and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. 

Photo by She Saw Things Photography
Photo by She Saw Things Photography

Step #4. See if the Center Has the Basics Down Pat

When you visit virtually or take an in-person tour, this is your time to check out the space, meet the center director, and imagine how adorable your child will look covered in finger paint. But if the center can’t get the basics right, move on. 

  1. Cleanliness: The center should obviously be clean and tidy. 
  2. Safety: Look to see if healthy and safety procedures are easy to find on their website and prominently displayed. Plus, strong emergency plans should be also be available with staff able to explain them—especially in areas prone to hurricanes, snowstorms, and earthquakes. 
  3. Nutrition: Healthy body, healthy mind! Menus for meals and snacks should be made up of whole-grain foods, plenty of fruits and veggies, and does not serve juice, which is high in sugar

Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

Step #5. Check to See if the Classrooms Are Made Just for Kids

Whether you’ve got a whirling dervish, a whiz kid, or quiet contemplator, a great classroom for kids empowers them all to reach their full learning potential. Do they:

  1. Encourage exploration by providing easy access to many learning possibilities—science stations, art supplies, dress-up clothes, and games.
  2. Encourage reading by placing books within easy reach. Bonus points if the classroom is “print-rich.”
  3. Build a sense of belonging by hanging art at eye-level and labeling cubbies with names and pictures.
Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

Step #6. Spend a Little Time with the Teachers

A Lifetime Of Confidence Starts Here

Our teachers help every child build the confidence they need to try new things and explore the world around them.

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If children love their teacher, they’ll love school—and love learning. (Parenting wins!) Take time to speak with the teachers, looking for passion and heart. A center director can help you schedule a video visit or phone call with your child’s future teacher. When talking with them, do they seem to love what they do and being with the children? Ask them what they like about teaching littles or, if you have a concern about your child, bring it up. Their answers will tell you a lot about their passions and their openness to working with you!

Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

Step #7: Trust Your Instincts, You Know Your Family Best

After engaging with a center, you will have a lot of information buzzing around in your head. Narrowing down what’s right for your family can seem overwhelming at first, but asking yourself these questions can really help you out in the long run: Did you feel listened to, heard and understood? Was the center and staff warm and welcoming? When in doubt, trust your gut! This is your child after all, and you know them best.

Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

Step #8. It's Okay to Ask More Questions if You're Still Unsure

Still on the fence? Set up another virtual visit, phone call or in-person meeting. A great center will be more than happy to honor your request. Just like we said at the beginning, the perfect preschool for you will make the experience all about you and your family!

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