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How to find the right child care center: 10 pro tips

Whether you’re looking for child care for the first time, returning to care after a break, or making a change to your family’s routine, finding a new child care provider is a big decision!  

Many people use a web search to find the best daycare nearby, but how do you know what questions to ask to find the right fit for you? Use this handy checklist, developed by our education professionals, to help you find the best child care center for your whole family. 
 

The Essential Child Care Checklist 

Make a (wish) list.

Before you begin your search, write down what your family wants and needs from a child care center. Maybe you’re thinking about kindergarten readiness. Maybe social and emotional development is more of a priority. Leave space for your questions, concerns, and fears. 

As you move through your search, refer to your wish list to help you stay focused on what’s most important to you. Use it as a conversation guide during a visit or tour, and make sure the staff at the center can answer your questions or point you to helpful resources.  

Understand the center’s health and safety policies.

Health and safety have never been more top-of-mind for parents and caregivers alike. The child care provider you choose should have health and safety policies that are in line with the CDC and local government, and ultimately, your family must make the choice that feels right for you—on your timeline.  
 

Look for child care teachers who love what they do.

Great teachers love kids and have a natural ability to connect with every child in their care. Ask to observe a class so you can watch the teachers! Are they ready to get their hands dirty with crayons and glue sticks? Can they jump from reading a story to the whole class to helping a child find their lovie in a single bound?  

Look for a well-rounded curriculum.

There are many schools of thought on how to teach young children, and it can be hard to know which would be the best fit for your child. What’s most important when making your choice is that the approach (like our Early Foundations® curriculum) focuses on your child’s happy heart and growing mind—from learning how to share, making friends, and expressing feelings, to getting fluent in STEM-learning, music, literacy, and even anti-bias principles.  

Explore classrooms by age and get on your child’s level.

There’s a difference between caring for babies and teaching preschoolers. Try to find a program that has classrooms organized by age and educators who can differentiate their teaching for your child’s needs. Ask for a tour of the center, your child’s classroom, and request a sample schedule so you can get a sense of what your child will be doing each day.  

Find out where kids go to get their wiggles out!

Learning happens indoors and outdoors, so ask if there are outside play spaces (or nearby parks) that allow kids of all abilities the opportunity to take a breather, connect with nature, map out a new four-square strategy, or find courage on the slide! 

Ask directly: Will my child be prepared for kindergarten?

One main reason preschool is so valuable is because it can help prepare your early learner for elementary school. So, make sure that your program is truly preparing kids for the next step in their learning journey! Ask your providers if they have proof of how your child will thrive and be prepared for kindergarten and beyond.  

Look for the accreditation seal of approval.

You’ve probably heard of licensing and expect every care provider to have this credential. But make sure the center you’re inquiring about has individual third-party accreditation. That means an outside agency has validated the teachers, environments, and curriculum to make sure your family is getting an exceptional child care experience.  

Ask all about enrollment.

Location, cost, environment, and community are some of the main factors that go into making a child care choice that feels right for your family. When you’re ready to enroll, here are some things to ask:  
 
  • Is there space in the location and classroom you want?  
  • What is the tuition structure and what’s included in tuition?  
  • Does the center offer flexible enrollment options that meet your family’s needs?  
  • Are there financial supports or services available to you?  

Go with your gut (and your heart)!

After you’ve toured and ticked all the boxes, ask yourself three key questions:  

  1. Did you feel listened to and understood?  
  2. Was the center warm and welcoming?  
  3. Did it feel like the right place for your child to grow and thrive?  

If you’re not sure, go back for a second visit or keep on looking! The right center will want you to have everything you need to make a confident decision. 

KinderCare

We hope you find a child care provider that checks all the boxes (and we hope it’s us)! If you’re still looking for additional ways to make an informed choice, here are nine more key questions you can ask to help you make a great child care decision.  

Check out even more tips and resources on our blog!