10 Tips on Picking the Right Daycare Provider

Categories: Parenting

Photo by Lynda Rouner
Who doesn't like science projects?

My daughter has been going to the same daycare since she was just six weeks old, and her teacher is as much a part of my family as many extended members are. The Kid With One F loves going there, and I usually overshare ample pictoral evidence online of how much I appreciate the service rendered to me so that I can go out and make my shiny pennies.

Picking a daycare can be rough, especially if you're a first-time parent. Couples have a hard enough time leaving a child with their own parents some times, let alone a complete stranger. Plus, many of us have memories of bad daycare experiences, especially if you grew up in the poor areas like yours truly.

So I thought I'd pass on some of the things I've learned about what makes a great daycare and what makes a crappy one. Here's ten tips.

1. Check the State Agency: In Texas we have the Department of Family and Protective Services, and their site is the first place you should head when looking for a daycare provider. In addition to letting you search for care based on zip code and operation preference like home-based or commercial, they maintain extensive records on site inspections.

2. Look for High Turnover or Low Parent Satisfaction: As I said, my daughter has been with the same provider for most of her life. In that same amount of time I have known only two kids to drop out from care, and they were siblings whose parents had a radical income shift that allowed one to stay home with the kids. Ask the provider how long each kid has been with them, and if possible ask to speak to the other parents as to their opinion on the teacher and the facility. If they like the place, they should be more than willing to tell you so.

See also: Decompression: A Parent's First Night Alone in Four Years

3. Make Sure They Have a Curriculum: There really isn't anything like the first few years of your kid's life. Learning is indistinguishable from fun, and for the amount of time your child is likely to be spending at the facility you're going to want to see them engaged in some sort of structured education. Basic alphabet, fun little science projects, and the use of a program like ABC Mouse are all good indicators that the provider takes the idea of early childhood preparations seriously.

4. Pictures and Videos Are a Huge Plus: All day long I get notifications from the daycare filled with pictures of baking projects, play time, the kids helping each other build things, and all the other activities. If I don't get them in a text, they're posted on the daycare's Facebook page so all the grandparents can see. My boss' grandson's daycare has a live video feed that you can turn into. Nothing makes you feel better about leaving your children in another's care like being able to see images of them,

5. The Teacher Should Express a Willingness to Work With Your Needs: Every parent has a different idea of what makes for perfect child-rearing... and most of us are probably wrong, but that's not the point. The point is that you have your needs, and a daycare provider that won't respect that is probably not worth much. Our daughter was cloth diapered, which (Pardon the pun) can be a huge pain the ass. Our provider got on board with it immediately because it was important to us. If you go in for an initial interview and the provider outright dismisses everything you're concerned about, you'd better start looking elsewhere.

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Thank you so much for the tips on how to find a good day care for my son. I just got a promotion  at work and I have to be in the office more than usual now. My son would be home alone when I am at work, so I need to find a day care for him to go to. I like the tip to find a day care that has a curriculum. That way my son will learn something while there.


Thank you for these tips. I am a first time mom and my daughter is now 6 months old. In a few months I'll start a job and I'm thinking of who to leave the care of my baby with. These tips will definitely help me out.


I was a toddler teacher for 20 years and I would add the following. Don't send your child to "day care". Send them to a school or home with degreed and/or certified staff. The word "day care" is a red flag that means "we are just watching your kid during the day and keeping them alive until you get back". It takes lots of training to become an expert in the field of child development. Providing rich learning and nurturing environments for children age birth to six is something that should be held in high regard, as children learn more than they will learn the rest of their lives during these ages. The phrase, day care, is kind of an insult considering the sanctity of the task at hand.

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