As a new or expecting parent, lining up amazing childcare can be the toughest nut to crack. You can’t call your pediatrician for the answer, Google it, or buy it on Amazon Prime (at least, for now). It takes legwork—and if you’re considering daycare, a fair amount of touring. Just like those college visits, you’ll get a gut feeling the minute you walk in the door on a daycare tour, but it’s essential to come armed with the right questions.
“Treat your tour like an interview—don’t be scared to ask the tough questions. Make them sell you on their program. They’re going to be in charge of the most important thing to you in the world,” says Lauren Nordholm, Executive Director at The Goddard School. And while you can expect your tour guide to tell you about drop-off parking rules, sick policies, and whatever app or system they use for sending daily updates, you want to dig for the info that’s not in the school manual.
So here’s the winning tour formula: let your eyes guide you (how happy do the children and staff look? How clean are the floors?) and bring this cheat sheet with ten super important questions. You want to feel 100% comfortable with every single answer before getting on that waitlist, says Nordholm.
General Questions to Ask Daycare Providers
1. How does this school differ from local competition? (A great follow up question to this is: Where do children usually go to school after they graduate the program?)
2. What kind of child development programs or early childhood education classes are offered? (Think: languages, music, special interests, etc. And are those included in tuition or a separate fee?)
3. What is parent involvement like? Are there school-wide or classroom parties? Can parents drop in at any time for a visit?
Questions about Security
4. What kind of security does the building have? Is there always someone at the front watching the door-and is that door always locked? (Also, how does the school deal with a new person picking up your child? Do they require a photo ID?)
Questions about Staff
5. What is your teacher retention like? (How often is there staff turnover? You want to get a sense of overall turnover, but most importantly within your child's age group. Make sure to ask about both.)
6. What's the teacher-to-child ratio in each age group, but most importantly within your classroom? And what's the max number of infants or babies in each classroom?
7. What are the staff member qualifications? Is every childcare provider CPR and first aid certified?
Questions about Child Care
8. What kinds of meals are served to the kiddos? Is there snack time? Are they organic, and where is the food prepared?
9. What will your child’s day typically look like? Can they offer a sample curriculum? How else are the children stimulated throughout the day? Do the children nap? Do you need to provide anything for nap time, like baby blankets or nap mats?
10. Are the children taken off-site? Is there outdoor play? And what kind of safety guidelines are in place to protect the kids?
If you think of another important question to ask, don’t be afraid to do so. You want to be confident and comfortable dropping off your little one, knowing you selected a good daycare or caregiver. Thinking about hiring a nanny? Check out 9 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Nanny.