Choose The Right Childcare Center: 20+ Questions to Ask
If you’re wondering how to choose a daycare or a preschool that’s right for your child, you’re not alone. As a preschooler parent, finding a childcare center that aligns with your preferences is a huge responsibility, especially in today’s highly competitive environment. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that you make an informed decision. To begin with, we have curated a list of 20+ must-ask childcare questions to ask. These questions cover everything from safety and qualifications to curriculum and parental involvement. By asking these questions, you can get a better idea of what to look for in a preschool and make a wise decision that’s right for your child.
Table of Contents
How to choose a daycare: 3 tips to get started
Before you begin your child care research, gather as much information as possible. Collect information about your child’s age, good childcare in your area, the curriculum offered, etc.
In this section, we have jotted down some important points to consider:
Start at least 3-4 months early
Start your research at least 3 or 4 months before you want your child to be sent to childcare. If you start early, you’ll have ample time to visit different centers and invest your time in asking the right questions without hurry. Starting early often helps make a rational decision.
Learn about your child's preschool age range
Depending on the child’s age, the way childcare workers treat children varies. A toddler requires more attention and care than a preschooler. So, learn about different childcare age ranges and the basic requirements every childcare provider must offer.
Also Read: Childcare Age Groups and development phases
Research and make a list of childcare centers
Based on your child’s age, find the best daycare and preschools in your locality. Check the local directory that lists all the center details. You can also ask for recommendations from other parents (family, peers, co-workers, etc). Check the school’s website to collect more information, such as distance and working hours.
Once you have completed your preliminary research, visit the selected daycare and preschools. Then, you can start asking the following questions.
Get your copy of free childcare age group chart for ready reference
Daycare and preschool-related questions
These questions will help you learn about the center’s approach to childcare education. Besides, you’ll also learn how they contribute to a child’s physical and mental development.
Curriculum and learning program-related questions
(Q) Which type of curriculum does your center offer?
If you have a preschooler, ask about what kind of curriculum the school uses to teach the children. There are a variety of well-established preschool curricula, such as the Montessori method and the Reggio Emilia Method. The different curriculum focuses on activities to support and foster your child’s growth.
(Q) What are all the activities you engage children in?
Activities such as puzzles, block building, sketching, and group activities play a crucial role in a child’s physical and cognitive development. By asking these questions, you will understand how the center supports your infant’s growth. If you have a preschooler, it will help you learn how school balances academic and extracurricular activities.
(Q) Can you give me an overview of a daily schedule?
The daily schedule will vary widely based on the center’s preferred curriculum and philosophy. Some might have a rigid structure with less flexibility, while others operate on a play-based learning model. So, ask for the daily schedule to understand if it matches your preferences.
(Q) How does your center balance indoor and outdoor activities?
Every childcare center must balance indoor and outdoor activities as both activities develop different skills in a child. So, get an idea about activities your child would take part in and the frequency of these activities.
Admissions and fee structure-related questions
(Q) What’s the fee structure for different programs?
Learn about the fee structure for the available program to select the one that ticks all the boxes and also fits within your budget. We recommend asking about any extra fees that you might need to pay. For example, any last-minute pickups or drop-off fees or fees for workshops.
(Q) What are your admission criteria?
It’s important to understand the entire admission process from the beginning. The admission process will vary from center to center. Some childcare centers have a straightforward process, such as a form fill, but in other centers, you may have to go through several steps like form submission, screening process, etc.
So, learn about the admission process to decide if it’s worth going through a longer one.
(Q) Do you offer part-time enrollment too? If yes, what time do you offer?
If you plan to send your child only for a fixed number of hours a week, you can get information about part-time enrollment.
(Q) Is there a pickup and drop facility available?
If you’re already planning to opt for a bus service, get the pickup and drop-off times. Ask for emergency pickup facilities in case you cannot drop off or pick up your child at the required times. It will help you avoid any last-minute inconveniences.
In addition, many centers might have childcare management software and offer bus tracking facilities. Ask for the same if you’d like.
Don't forget to carry your checklist of 'questions to ask' when you go school shopping next.
Health and safety-related questions
(Q) Do the right authorities license your center?
Ensure the child care center is licensed and has all the legal rights to offer childcare services. Ask for the right documents, and the center must be able to provide them immediately. Also, consider the certification held by care providers at the center.
All these signs will indicate if the particular center is the legit and safe choice for your child.
(Q) Does your center also look after required vaccinations?
Sickness takes no time to spread, especially among infants and toddlers. Children at this stage need vaccinations, as without them, they would be more prone to diseases. So, ask the center about their vaccination policy and how they enforce it in their curriculum.
(Q) Do you have a medical emergency kit available in every classroom?
Ask if every classroom has a fully equipped medical emergency to offer care without delay. You can also ask about the number of medical staff available daily to look after sick or injured children.
Food and nutrition-related questions
(Q) What meal plans do you offer, and what’s the schedule?
Ask about the meal types and the timings of each meal. It will help you understand if the food offered meets the dietary requirement of your child.
(Q) Are the meals prepared in-house or bought from outside?
Consider asking this question if you don’t prefer outside food for your child.
(Q) Do you consider a child’s diet plan as prescribed by their doctor?
If your child requires a special diet or eats food only prescribed by your doctor, ensure the childcare center can offer that food. If not, you’ll know what meals you have to prepare on your own.
Staff related questions
(Q) What qualifications do all caregivers have? – Training, professional experience as a caregiver, etc.
It’s imperative to understand if the care provider for your children has adequate professional experience and knowledge. It will assure you that your child is under the right company and will get the required care and learning.
You can also ask for training and workshops every provider goes through to learn about a child and provide high-quality care.
(Q) Do you have experienced staff for medical care?
Getting injured is inevitable as children, by nature, are more active and curious. In such scenarios ensuring your child is properly assisted with professional medical care becomes imperative. Physical injuries and falling sick while in daycare should be taken care of.
This is an important question to ask as your child’s health matters more at this growing stage.
(Q) What is your approach toward behavioral problems?
This is an important question to ask. The approach to handling conflicts (grabbing, pushing, biting or fighting) among children reflects a lot about the childcare giver. Understanding how they handle such instances is imperative. It will also reflect how your child will learn soft skills such as discipline, empathy, and co-operation. All these skills will is a core part of their socio-economic development.
You can also learn caregivers’ approach to conflict. Do they intervene and listen to children and draw a conclusion, or do they raise their voice to make children shut up? You would want to go for a childcare center whose values align with yours.
Parent-child communication-related questions
As a parent, you must be able to learn about your child’s growth from timely updates from the center. So, the following questions will help you understand how the selected center keeps you in the loop and shares timely updates.
(Q) How do they maintain communication with the parent?
Good parent-teacher communication fosters healthy partnerships among all the parties involved in a childcare. So, ask about how the caregiver communicates with the parent. Many preschool and childcare centers use Illumine, a childcare management software. The software helps them send child’s real-time updates, lesson plans, photos and videos, and daily reports to the parent. Ask if the center uses Illumine to make you more involved in your child’s activities.
(Q) How can a parent get more involved in a child’s day-to-day activities?
If you want to participate in a child’s daily activities, you can ask if the center organizes parent-child workshops or events.
General daycare questions
(Q) How do you comfort upset and angry kids?
Infants and infants might get upset and angry over trivial matters, and how the caregiver handles them is important. A comforting approach often makes them feel heard and calms them, while a strict approach might instill fear. So, make sure to ask this question to understand if the approach they follow aligns with what’s right for your child.
(Q) What’s your child care to caregiver ratio?
The caregiver to child ratio varies depending on your child’s age (check the table below). Ask the center if they have the staff to look after your child and support and educate them.
(Q) Is screen time permitted?
It’s a debatable question because it’s subjective to a parent’s opinion. But you must get on the same page with the center if you don’t want or want limited screen time for your child.
Making the right decision
When it comes to your child’s development and safety, don’t hold back. Be vocal about your queries and ask as many childcare questions as you want to clarify your doubts.
One key factor to consider while choosing a preschool for your child is the type of childcare management software they use, like Illumine. It eases the communication with teachers as they send you timely updates, curriculum, child’s assessment report, etc.