What to look for in a childcare facility and helpful tips for choosing the best daycare for your baby.
Figuring out who will watch your little one when you go back to work can be one of the more stressful parts of preparing for a new baby.
There are multiple options for childcare.
- family members or friends
- home-based daycare
- center-based care
Each type of childcare option has different pros and cons.
My husband and I ultimately chose a daycare center for a number of reasons.
We have been extremely happy and comfortable with our kids’ daycare but there are a few things I wish we had thought about when we began our search.
If you are a new or soon-to-be parent thinking about daycare, keep the following seven things in mind while considering your options.
Here are seven important things to look for in a daycare.
1. Security at the daycare
Of course, we want to make sure our babies are safe. A daycare with extra security measures in place is so important.
What security measures should you look for in a daycare?
The facility should have locked doors and ideally doors that automatically lock.
They also should have clearly defined drop-off and pick-up procedures. You want to know that there’s a way to ensure that only authorized people are allowed to pick up your child.
Our current daycare has doors that automatically lock. Parents/caregivers are given a key chip to swipe in. Otherwise, you have to ring the bell and wait to be let in.
Locked doors give parents a sense of security, knowing that not just anyone is able to enter the building. It also makes it harder for kids to get out by themselves.
2. Communication between the daycare and parents
Trusting someone else to take care of your child can be a struggle.
This is why it is so important to have access to the daycare teachers when you need something or want to check-in.
Similarly, you’ll want them to give you feedback on how your child’s day is going.
Someone Accessible By Telephone Throughout The Day
You should be able to reach someone at the daycare center at any time while your child is there.
Whether you’re calling with an emergency, a question, or just to see how things are going, it’s important to know that your calls will always be answered.
Open Door Policy
All daycare facilities should have an open door policy. This means you, the parent, can drop by whenever you want, for any reason.
Of course, parents should respect the daycare’s usual schedule and not drop in frequently when it may disturb the flow of care, such as at naptime.
But it’s reassuring to know you can stop by if needed to say hello, check in once in awhile, or pick your kid up early as a surprise.
Daily Communication System
Being away from our babies all day is HARD.
It makes it easier if your daycare has some sort of communication system to fill you in on what’s happening each day.
This may be through email, texts, or written on a paper that you receive at the end of the day.
Our daycare uses an app that sends updates to parents throughout the day. I get alerts whenever they send out a new activity note.
For example, the app tells me when my kids get checked in, what they ate for their morning snack, when they used the bathroom or had a diaper change, how long they took a nap, when they went outside, etc.
They also send pictures when they do different activities so we can see all the fun they’re having!
Related: Struggling with returning to work after maternity leave? Check out these 10 quotes to empower and inspire working moms!
3. classroom Transitions
An important thing for me with my children in daycare is the opportunity for them to be stimulated in different ways as they get older.
Are there separate spaces or rooms for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers to learn with and from their peers?
As a former early intervention therapist, it’s important to me that our daycare focuses on developmentally appropriate learning for each stage, from infant to school-age.
At most childcare facilities, kids will transition from an infant room to a toddler room to preschool and/or transitional kindergarten room. Transitions are generally based on the age of the child plus the capacity of each room to meet child-to-teacher ratios at that time.
Each transition for us was exciting and we welcomed the new learning opportunities that moving up a class meant for our kids.
4. The Location of The Daycare
Originally I thought the location won’t really matter as long as it’s semi-close to home and fairly easy to get to.
But trust me on this one: If you can find a daycare you like that is ALSO on the way to and from work, this will make your life so much easier. So. Much. Easier.
In the morning, I’m running 10-15 minutes behind most days.
Therefore, it’s so convenient that our daycare is right along my work route.
At the end of the day, all I want to do is get home. I love that I don’t have to add extra minutes to my commute by going out of my way to pick up my kids.
Look for a daycare center that is on your route to work (or as close as possible).
Related post: Make mornings easier with this Weekly Clothes Organizer for Babies
5. Cameras At The Daycare Facility
Technology is a crazy thing.
Some daycare centers have cameras in the classrooms available for parents to watch throughout the day.
There are so many times I wish I could be a fly on the wall at my kids’ daycare just to know what they’re up to. I have so many questions throughout the day: who are they playing with, are they eating all their lunch, are they saying please and thank you?
There’s only so much we learn from the teachers at drop-off and pick-up. I’d love to be able to turn on my phone and get a glimpse into their world while I’m away from them at work.
However, would I become obsessed with checking the cameras to see what’s happening all the time? Probably…
Would it somewhat feel like a violation of privacy knowing that others could look in on MY kids during the day? Maybe…
Cameras in the class are a benefit, but may also have negative implications.
As more and more daycare facilities are being updated with this type of technology, it’s something to think about when you’re deciding on where to send your little one.
Some questions to ask when choosing a daycare: Are there cameras in the classroom? Are they always on? Who can access the footage? How does it affect the day-to-day classroom experience?
(Our daycare facility does NOT have cameras that parents can look at all the time and I’m okay with that).
6. daycare Meal Plan
When searching for daycare as a pregnant, first-time mom, the food situation never crossed my mind.
I was concerned about how my breast milk would be stored and where my baby would sleep for naps.
Related post: Tips for Pumping at Work for Breastfeeding Moms
I forgot that, eventually, my daughter would need to have lunches and snacks to eat while at daycare.
Fast forward a year later and I realized that having to come up with toddler-approved lunches every day is a huge hassle.
I tried to send her to daycare with healthy, creative lunches. At the same time, I wanted something she’d actually eat that didn’t take forever to prepare AND didn’t need to be heated or refrigerated.
Then, a miracle happened.
Our daycare started offering breakfast, lunch, and two snacks each day (for an increased price, of course).
It has been so worth it!
The meal plan involves a lot of healthy foods and a variety of different options.
Then I don’t feel so guilty making mac & cheese for dinner sometimes! *wink*
If available, find a daycare that provides meals or has a meal plan option. Make sure to ask about the menu though so you know what kinds of foods they serve.
7. that Gut Feeling
The most important thing to look for in a daycare?
The feeling it gives you.
This is cliche advice but go with your gut feeling.
Dropping your baby off a daycare is tough for many parents, especially in the beginning. You want to feel as comfortable and at ease as you possibly can.
My husband and I visited several different daycare centers and we actually liked them all. However, when we finished touring the daycare we ultimately chose, we both just knew that was where we wanted to bring our baby.
When To Start Looking For A Daycare?
After you’ve decided what things to look for in a daycare, when do you start looking for the right one?
When you plan to go back to work will affect how soon you should start looking for daycare. If you only have a few weeks off after you give birth, you’ll need to find childcare sooner than someone who gets a longer six-month maternity leave.
My husband and I started looking into childcare options when I was about 30 weeks pregnant.
The end of my maternity leave seemed so far away at that point. However, some of the places we looked at had waiting lists several months long.
I would recommend starting to visit daycares and narrowing down your options at least six months before you plan to return to work. For most women, this would be toward the beginning of the third trimester.
However, it’s never too early to start researching daycares near you. Make a list of the ones you think would be good options.
You can then call them early in your pregnancy to find out if they have a waitlist and when they think you should get serious about starting the enrollment process.
Final Thoughts on Things To Look For In A Daycare
There are many things to consider when choosing the best daycare for your baby.
You’ll want to make sure you feel safe with the security policies and that the doors to enter the daycare are kept locked.
It’s important to feel like there is appropriate communication between the daycare teachers, administration staff, and the parents. You should be allowed to enter the daycare at any time while your child is there.
A few things to make your life easier when enrolling your child in daycare are finding a location close to home or on your work route AND finding a daycare that offers a meal plan for the kids.
Another factor to consider is if the daycare has separate classrooms or areas for different aged children to learn in a developmentally appropriate way.
Ask about the presence of cameras in the classrooms. You’ll want to consider the pros and cons of your daycare center having cameras.
Good luck in your day-care search, I hope you find one that feels right!