There are many different options for childcare these days; daycares, private home care, and even some high schools have early childhood education programs. When weighing your options, consider the following:

Experience: Often the qualification to take care of small children is a short course. Unfortunately the extensive education we have come to expect in other professions that deal with the well-being of our children is often not a requirement. When touring any type of care facility, ask about the experience neccesary to be a daycare teacher or child minder. This can help you make an informed decision on if the carers have the experience you feel comfortable with. That is not to say daycares that do not require some sort of formal education or more extensive experience are unsafe or not a great facility; but it’s nice to know the individual caretaker’s background before entrusting them with your kids!

Playground: For parents with toddlers, early pre-schoolers or VPK age children, the transition can be tough. One of the best ways to get your child excited to start going to daycare is an awesome playground! If your little one can’t get enough of the swings, or could spend all day on the slides; finding a daycare that has their favorite playground equipment can be a great way to avoid the drop-off meltdowns.

Cleanliness: It may seem like an odd question to ask, and it’s one many parents forget about when touring what looks like an awesome daycare. However, asking what the cleaning regime is and what products are used is really important. Keep in mind, most places do need to clean with bleach because it’s a legal regulation; but that does not mean they can’t use more natural products in between. Remember, when your child starts daycare or school – no matter what age- they are going to get sick quite often at first regardless of how diligent the facility is!

Professionalism: Does the daycare teacher get up and shake your hand when you meet them on the daycare tour? These people will be instilling early social skills into your children both intentionally and unintentionally by the way they carry themselves and act towards others; it is important that you feel comfortable with your child’s caretakers mannerisms and professionalism with you and their colleagues.

Safety: There are many safety features that daycares may offer. Some have cameras in every room; which is a great feature but should not be the deciding factor in determining if a daycare is safe. For instance, is the main entrance secured with locks and alarms? Is there a code or key card you need to get in? What is the ‘guest check out’ procedure- i.e. another family member needs to pick up your child one day? These are all important things to consider about the daycare facilities you’re considering.

The Happy Factor: The most important thing besides safety is that your child is happy! If the other children their age at the facility are happy- odds are yours will be too. Be sure to check out online reviews on Yelp and Facebook. Look out for posts that say “My kid loves it here! He/She can’t wait to go to school every day!”

Remember, if you choose a facility and it doesn’t ‘feel’ like the right fit, or they have policies you don’t agree with; continue your search- you will find the right fit for your family!