It does not matter if you commute to work, work from home, or perhaps you are a stay at home Mom and need time to yourself or to complete things for the household and need to select a daycare for your child. When the time comes, there is a huge amount of guilt that weighs on your shoulders in wanting to entrust the care of your child to someone else.
Before you end up choosing a daycare, you were the constant. You did wake up time, meals, play, and education. Now, someone else is going to have that honor anywhere from part time 4-5 hours a day all the way to full time 8-12 hours. I understand you are nervous. I myself worked at three daycare providers in the past and have learned a few things that really made my tour of daycares easy and stress free.
Questions you need to ask yourself first:
- Can you afford daycare costs? Typically most daycares you pay the week before they attend or tuition is due by mid week of the week they are enrolled. You also may have a deposit fee, application fee, and week ahead fee. (Almost like renting an apartment or house!) At the end of the day you need to know you are bringing in more income than you are paying for daycare provider services.
- Do you need part time or full time care? This is almost irrelevant to many daycare providers as the cost of full time is only a mere $5-$25 more a week than part time in most cases. The reason for this, they want to encourage a stable environment and have the same children within the atmosphere.
- Is your child up to date on vaccinations? Most schools will require a physical to enroll. If your Pediatrician already has done one recently, you just need to get the forms faxed. Otherwise you need to make sure you have set up an appointment before enrolling or this can delay the start date.
- Is the commute relevant to your home or work? In an emergency of your child being sick or worse, how long would it take you to get there? This is also very important because most daycare providers instill a $1 per minute charge for late pick up in the evenings.
- Is the location safe, or at least what you consider safe, based on location. This was huge to me. I did not want a school that was on the edge of a busy intersection or busy road in general (close to road). I did not want a playground that people walking by could come up and talk to my child. I did not want a daycare that was directly aligned with a busy business. How is their playground set up? What is the escape route? If your child leaves a class, what safety precautions are in place? My child would have to climb two fences either direction to get out and he can not reach the door handle on the main exit.
- Is the location offering after school pick up and are you in that school zone? This is important if you wish to continue to utilize them after your child ages out of daycare classes. Otherwise you will be looking at a new location if you are unable to pick up your child by closing time.
Questions you need to ask the daycare provider:
- Before you even tour a daycare provider facility, you need to call and ask if they have openings for your child’s age. This will save you time. Typically most will require an appointment as well to tour the school. This is due to safety for the other children and of course so you do not visit during nap time. I highly suggest touring it solo in the morning and then requesting an afternoon tour with your significant other and child. Not only so you can see children before and after nap time but you can get a feel for how staff is after being surrounded my children for multiple hours.
- What is the cost? What do they require financial wise and document wise. What is the required protocol if you wish to withdraw your child from the school before they age in to Kindergarten?
- What ours are they open. What is the latest you can drop your child off and the pick up. This is important because in VPK appointment classrooms time is specific unless you are also paying for before and after care.
Questions about the daily routine:
- What time is breakfast, lunch, and snacks? Are they provided or do you need to pack them? If you pack, are there allergy restrictions that prohibit you from sending certain items? Most schools are going peanut free. For instance, my son’s school also only allows store bought items for class parties. If they serve food, you will want to get the menu in advance in case your child is a picky eater. My son loves to eat roughly two days at school but the other days I pack a lunch. Meals are included in tuition but I also want my child to eat, that is a personal choice on my behalf.
- What are the policies on important topics?
- What is the ratio of kids to teacher?
- Do they take naps, how long? You may be required to supply a mat but most certainly a crib sheet/blanket and pillow if desired.
- Do they help with potty training? At what age must the child be able to go to the bathroom on their own? (This will help you with training at home with wiping to be on schedule.) Sadly I know 4-5 year olds who refuse to wipe their bum and teachers are not permitted to help.
- What is their “Time Out” policy? Knowing this, can help you align a discipline plan at home so the child comes to know what to expect from another figure of authority.
- What is the lice policy? Do they send kids home, send letters to parents of whole class? Do they check child upon return? This is hugely important because I was so disgusted with the policy at a location I worked, I nearly itched my head to pouring blood from my scalp even though I did not get the lice myself.
- What is the accident report policy? Many schools will have you sign a paper when you pick up your child if there was an incident. The good news is, once your child can talk, they will pretty much tell you what happened and if someone hurt them, who it was. On the paperwork the other child can not be listed.
- Does the school offer anything special such as teaching another language, field trips, fun days or parties? This may sway you when touring multiple places.
Additional information you should be concerned with:
- What days is the center closed? Do they align with public school 100% or are there specific holidays they are closed, as we know for the most part they are open during Spring Break and Summer Holiday. What is the policy on extreme weather? Many times parents can not find emergency back up care for children during a hurricane warning or severe weather, this will come in to play with your work as well.
- The type of daycare/school it is? Some are open year round and others, the tuition is based on the public school system length. Therefore you would be paying more than quoted for Summer care in most cases. Tuition enrollment is typically higher in private or Montessori schools and also have annual fees to help cover insurance for employees.
- How long has the Director been at the school as well as the teacher for your child’s classroom? This concerns me because high turnover rate of employees either means unhappy employees, bad employees selected that were let go, and of course change to environment for your child if it happens often.
- What is the policy on missed days, calling out sick, or going on vacation? This will vary greatly. Most places, you still pay if there is a scheduled holiday and you also pay if you vacation. If a child is sick they may have to stay home a certain allotted time before being permitted back in school. Some schools you may get lucky, after a year of being enrolled, you can submit a form to get one week without paying if you go on vacation.
When it comes down to choosing a daycare provider, parents intuition is best. Just make sure the school values align with yours. I chose not to send my son to a Montessori school at this age right now because they do not celebrate holiday parties. I loved having events my Mom could come to the school and celebrate. My favorite part of my son’s daycare, they send photos through an app called Tadpoles! I get 4-20 photos a day of my son doing activities, learning, art, and playing outside! I am not missing all those precious moments just because I work. The photos come straight to my phone and also go to email.
I love the fact that the school brings in a professional photography company twice a year so I have the option to purchase if I want. The best part, unlike the older years at school where you picked a package before you saw photos and got stuck with horrid photos, most daycares will have the photos brought in and you can select the pose(s) and order what they printed off or even additional prints. We were able to use the Winter photos for Christmas gifts!
There is a tumbling class that is offered at the school weekly. My son is not enrolled but it is a great option for parents who can not cut out a piece of time during the week or weekend for that extracurricular activity. To be honest, the only reason I did not enroll my son was because it said they had no liability if injured. Nope! No thanks! I would rather pay a bit more to go to the facility where he swims and they are insured for the children.
Things are going to come up. However, going in with some great questions and things to look and ask for, will make the process either. Best of luck!
Author: Nichole Arnold
I’m the owner of Mommy Needs a Bottle . I’m a 30- something wine enthusiast that resides in Tampa, FL. I love family traditions, traveling, cooking, baking, reading, fashion, tattoos, beauty products, and being a Mommy! I have a background in marketing, public relations, copywriting, and sales.