Want to know what to look for when checking out a daycare facility?

We know: A Childcare Checklist

If you're looking for a childcare facility, including preschool, daycare, or nursery school, here are four questions to ask before you visit.

  1. Is the care center licensed? Although some facilities are exempt from licensing, most should be licensed by the state. So ask to see the license, or find out why the facility is exempt.
  2. Is the care center regularly inspected? Ask how often the facility has been inspected (both announced and unannounced inspections) in the past year. Ask to see the inspection reports.
  3. What is accreditation? Different from licensing, accreditation means that an outside organization has examined the center to see if it meets a high standard. Accrediting groups include the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Child Care Association (NCCA). The facility should be accredited.
  4. Can I tour the facility? Then, ask if you're allowed to make unannounced visits should you send your child to the facility. Also, ask if the facility has written policies, and if you can have a copy.

What things should I look for when touring the facility?

  • Find out how children are disciplined, the philosophy used. Also, watch the staff in action with the children.
  • Look to see what kind of play equipment, toys and instructional materials are readily visible.
  • Ask about the content of the program. What is the schedule for the day, what will your child be doing during the time he or she is there? This includes sleep, play and eating time.
  • What is the policy if a child is sick? Does it suit your needs? How are you notified of medical problems?
  • What are the facility's safety guidelines?
  • What kind of education does the staff have? Are they trained in early childhood education? They should be.
  • Is there sufficient space for the number of children? Are the rooms neat and tidy? Is there sufficient light, heat, cooling? What is the outside play area like?

Other things to look for ...

  • CRIBS: Make sure cribs meet current national safety standards and are in good condition.
  • SOFT BEDDING: Be sure that no pillows, soft bedding, or comforters are used when you put babies to sleep. Babies should be put to sleep on their backs in a crib with a firm, flat mattress.
  • PLAYGROUND SURFACING: Look for safe surfacing on outdoor playgrounds - at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
  • PLAYGROUND MAINTENANCE: Check playground surfacing and equipment regularly to make sure they are maintained in good condition.
  • SAFETY GATES: Be sure that safety gates are used to keep children away from potentially dangerous areas, especially stairs.
  • WINDOW BLIND AND CURTAIN CORDS: Be sure miniblinds and venetian blinds do not have looped cords and that cords are tied down.
  • RECALLED PRODUCTS: Check that no recalled products are being used and that a current list of recalled children's products is readily visible.

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