What to Look for when You Visit a Child Care Home or Center
Before visiting child care providers, it's important to interview several providers on the telephone to see if they meet your needs. If so - set up an appointment to visit their home or center to see for yourself what they have to offer your child. It's a good idea to visit when children are there and bring along your child so they can meet the provider and other children.
First impressions are important. As you walk in, listen. Unless you're there at nap time, there should be noise, but it should be at a pleasant level, indicating that the children are involved in activities and interacting together. If the television is on, find out how long the provider has it on each day. Too much TV indicates that your child might not be doing some of the other things that are important for their growth and development. Is the setting clean? Look for cleanliness but don't expect to see everything neatly in place - when children are at play some mess is necessary.
Observe how the family child care provider or staff at the center interact with the children. Look for people who talk directly with the children, get down on the floor with them and in general seem to like being with kids and are willing to attend to their needs for attention and affection. Look at the children who are being cared for. Do they seem happy and act at home in the setting? Now look at the space. As you tour the inside of the home or center ask yourself:
Check out the toileting or diapering facilities.
Safety is a big issue. Look for gates on stairways, covers on electrical plugs, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and latches on cabinets that contain dangerous chemicals. Also, look for uncluttered and child proofed spaces where the kids can play safely.
Smoking is not allowed in child care centers, but if you're looking at a family child care home, ask if the provider or anyone else in the home smokes.
In the end, if the site is safe, has a good variety of toys and play equipment and the caregivers are involved, loving, and responsive to the children they care for, ask yourself "How would I like to spend my day here?" If you think you might like it, then perhaps your child might like it too. One word of caution, even if you find the perfect place on your first visit, if you have never looked for child care before, consider visiting at least one other site to get a good idea of what is available and to know that you have made the best decision for your child.