7 Signs of a Good Daycare

How do you know your toddler has a good daycare?

Sending your toddler to daycare can be a tough decision, but for many families, it isn't even a choice. Daycare, whether a center or home-based, tends to be a more affordable than a nanny for working parents in need of childcare. So how do you know if you're sending your toddler to a quality daycare? For starters, look for these seven signs. 

Good Word-of-Mouth

Tetra Images - Mike Kemp.

Often, the best place to begin when you are looking for a quality daycare is with recommendations from other parents in your area. Take special note of reviews from moms and dads who have similar parenting styes, values and philosophies. Pay attention and look for recommendations that parents seem genuinely excited to give. You want to make sure that they don't just feel obligated to say something nice. 

Regular Communication

A good daycare will keep you in the loop about your toddler, his successes, any changes in behavior they notice, and various other aspects of your toddler's day. A daycare center will also typically provide you with a more formal report about your toddler, but home daycares should also actively communicate with parents as well. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and if you feel the caregiver isn't forthcoming with information about your child, consider starting a search for a new daycare.

You Agree with Its Philosophies

Every daycare will be a little different. While most offer an environment heavily focused on play, some will align with other philosophies, like Montessori. Read the daycare provider's website, including the mission statement, and research any philosophies they mention to see if their childcare style lines up with your own. In addition, you'll want to ask questions about how they mange discipline, how they structure your child's day, and how much time the kids spend outside -- it's important that these aspects of daycare line up with your personal beliefs. 

Qualified and Engaged Caregivers

Before you choose a daycare, take some time to meet the staff who will be directly caring for your toddler. Ask about the ratio of staff to kids, their qualifications and the rate of staff turnover -- some daycare centers have a high turnover rate due to low pay and benefits. Ideally, you'll want your toddler to be at a daycare who has quality staff who engaged with the children.

A Well-planned Day

Daycare isn't a holding cell for your toddler while you're at work, and your toddler's day should be well-planned with developmentally appropriate activities, sufficient naps, and healthy meals and snacks. You'll also want to make sure that toddlers are taken outside to play in a safe location every day, weather permitting. Tour the facility and ask about the daily schedule. 

Your Child is Happy

Sure, daycare drop-offs can be tough, but ultimately, your toddler should become comfortable with her caregivers. If your child seems fearful of her daycare or she consistency seems unhappy while at daycare (especially when she doesn't know you're looking), it might not be the right fit for your child. 

A Positive 'Gut Feeling'

Often the easist way to tell a good daycare from less-than-quality childcare is the gut feeling you get when you meet the caregivers and tour the facility. Whether it's a home daycare or a center, you should feel good about the people you meet and the quality of the care you observe. If something feels off, trust you gut and keep looking. 

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