Early Childhood

Steps to choosing Child Care - Take the Time to Make the Right Choice for Your Family

From a publication of:
Maine Department of Health and Human Services,
Early Childhood Services - Child Care and Head Start

Step four:

Use this checklist when you visit. These are things to notice and questions to ask. You may want to ask some or all of the questions. You may have questions of your own

Physical Space/Health and Safety

  • Where your child is cared for needs to be safe and healthy.
  • Rules should be in place about illness.
  • Is there an up-to-date license or certificate posted? (If required)<
  • Is the facility lead safe?
  • Are there first aid supplies and fire extinguishers?
  • Are emergency numbers posted near the telephone?
  • Are there working smoke detectors?
  • Do children know how to get out if there is a fire?
  • Has the care giver been trained in CPR or First Aid?
  • What happens if a child becomes ill or hurt?
  • How are parents told about illnesses children can catch from each other?
  • Are immunizations up-to-date for each child in care?
  • Are immunizations up-to-date for care givers?
  • Are there railings around heaters or wood stoves?
  • Are there gates near stairs?
  • Are household cleaners, matches, medicines, poisons, etc. in safe places?
  • Do electric outlets have child-proof caps?
  • Is the facility cheerful, clean and comfortable?
  • Are the furnishings the correct size for the ages of the children in care?
  • Is there a place for each child to put his or her things?
  • Is there a place to sleep at nap-time? Is it clean?
  • Are the bathrooms and diapering areas clean?
  • Is there enough space indoors so all the children can move freely and safely?
  • Is the equipment safe and in good repair?
  • Is there enough space outdoors to play safely?
  • Is the outdoor play area fenced and clean?
  • Can the care giver see the entire playground at all times?
  • Are swings, slides and other outdoor toys in good condition?
  • Are swings, slides and other climbing toys well attached and not placed over hard areas?
  • Is the menu posted? Are the meals nutritious?
  • Do the children help with the meals?
  • Does the care giver join the children for meals?
  • Are hands washed before making and eating food and after going to the toilet?
  • Is there enough heat, light and fresh air?
  • Does the care giver keep written information on each child?

Other Questions

  • Activities
  • Are there toys for different ages?
  • Are there toys to help children learn and grow?
  • Are there activities to help children to think creatively?
  • Is the children’s art work displayed?
  • Is there time for children to work as a group?
  • Is there time and space available to play alone?
  • Is there a list of activities?
  • Does the list show both active and quiet activities?
  • Can the children play indoors and outdoors?
  • Is television used? How much and which programs?

Relationship between the Care giver and the Children.

A positive and loving relationship between the care giver and the children is very important. In addition, the relationship between the care giver and the parent is also critical. Parents should choose a care giver whose style and attitudes are similar to their own.

  • Are the children enjoying themselves?
  • Do the children play well together?
  • Does the care giver join the children in activities?
  • Does the care giver seem warm, friendly, calm and patient?
  • Does the care giver hold and touch children in a caring manner?
  • Does the care giver listen to the children?
  • Does the care giver help the children express themselves?
  • Can the children make choices and do things for themselves?
  • Does the care giver know what children can do and want to do at different ages?
  • Is enough attention given to each child?
  • Are children helped to solve problems between themselves?
  • Does the care giver have a policy on discipline?
  • Does the care giver use a positive method of guiding children?
  • Are children told about the good things they are doing?
  • Does the care giver have child-rearing beliefs that are similar to your own?

Has the care giver had experience and training in working with children?

  • How many different care givers will be with your child during the course of the day?
  • Will a particular care giver have the major responsibility of your child?
  • Is there a way for parents to receive information from the care giver about the child’s day such as eating, sleeping, toileting and activities?
  • How often does staff change?
  • Do you feel this care giver is someone you could share information about your child with?
  • How many children and staff are at the site?
  • Does the number of staff for children for each age level meet state standards?
  • What did you see that you liked or disliked?