Choosing a Child Care Provider

Quality child care promotes positive social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development.

Research has confirmed that one of the key elements in quality child care is the child care provider, so choosing a provider who has your child’s best interest at heart, is vital. Look for providers who are warm, caring and attentive to children’s individual needs (Galinsky & Phillips, 1998). The provider should be culturally sensitive and accepting of differences. The provider should use positive discipline that teaches rather than punishes. The provider should spend time interacting and responding to the children, celebrating successes, building confidence and nurturing their self-esteem.

Another key element is the environment. It should be safe, clean, comfortable and have some organized activity areas. There should be enough toys, activities, materials and equipment available and they need to be developmentally

appropriate for all children. The environment needs space for resting, space for quiet and active play, as well as the opportunity for regular outdoor play.

Choosing a Child Care Provider

Children in high-quality early childhood programs have been found to form closer and more secure attachments with care providers, show more positive interactions with peers, have larger vocabularies, and have better pre-reading and pre-math skills.

Evaluating & Choosing Child Care

Does the Staff:

  • Listen to children when they speak and respond with interest and respect?
  • Accept and value the children’s ideas and suggestions?
  • Display a sense of humors?
  • Respond with care and understanding to a child who may be fearful, shy, upset, hurt or angry?
  • Encourage children to cooperate with each other?
  • Promote the development of problem-solving skills and a sense of independence?
  • Set reasonable limits for behavior and respond to inappropriate behavior in a fair, consistent, respectful manner?
  • Initiate conversations with the children other than instructions, announcements, and commands?
  • Take time to be alone with individual children?
  • Allow children a choice in many situations?
  • Make the children feel good about themselves?

Does the Program:

  • Combine both individual play and group activities?
  • Provide opportunities for children to explore their environment in different ways—i.e. through music and creative movement, fantasy, play, construction toys, games, outdoor play, and field trips?
  • Offer a balance between free play and organized activities?
  • Have a consistent yet flexible schedule?
  • Follow routines for rest, toileting and mealtimes in a relaxed manner?
  • Reflect our multicultural society?

The Facility & Environment:

  • Is safe (i.e. cupboards with cleaning agents are locked; kitchen knives are out of reach, stairways are gated, there is a fire extinguisher, smoke detectors and plug covers).
  • Is clean, warm, and inviting?
  • Is well lit and comfortable in temperature?
  • Has children’s artwork displayed?
  • Includes areas for a child to play alone, areas for both quiet and active play, and a safe outdoor play area.
  • Offers a good supply of varied, challenging, and age or developmentally appropriate toys and play materials.  Toys and play materials must be in good repair and easy for children to access.

Additional Questions to ask

  • Why did you become a child care provider?
  • Do you have any plans for further child care training?
  • How do you help a new child become comfortable?
  • How do you discipline children who are misbehaving?
  • How do you handle difficult situations or behaviors—for example, how would you deal with a child who won’t stop crying, refuses to eat, won’t cooperate?
  • Do you plan a daily program?  What is a typical day/week?
  • How often do you go outside, do art, do music, have free-play, have story-time?
  • Does your program have any special features?
  • What arrangements do you have for children who do not sleep at rest times?
  • Do you transport children?
  • Do you have a contract or other business forms?
  • Where are medications stores?  Do you give medications? Do you use a checklist to make sure children receive the proper medications at the proper time?  Is your 1st Aid up to date?
  • Can I call you or stop by regularly to find out about my child’s progress?
  • How often do you use TV or DVDs and what type of shows?
  • What are your procedures in case of a child falling ill, an accident, fire, earthquake, etc.?
  • Do you charge a fine for late pick-up?
  • How much notice do I have to give you if and when I want to withdraw my child?
  • Do you have liability insurance?
  • What are your arrangements for when you are ill or on vacation?
  • Can you give me at least 2 references, preferably of families who have used your setting?
  • Can I view your last licensing inspection report (if providers is licensed)
  • Who else may have access to my children?  Have they had a criminal record check?

Making Your Decision

Once you’ve visited several child care settings, it’s time to consider how each meets your family’s needs and values.

  • Review the information you gathered.
  • Trust your own initial feelings about the physical environment, the program and the people.
  • Finally, contact the provider you’ve selected to confirm your decision.

(It’s also important to thank the other providers, letting them know you have chosen someone)

Starting your child in a new child care setting is an exciting opportunity for them to learn and grow.  You share a role with childhood professionals in making your child feel safe and secure during this time.

Here are some ways you can help:

  •  Be enthusiastic about change and your child will be to.
  • If possible, start your child care gradually so they can become comfortable with you leaving.
  • On the first few days, spend a couple of extra minutes helping your child feel comfortable but remember not to prolong the goodbye.  Most children improve once you have left.
  • Always say goodbye to your child.  Be firm but friendly about separating.
  • Never ridicule a child for crying.  Instead make supportive statements like “it’s hard to say goodbye.”

Monitoring the Child Care Setting

You will want to make sure that you and your child continue to be happy with the child care provider you have chosen.

Always talk to your child about how the day went.  Listen to your child’s feelings and be alert for warning signs—such as changes in your child’s usual behaviour—that could indicate something is wrong with your child care arrangement.

Have regular conversations with your provider.  If you have any concerns or questions, discuss them with your child care provider and try to arrive at a solution that works for both of you.

If you continue to have concerns about the care your child is receiving, it is important to discuss them.  If your provider is a Registered License-not-Required provider, contact the Child Care Resource and Referral Program.  If your provider is Licensed, contact the licensing office.