You want your children's daycare to be a safe and secure environment.
This step by step guide will help you answer, "Where's a great daycare near me?"
It's an important question working parents eventually have to ask:
"Where is the best daycare near me?"
Choosing the right daycare for your child is no easy task. You have to make sure the provider you're selecting is a good fit for your kid, fits your budget, and aligns with the values that you establish as a parent or family.
The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time and money -- your two most valuable resources as a busy parent -- on a daycare provider that isn't the right fit for you or your child.
6 Steps For Finding The Best Daycare
In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through the 6 steps that will ensure you are picking the right childcare provider.
While this guide is packed with lots of information, understand that it's important to focus on the big picture. It will answer questions like:
- How do you decide where to send your child for 8 hours each day?
- What is most important to you about a daycare provider?
- What are your values and needs as a parent?
Keep these questions in mind as you proceed.
Before you dive in, consider checking out some of the best child development centers near you.
Here are 5 steps for finding the right childcare solution for you and your child:
#1. Decide What You Want And Value Most
It is your job as the parent to choose what is most important to you. Deciding this first will help you filter out the daycare solutions near you that won't fit your needs and values. At the same time, it will funnel the top candidates emerge.
Grab a sheet of paper and answer the following questions:
- Should an ideal daycare near me be close to work?
- Should it be closer to home?
- Do I want a lot of kids to go to my child's daycare?
- Would my child prefer a more intimate setting with fewer kids in a home daycare setting?
- If yes to the question above, what would an ideal home daycare provider be like?
Don't forget to involve your significant other when answering these questions, too.
These questions will provide a clear roadmap and help you move one step closer to finding the right daycare solution. Begin with the ideal end result in mind, and you will have a better chance of getting there.
#2. Do Your Research
Now that you've got an idea of what you're looking for in a daycare near you, the next step is to do some research. This can be accomplished in at least 2 different ways.
For starters, ask your parent friends what they do for daycare. You may be surprised how comprehensive of an answer your other mom or dad friends can provide on the best daycare providers in your area.
Send texts, emails, and Facebook messages to people you know that have gone before you. They will have better advice than anything you find on the internet, and in all likelihood, they know you and your child.
Second, use resources online. If they fit all your other criteria or preferences from step #1, childcare solutions with approval from the National Association For The Education of Young Children (NAEYC) should move to the top of your list.
Why? Because the NAEYC ensures high-quality experiences for young children in programs.
Another great option for researching local daycare providers is to scour local Facebook Groups. If you live in or near a major city, you are almost guaranteed to find a local group dedicated to childcare or activities for children.
Use this 3-step reference from Facebook to learn how to search for groups.
Once you've thoroughly researched your options through first-hand accounts of friends and online reviews, you'll have a list of potential options in your area.
#3. Make A List Of Options
Thoroughly research first, and then start making a list of options that might work for you and your child.
As you research, you will likely come up with plenty of questions about each individual daycare solution you find.
One website may have glowing reviews for a "daycare near me", but no pictures of the home or space for kids to play.
Another homecare provider might be in the perfect location, but you may want to know more about her rates or philosophy for helping children grow.
It really depends on what is available in your area and what you need and value from a daycare near you. So be sure to do your research first.
You'll begin scheduling appointments in the next step. Once you have your list of options, make a list of questions for each individual provider.
Here are some to get you started:
- What is the adult to child ratio? How much 1:1 time should I expect my child gets?
- What is the daily or weekly cost?
- As a daycare near me, how are you perceived by the local community? What would other parents say about you?
- What qualifications do your caregivers have?
- What is turnover like at the daycare? How long do people use your service?
- How will my child spend his or her time? What activities or schedules do you follow throughout the day?
Have anywhere from 5-10 questions written down on a piece of paper before you start scheduling appointments. Without being invasive, you can learn an awful lot about a place simply by asking good questions.
Once you know what you want to ask, it's time to start reaching out!
#4. Schedule Multiple Visits And Ask Questions
Cast a wide net and schedule several visits. Even if you think you found "the one" online or through a friend, seeing what other daycare providers offer will be valuable, too.
It's best to schedule with at least 2-3 different daycare providers, especially if this is your first time using a childcare service.
It will help inform your decisions and may generate further questions (i.e. "How come every other service in the area does X and yours does not?")
You may or may not recognize the signs of a good daycare or public preschool after one visit, so you will benefit from exploring a few different options.
If you're able to look at a daycare provider's schedule or routine online, schedule your visit around an activity block instead of a quiet part of the day like nap time. This will give you a better pulse of what happens there during peak hours.
Some tips to consider as you schedule appointments:
- Book appointments during the "meat" of the day, away from drop off and pick-up times
- Schedule longer (30-60 minute) appointments
- Schedule one-on-one time with the owner of the business or the provider who will be directly working with your child
While there are many other suggestions for your visit, one to also be sure of is to look down and observe your surroundings during your visit. See how the provider or providers interact with the kids.
If they give you all their attention or you notice kids wandering around unsupervised, take a mental note. Take the good with the bad and imagine what it might be like for your child at each particular daycare.
Feel free to take small notes while you are there. Just tell them you are being thorough in your search and exploring your options.
Last, if a daycare provider does not make themselves very accessible to you, take that as a red flag. Imagine what it would be like once your child started daycare there.
#5. Make A List Of What You Liked -- Then Choose!
After a visit (or when you get back in your car), you have one job: Write down what you liked and didn't like about the childcare provider and their facility.
It's important to get these down on paper as soon as possible, especially if your spouse won't get to hear the feedback until later that night.
Once you've collected all the data and had time to sit down with your husband, narrow down your choices. At this point, you should be ready to make an informed decision.
If you haven't already, make sure there are no records of violations or other concerns available online or elsewhere.
At this point, you'll have done all you can to set your family and child up for success by being meticulous with your daycare search.
Step #6 will help you correct your decision if circumstances arise!
#6. Use The First Few Weeks As A Trial Period
Woo! You've done most of the hard work. All you have left to do is test out your new daycare provider and see how things go.
It's a good idea to give any new daycare solution a trial period of about 1 month.
Don't feel like you have to communicate this to your provider. They should assume most people are testing the waters when they start their child at a new daycare.
And as long as you aren't on some kind of contract that could cost you money for leaving without much notice, then it shouldn't matter anyway.
In that one month trial period, be sure to do the following:
- Schedule a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with your childcare provider to see how your child is settling in
- If your child is old enough to give feedback, consult their opinion. Ask non-guiding questions like, "How do you like Miss Julie?" or "What did you do today at daycare?". See if their answers match your expectations consistently.
- Take note of what is happening when you drop off and pick up your child. Is it similar to what you saw on appointment day?
After a month, you should know if this is the right daycare solution for you.
It may take more or less than a month to know that a change might be necessary, but be patient and give it some time to see how your child adapts to their new surroundings.
Choosing A Daycare Provider Near Me -- Problem Solved!
This 6-step guide should help you to identify the right childcare solution for your family and child.
To recap, you should:
Decide what your family values and needs most from a daycare provider. If you are location dependent, searching for a specific type of developmental program for your child, or would like a certain setting, know this from the start.
Do your research. It's very helpful that you seek out people that have been there before. Consult friends, neighbors, and strangers online. Also, use accredited databases that specialize in childcare service recommendations.
Make a list of questions. Go into each scheduled appointment with these as your guides so you can see how your options line up.
Schedule multiple visits. It's important to get some context and know what's available in a daycare provider near you. One visit simply isn't enough to get a good idea of what's out there.
Make a list of what you like and don't like at each appointment. Share these with your spouse or other family members if they are not able to join you for the visit.
Once you've done all these things, it's time to make a choice! Go with what feels best for you and know that, in most cases, you can always make a quick change if it doesn't turn out as you'd hoped.
See how the first 2-4 weeks go and continue to evaluate your new daycare provider.
It's an ongoing relationship that will hopefully last for some time. After all, the research shows that your child will benefit from a consistent, loving caregiver.
Ultimately, this 6-step guide should be taken as a resource to mitigate the problems that may arise as you choose your next daycare solution.
Be patient, be logical, and do your research. Finding the right person is a sound investment for the future of your family and your kids.
Alternatively, you may benefit from checking out our blog that contains guides and resources for finding the right childcare.
Our Just For Kids childcare services locator can point you in the direction of afterschool clubs, sports, and community groups.