Link copied to clipboard

Finding the right daycare for your child can be like finding the right spouse: sometimes you have to date a few frogs until you find a prince. All daycares talk a good talk and boast about how great they are at your initial walk-through, but not all deliver what they promise.

I had to take my kids to six different daycares and preschools to find the right fit for my family. Hopefully you can learn in 5 minutes what took me 5 years to figure out through trial-and-error what really should be considered a great daycare for your children.

Here are 5 key signs of a good daycare:

  1. A low teacher/child ratio – The most important aspect when considering child care for your infant or toddler is that age 0-3 are the absolute most important developmental years of your child’s life. These are the “make it or break it” years. If your child receives adequate nurturing, physical touch, healthy nutrition, exercise, love and respect during these years, she will avoid a plethora of physical, mental and emotional obstacles for the years to come. Unfortunately, the majority of daycares for infants and toddlers have such an unbalanced teacher/child ratio that it is impossible for them to give any child the nurturing that they need to thrive. Before your child is walking, try to find a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio (possibly a nanny or family member). Once they are walking, look for a maximum of a 1:6 ratio.
  2. Healthy meals and snacks – What your child eats is just as important as them receiving proper nurturing and love. One daycare my daughter attended was a “big name” daycare, but they served French toast covered in butter and syrup for breakfast, steak fingers for lunch and cookies for snacks. The nail in the coffin was the fact that they prohibited parents from packing healthy lunches for their kids. Either my kids ate the junk food they served or they didn’t eat at all. You should always be able to bring your own meals, snacks and drinks for your child.
  3. Is your daycare truly a school where your children are learning, or is it merely a “storage unit”? Just because the word “school” is in the name of your daycare, doesn’t mean squat these days. Ask the teachers daily what was taught to your kids, what books were read, worksheets completed, artwork, etc…
  4. Adequate daily exercise – the best daycares know that adequate exercise in children results in more attentive, better behaved and less hyper children. The best schools will provide outdoor physical activities morning, noon and afternoon (3 times per day).
  5. Positive discipline – Every school has their own individual philosophy on how they handle kids who misbehave. The best schools will discipline out of love and respect and will never use corporal punishment or inappropriate language with your child.

You might be thinking “Finding a school with a low teacher/student ratio, healthy food options, adequate exercise, very educational and that practices positive discipline is too good to be true. This school cannot exist!” Well, it took me six tries, a lot of shopping around and a lot of frustration, but I did find a lovely preschool for my children that has met these requirements.

Important questions to ask any child care provider before you enroll your child:

Here are 4 traps to avoid when daycare shopping:

A few more tips:

Keep in mind that your child may spend more time at daycare than any other place in the world during the most important developmental times of his life. Choose wisely. Be willing to pay a bit more if the care is substantially better. And don’t hesitate for a second if you see or sense that your child is not receiving the proper care she needs and deserves.