Choosing a good daycare for your child involves a lot of questions, research, and thought.  But it is well worth it!  Below are some characteristics that indicate you are looking in the right places:

Reputation
Ask the center for names and numbers of current clients and call them for references, or stop by during afternoon pickup time and approach some other parents then.

An exciting curriculum
The best daycare centers have structured schedules that include plenty of time for physical activity, quiet time, group programs, individual activities, meals, snacks, and free time. A well thought out curriculum stimulates your child’s development and makes daily life more fun.

Qualified staff
One advantage that daycare centers have over nannies and home daycare providers are qualified staff.  Daycare center workers have a post-secondary education, with a background in early childhood development and CPR training. Look for staff who are responsible yet enthusiastic, and share their thoughts and best practices on sleep, discipline, etc… and especially those who ask you questions about your child.

Note how the staff interacts with the children. Caregivers should be responsible, enthusiastic, and well prepared. Look for staff that share your views on sleep, discipline, feeding, and other such issues. Good caregivers will ask detailed questions about your child’s health and care to help determine whether their center is right for you.

Ground rules
Although it is wonderful for the daycare to be flexible in some ways (i.e. letting you pick up your child at varying times to accommodate your schedule), it is a good sign if the center has clearly established rules. Operating hours, handling emergencies, sick children, and other regulations should be clearly stated to you from the beginning – and enforced.  This is a good indication that they are taking their responsibility of caring for your child seriously.

Clean and safe facilities
A good center is clean, safe and sanitary. Floors, walks, walls, and the kitchen area should be clean, food preparation areas should be far from toilets and diaper changing stations, trash should be emptied regularly, and the building should be adequately heated, lit, and ventilated. The center should be secure so strangers can’t just walk in off the street. Look for a facility with an outdoor play area, as children should have the chance to play outside every day.  Running, jumping, and skipping are good for them physically, mentally, and socially.