You might not even be showing yet, but you have your daycare tour list ready to go. Feel confident at each visit knowing that you have the questions you need to make an informed, safe, and developmentally-primed choice when deciding your childcare. After reading this post you will:
- Know the when, why, and how of daycare tours
- Confidently interview each daycare center
- Swipe 15 must-ask questions (with free printable!)
- Get guidance in making the best choice for you and your family
Daycare Tours: The When, The Why, The How
The best time to start your daycare search is about 10-11 months before your start date. Why so early? Most daycares that are in high demand are going to fill up fast. 10-11 months out, the centers should have a good idea of what spots they will have open. We got the last spot at our daycare in October for a start date the following August.
Even though you are going on daycare tours almost a year out, you want to be sure that you get a good look at the ins and outs of how each facility runs so you can feel at peace when making your decision. Be sure to see inside each classroom so that you can witness the relationships teachers have with students, what kind of work they are doing, and the cleanliness of each room.
Even if you won’t be sending your child to daycare as an infant, make sure you go into the infant rooms. These rooms speak volumes to how the entire daycare operates and are an instant tell to the quality of the daycare.
1. Gather Your List of Reputable Daycares that You would Like to Tour
Do your research online and in your community to gather a list of specific daycares you would like to tour. Make sure you figure out your budget beforehand. If you are tied down by your budget, make calls to the daycares before setting up a tour to find out tuition. You don’t want to go on a tour and fall in love with a center only to find out you can’t afford it.
2. Call to Set up Your Tour Appointment
A lot of daycares don’t mind you showing up and asking for a tour. And although they might not be able to give you a full tour on the spot, they will still take you around and give you the information you need. However, to be respectful of their time and to provide you with ample time to have your questions answered, it is courteous to set up an appointment.
Many centers should be willing to work around your schedule and be flexible in their appointment times. Some centers may push you off an hour or so because you are asking to visit during a nap time or other time that is not conducive to the children. However, if they are completely rigid in their schedule, be wary. You want to have a daycare that has an open door policy.
3. Get Your Daycare Tour Questions Ready
Grab a notepad, clipboard, pen, etc and get ready to jot down your notes. They will be the only thing you have to remember your visits when you are trying to make your decision. After visiting a lot of centers, your tours may start to blur together so be sure you’re taking notes to specifically remember each center.
You’re Conducting the Interview
Many daycares have a typical script of the items they talk about on each tour. They want to be sure to cover as much as they can in hopes that they answer your questions up front. But just remember that you are the one conducting the interview. There are so many choices in front of you and you get to make the final decision.
Make sure you are getting a private tour and not lumped in with a bunch of other prospective attendees. You deserve your time and you should feel comfortable asking as many questions as you need to.
Understand that they are trying to run a business, so there may be times when their attention might not be 100% on you. This is actually a good sign. It means that the health and safety of the children come first. Be patient as being in charge of little ones is a lot of work!
Your Top 14 Daycare Tour Questions
Just as you value cleanliness, cost, and security of a daycare center, one of your top decision factors should be that providers make it a priority to bond with the children. Infants, toddlers, and young children thrive when they know that someone loves them and can be trusted to take care of their basic needs.
1. What Supplies Do You Provide?
Some daycares provide the works: food, diapers, wipes, and snacks. Others prefer that you bring in your preferred brand of supplies. This is important to know because this can affect the overall cost of your daycare. Be sure to factor all of these items in when you are considering your options.
2. How Do You Handle Food, Bottles, Breastmilk, etc?
You want caregivers to ensure food safety by wearing gloves when feeding your child. Ask to see where they store food/bottles and how these items are warmed for your little one to eat.
3. What is the Staff to Child Ratio?
You want as small a ratio as possible, but double check your state’s legal ratios to ensure that they don’t exceed these numbers. In an infant room, even if the ratio is 1:4, you probably don’t want more than 8 infants in your room. More than 8 can get extremely hectic.
4. What is the Staff Turnover Rate?
The directors may not be as forthcoming in answering this question, so this may be one you want to follow-up and ask some parents about. Unfortunately, staff turnover at daycare centers are very high because of the low pay. But the more consistency your child has in teachers, the better it is for his/her development.
5. Is There a Nurse on Staff? Who Is Trained and Able to Handle Medical Emergencies?
You want to be sure that even if there isn’t a nurse on staff full time, that there are personnel that are trained and capable of responding to your child’s needs in the event of a medical emergency.
6. What Security Measures Do You Take to Ensure the Safety of the Children?
Watch carefully how easy it is for parents and visitors to get into and out of the building. Is there some form security check when parents are picking up and dropping off their kids? This day and age, you want to be sure that the building is secure and teachers are trained and able to respond appropriately if there is a threat on the campus.
7. What Certifications Are Required for Staff and How Often and What Type of Ongoing Professional Development Do You Provide?
Not only is it important that the teachers at the school have the appropriate childcare education, background, and certification, but you also want to be certain that the directors value their employees and the children enough to provide ongoing professional development. The teachers should be an investment to the daycare center and one that they want to help continuously grow.
8. Do You Have a Curriculum You Follow?
Even if it is not a formal academic curriculum, you definitely want the daycare you are looking for to have some sort of play-based curriculum. Learning through play is developmentally appropriate for young children and helps them build important social skills and cognitive foundations. Of course, you will also want to be sure that there is lots of read alouds and interaction with language and literacy as well.
9. What Sort of Play-Based Activities Do Teachers Do with Children?
This question piggy backs off of the previous question. Play-based learning is extremely important for child development so see what kinds of examples your director can give you or show you while you are on your tour.
10. Do You Have an Open-Door Policy?
You want to be able to come and go as you please if you need to pick up your baby early from care one day or if you want to feed your baby yourself during your lunch break. A daycare that has nothing to hide, should have no problem with you popping in to visit. The only time they might have an issue, and understandably, would be if your child is going through a clingy phase. You don’t want to cause more issues for your little one who is having separation anxiety.
11. How Do You Handle Discipline?
This question has an answer that will be closer to your own personal preferences and based off of your own personal belief about discipline. But it is always good to know what will be done if your child was involved in a situation.
12. What Is Your Sick, Vacation, and/or Time-Off Policy?
Most daycares will charge you regardless of whether your child is present or not. You also will want to know what the protocol is for when your child is sick or gets sick at school.
13. How Do Teachers Communicate with Families?
There are a lot of apps now that communicate your child’s schedule, photos, and videos to you all day long. This is a great way to know what is going on with your child and leaves you feeling comfortable that their needs are being taken care of while you are away.
14. How Do You Transition CHildren from One Room to the Next Age Level Group?
A great daycare knows that the bonds and attachments that children form with their teachers are very important to their success at school. When a child is transitioning from one classroom to another, it should be a slow transition where the child will visit that room for increasing increments of time during the day. The teachers should come and spend time with the kids so they can become familiar with them as well as prior teachers visiting children in their new class to have a familiar face in a strange setting. This helps a child feel safe and comfortable, which helps open their minds for learning.
Making the Decision Without Buyer’s Remorse
Your daycare tour will be over before you know it and you will be so overloaded with information that it will all be a blur. One helpful tip is to note your tour guide’s facial reactions, body language, and tone of voice to your questions. You might not be able to write down or remember every single detail of your tour, but you will certainly remember how comfortable or uncomfortable someone made you feel during your visit.
Go with your gut. This is a big decision and a big investment. You could be spending close to $15,000 per year on your childcare services and you need to feel comfortable with your decision.
Your basic questions to yourself should be:
- Do I trust this center to keep my child alive and safe during the day?
- Do I think they have my child’s best interest at heart?
- Will they take the time to interact with, play with, and help my child grow and learn?
- Will they love my child and show him/her unlimited affection?
Ask other families that you see going in and out of the center. They will be able to give you an unbiased opinion and answers to the questions above.
And after you write that deposit check, you can exhale a big sigh of relief and start preparing for the arrival of your sweet little baby!
Don’t forget to stock up on all of your daycare needs…
Don’t forget to share and comment below with your most crucial daycare tour questions=)