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What to look for in a great daycare

May 25, 2018 No Comments

There are few things I dislike more than trying to find new childcare.

We have these adorable babies, spend hours with them all day and night, love them, teach them, learn their quirks and how to handle them, and then we send them to someone else for several hours a day and hope that person will treat them with love and kindness.

Image result for crying gif

It is an agonizing process that has reduced me to tears more than once.

Because I want my kids to be safe, cared for, and have fun. I want a great daycare. Is that too much to ask?

We’re going through that process again and it is painful as usual, but we’re getting better at navigating it. Over the past few years we’ve done an Early Head Start program, a regular daycare, took the kids to family as we figured things out and had a nanny. Since we’re practically pro’s now, I have a mental checklist of important things to check for as I look into childcare options.

What to look for in a great daycare


Kids are gross, guys. Cute, but super gross. And putting multiples of them in the same area gets nasty real fast. I’m not a clean freak, but I expect the place that my kids spend their time to be cleaned regularly and not smell like mold.


I try hard to limit my kids’ sugary treat intake. So when I picked up my kids once and found them eating Nutella as a “healthy snack,” I was irritated. There was a time that I was concerned that my daughter was having a reaction to food dyes, and our Early Head Start program sent me to the kitchen to speak with the chef and check out the food labels. It was a relief to see that they didn’t serve any food with dyes and weren’t pumping her with sugar.

Teacher to Kid ratio & Class Size

We were lucky that our first daycare had one teacher per four kids and there were only eight kids per class. It was perfect. We checked out another place that had one teacher per eight toddlers, with 16-24 kids in the class. It was a madhouse and my daughter immediately got anxious with that many kids running around screaming.


There are some places I just don’t want my kid to be. Every city has bad neighborhoods and I’m not about to put my child in one because it’s the cheapest daycare.


We’d all like to send our kids to the best school, but that comes at a high price. It can severely limit the quality of school we can send our children. At the same time, I’m also concerned when a place is significantly cheaper than the area average. It’s like a Walmart mentality to me–what quality are you neglecting to make this so cheap? We’re luckily at a point now that cost isn’t the biggest factor for us, which lets me focus on other aspects.

We need affordable, quality childcare!


Just this week we visited a place that had no locks on the front door, so I asked the director what safety precautions they had. She said, “This desk. You’re coming from other states that may have security concerns, but this is Utah, we don’t have the same issues and don’t need those lock-down systems.” First, you are 5 feet tall and can’t stop anyone. Second, false–Utah has the same safety issues as everyone else, plus its own unique ones. Third, if someone is that ignorant of potential threats, can I trust that they’re hiring safe teachers? This one is a big issue and I expect every daycare to have limited access to the building.

Play space

Our first daycare had the best playground and a large room inside for play on bad weather days, separate from the classroom. Our last one had outside space about the size of my cubicle. I doubt I’ll ever find another place with such a big playground, but I want a decent sized one so she can run around. I feel so bad when they have to stay inside all day.


From my experience, most people who work in childcare enjoy working with kids. However, I want to make sure the way they talk to my kids is kind, patient and encouraging. I want them to be alert to what’s going on in the classroom and the playground. I want them to be friendly and engaging, not face my infant towards the wall for who knows how long because “she likes the wallpaper.” (True story) Go observe class for a bit and pay attention to how the teachers interact with the kids. This is one that may take time to really get, so always pay attention and know you can change providers.


Curriculum is another important thing to me. I don’t expect them to become geniuses at this age, their learning should come through play. There’s letting kids run wild and do whatever they want, and then there’s semi-structured play that teaches them social skills, pre-reading, pre-writing, and motor skills. And lots of music because my kids like to shake it.

Image result for dancing baby gif
Not my kid, but close. Giphy

My biggest test is this question: “Would I rather quit my job than leave them here?” Honestly, I felt that way when I left the Kindercare here. I started crying the moment we left the building because it was the only place we could find at the time that had space and I was ready to quit my job. Thankfully we found a different solution. I’ve also felt that way standing outside some buildings that looked like they were about to fall apart. And after seeing a woman spank her own kid in front of the other kids she was watching. Trust your mama instincts.

Crazy thing is that I’ve met people who love that Kindercare. They’ve had a great experience, but I couldn’t do it. Childcare is such a personal choice and you have to do what works best for your family. Ultimately, I hope these questions help you determine what your priorities are and is a starting point as you research your childcare options. It can be SO overwhelming to find someone you trust your babies with.

What else would you add to this list?


If you’d like to read more about our experience with childcare, read here, here, here, here and here. I kind of talk about it a lot

No Comments

  • Marie Ricci May 31, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    OMGosh this is such a huge issue for me. I am extremely picky about the childcare I put my children in, and most people give me so much grief about it. I even prefer a well organized large daycare center over a small in-home childcare, because of the regulations they are required to adhere to. In fact, childcare was the topic that brought you and I in contact!! (Sitting in the BYU office . . . commenting on the adorable sleeping baby I was toting around . . . )

    I agree with every point you have listed on here, especially curriculum. My children get so bored without having something to challenge their minds. In a previous childcare, they would come home already having been fighting for hours, because the center allowed them to play all day with no curriculum, and they were bored out of their minds.

    I would add communication to the list. These people have my children with them for hours at a time for days on end, I want to know what’s going on inside. I am really grateful for all the handouts my childcare gives about upcoming field trips, the flyers posted on the entry/exit door with parent reminders, the daily log of feeding/sleeping/diaper from the infant room – the list could go on. Our current childcare even has a text line, where I can text the childcare at any time and they will respond during operating hours. (Adventure Time in Provo. We love it!)

    Another I would add would be their well child policy. I want my children to be healthy, but we don’t live in a bubble. When they get a cold, they still have a runny nose (or even goopy eyes sometimes) a week later. When they are no longer contagious but still on antibiotics and I have to return them to childcare so I can go back to work, they may need to be given their antibiotic while at childcare. On the other side, I’m grateful when they call me to tell me my child is coming down with a fever or has thrown up or is just plain feeling crappy, and needs to be picked up, but they understand I can’t drop everything and teleport there immediately, so they will provide an isolated but monitored area for my little one to rest until I can get there (one childcare actually had a little cot just behind the front desk). It’s important for me to have a childcare understanding to these real life situations without making my life miserable for needing extra help.

    Sorry for the super long comment – obviously I have very strong opinions on this topic. Have you found a great childcare now or are you still searching?

    • Katie June 1, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      Definitely agree with communication! We were at a bilingual one, which was great, but it was hard to communicate with some of the employees because I didn’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak great English. We had to do a lot of texting to really understand each other. We’re still searching. The ones that seem nicer have waiting lists until January 🙁 Our first choice won’t know until mid-July, so we may go back to our old one until we find out. I would be ok with it short term again. We need a university daycare!

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