It’s time to think about returning to work and you have your list of questions ready to ask your potential daycare provider! You may be looking at a home daycare or daycare centre for your child(ren), but either way, you are preparing to leave your child in the care of potential stranger. While this sounds like a terrifying thought, knowing the right questions to ask to help you feel confident in your choice of provider is the most important step. There are plenty of obvious questions to ask and things to look for but there are some things you may be missing that you may have never thought could actually be something to think about. I’ve been on both sides having left my kids in daycare, and have provided daycare out of my home and here are 13 questions you should be asking (beyond the usual ones) that you may not have thought to ask!
13. Can my child bring their own toys?
You may feel like you want to fill your child’s daycare bag with all their favourite stuffies and toys from home so that they feel secure, but this actually may not be allowed. This is a good question to ask, whether it’s a home daycare or daycare centre.
Some daycare providers may allow one security toy for nap time, but beyond that will not allow other toys to be brought in. Some reasons could be due to how they clean their toys, sharing issues and the risk of toys getting mixed in and lost. So, before you promise your little one that they can bring all their favourite friends to play with, make sure this isn’t against the rules!
12. Are there any guns in the house/building?
If the answer is yes to this question you may want to ask a series of follow up questions. Are the guns licensed? Are they locked away and out of reach? Will the kids ever see them? Will anyone ever be pulling them out when the kids are around?
This question could most likely result in a no answer when looking at daycare centres but if you are looking at a home daycare this question is crucial. Even if guns are not a concern for you, you will want to ensure that they will never be easily accessible to your child. For some, guns in a house may be a deal breaker.
11. Will anyone else ever be watching my child?
You may assume that you know everyone who will be in contact with your child. However, in a daycare centre you will want to ask if there are ever supply teachers, parent volunteers or anyone else who would be with your child that you haven’t met. Especially if that person could be touching your child (hugs, lifting etc.), changing diapers or helping in the bathroom.
The same applies to a home daycare. Will there ever be a time your provider has to go to an appointment or leave the house leaving your child in the care of someone else? Surprisingly, this happens more than you think since a provider is usually on their own. Make sure that you are comfortable with the possibility of this happening. When I had a home daycare I always let the parents know who my emergency back up was if for some reason I had to leave in a hurry or needed someone to cover for me. As a parent, you need to feel comfortable with the emergency backup person.
10. Does my child need to be able to feed themselves?
Will your child need to be able to hold their own bottle? Do they need to be able to use a spoon? Will any help be provided when it comes to feeding? This one can easily be missed because a parent who always snuggles their baby and holds their bottle for them may never think that at daycare, the provider expects to lay their baby on the floor or in bed with a bottle. If it’s important to you that your baby is held and has help with their bottle you will need to make that clear.
The same may apply with solid foods. Some daycares may choose to just always offer finger foods in order to make it easier to feed a group of kids. But if you notice foods like yogurt, applesauce, or any other foods on the menu requiring a spoon, and your child isn’t able to use a spoon on their own yet, make sure you are asking how they deal with that type of situation.
9. Will any pictures of my kids be posted to social media?
Daycare centres may have waivers to sign allowing pictures, but it’s not always the case, and can be uncommon in a home daycare centre. Make it very clear if you are uncomfortable with pictures being taken of your kids and having them posted on social media! Some providers will take pictures only to be used within the daycare or to send to parents. Make sure you know what their policy is.
However, some workers could simply think your child is cute and want to take pictures with them and post it to their public social media account for all to see. Personally, I wouldn’t be cool with this, so make your wishes and preferences super clear. It’s nice to see pictures of your child’s day and what you missed out on, but I bet you’d never want to find those pictures on a random person’s Instagram account!
8. Can I send medication for them?
Perhaps teething is wearing your child down and they need pain relief, or they are battling an infection and are on antibiotics, or they regularly need medication for their overall health. Ask what their policies are for medicine and get a clear idea of what medications you can or cannot send.
Also, find out where they store meds, how will they remember what time to give it to them and ask specifically which person will be in charge of administering the medication. When it comes to life threatening allergies that require an epi-pen, or other illnesses that require regular medicine, everyone should be aware of the allergy and how to administer the pen. Short term medications (antibiotics, pain relievers) and medications not needed regularly (e.g an inhaler) may be something you need to be consistently checking in on.
7. What cleaning products are used at the daycare?
Most parents want to ensure where they send their child is clean. And you can usually tell just by looking around how well kept the place is. I’m not even joking, I went for a home daycare interview one time and there were dirty diapers all over the lawn. I don’t think the floors had been cleaned in weeks! Needless to say, I was not interested, but I also know how easy it can be to clean up a place really quickly for an interview and have it look amazing, which isn’t an accurate picture of how it usually is.
Asking what cleaning products are used gives you a good idea of their cleaning procedures (and if they are actually cleaning)! It can also be important for people who prefer less chemicals around their children. Some parents may be thrilled to know that all natural cleaners are used in the home or centre. Some parents may only want to hear the word “bleach mixture” to feel secure that germs are killed regularly. You’d always want to make sure you are comfortable with the products they use and, most importantly, that they are actually used regularly!
6. How often do you change diapers?
Ok stay with me here…I’m sure you’re thinking that the obvious answer would be whenever they need to be changed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case! Some centres will have a strict every 3 hour change schedule (or something similar). If the idea of your child sitting in their pee for more than 5 minutes makes you cringe, make that known. Or maybe you like to limit the number of diapers you use and don’t want your child changed when they haven’t even soiled their diaper.
Knowing their diaper changing policies will allow you to make an informed decision and express your preferences. My policy as a daycare provider was to change diapers as needed, but I also liked a fresh diaper before nap even if it was never soiled. If you are a parent who wants their baby’s diaper changed the moment that strip turns blue, or only ever changed if it’s soaked or poop filled, make sure your provider will comply!
5. Do you allow rough play?
Perhaps you are a huge Star Wars fan and watching your child reenact an epic light sabre battle makes you beam with pride! Or your child can turn anything in to a sword in order to be a brave knight battling a fire breathing dragon. Will your daycare provider strictly prohibit this? Or will they allow them to play if other kids are ok with it? How will they handle it if your child is caught participating in rough play?
It may be that you don’t ever want your child engaging or witnessing any sort of rough play. Will your daycare provider shut it down as soon as they see it? How will they approach that situation and enforce no roughhousing in the daycare? It’s important to know what matters to you, if your preference aligns with your provider’s and if they will support your rules from home.
4. Do you always tell parents if they missed a child’s first?
Does this sound like a weird question to you? I once knew a daycare provider who would feel horrible if they witnessed a child’s first steps or heard a new word and the parents missed it. So she never told them and let the parents believe they witnessed their child’s first steps at home or heard that word for the very first time. This might actually sound amazing to you. Ignorance is bliss, right?
But if you are a parent who wants to know every detail this may make you uncomfortable. You want to know everything your child said and did that day, even if it was for the first time and you missed it. Or you may want your provider to try and catch those special moments on camera and send them to you right away. Make sure you are on the same page when it comes to those exciting first moments and how you want to be told (or not told) about them!
3. Will workers support and reinforce something we are working on at home?
Generally with things like potty training and discipline, providers will want to work together with the parent to ensure consistency between the daycare and home. But if you are working on something specific with your child at home, are you sure that your daycare provider will reinforce and support all the work you are putting in?
Some examples could be if your child is behind in their speech and you are working daily on helping them with their words. Will the provider be able to spend any time with your child on this or will they be too busy and let things slide? Maybe you’re working on certain manners and how your child asks for something is very important to you. If you are reminding your child to always say please and thank you, will your provider enforce that as well? Again, it’s so important that you and your provider are aligned on how these things are handled.
2. How often are smoke alarms tested and batteries changed?
In a daycare centre there are probably many procedures when it comes to fire safety so this question may be answered really easily for you. In the case of a home daycare all you may see is that there are smoke alarms that work…for now. Asking how often smoke alarms are tested can give you the peace of mind that you may need.
Smoke alarms should be tested and have their batteries changed twice a year. Firefighters will generally recommend doing this at every daylight savings. If this is something very important to you, you can ask if there is schedule or checklist posted so you can be confident that they are tested frequently.
1. Can I send food for my child?
Some daycare centres and home daycares do not allow you to send any food unless they are needing a bottle (formula or breastmilk) or have specific allergies. They may feel that your picky eating child who only likes specific yogurt does not meet the qualifications for sending their own food. It may sound harsh, but I know when I was a daycare provider, if one child had different food than the other kids, the other kids were not happy! So for consistency sake I did not allow kids to bring their own food unless they had allergies or required a specific drink (breastmilk, formula, or milk).
If you want to be able to send your child’s favourite snacks with them ask right upfront if this is allowed. Severe allergies can be a factor, so to ensure all food is safe and free of any potential allergens (especially life threatening ones) bringing in outside food may be strictly prohibited.