How to Find a Quality Childcare Provider or Preschool


Every working parent at some point in there life may have to look for a child care provider outside the family unit. These days there are so many different types of child care services available and a wide range of prices. Though the buildings differ greatly one thing remains the same; they are all just caring and loving individuals trying to provide the best care possible and enrich the lives of children they provide for. This article will make preparation easy and assist you in finding a high quality provider.


List Values and Needs

                Your family is unique; you have certain values and expectations. When looking for a provider they should have similar values as your family. Before you pick up the phone to call a list of providers write down qualities, values, and characteristics that already exist in your family. Then circle the top ten you would like to see in your provider. Examples can be trustworthy, loving, empathy towards others, good communication skills, respect, honesty, a good listener, a healthy life style, educational back ground, and so on.

This will give you a visual picture of the person you are searching for and allow you to develop quality questions in regards to your top characteristics during the provider interview.

Also, at this time it will be beneficial to write down the exact care you are looking for. They will need to know the age of your child and what type of care you are searching for. Keep it limited and save the majority of your questions and needs for the tour and interview. A simple “Hello, my name is Sally and I am looking for care for my three year old boy starting in August if you have an opening could we set up a visit?” Do you only need part time, certain days, or seasonal care? Every provider is different and some do not take part time or temporary care but others will.

A daycare secret I will share is save the schedule and tuition questions for the tour and interview. Sometimes providers are more likely when face to face to offer a service or discount they might not have offered over the phone. 

Experience Matters

When searching for a quality care giver education plays a big role. It is important that the main care taker such as the lead teacher or in home provider has some type of educational back ground.  They can obtain an education from many years experience or a degree. There are many programs available for child care providers but each one teaches a provider the basics for early education and child development. An education is vital because it allows the provider to understand at what age or stage your child is at and how to respond to their needs.

A lot has changed in early education in the past twenty years. A large majority of childcare workers now contain some type of degree or early education certificate. With a higher education comes knowledge about but not limited to child development, psychology, nutrition, curriculum, and health and safety. Not to mention all of the yearly training required for providers such as universal precautions, CPR and rescue breathing, and much more. It also instills compassion for children. For example, a provider without any training might translate a two year old saying “no, no, no” as an act of defiance but in all actuality they are learning independence and how to make choices. Choosing a provider with a quality education or experience will benefit your child and become a wonderful go to resource for child related questions.

Did You Know?  Most childcare providers still have to maintain about 12 hours of additional training per year. They also are required by law to keep their mandatory reporting of Child Abuse, CPR, Rescue Breathing, First AID, and Universal Precautions up to date.


 Time and Patience

                I have listened to many parents call and say in despair “I have called a list of twenty places with no luck.” Or “I have to brace myself before I begin my daycare search.” Finding a daycare should not be a daunting task. Allow yourself plenty of time before you need care to find a provider. Families have busy schedules and it takes time to interview families and find the right person for your family. There are a wide variety of people in this world and you will run into some different and unusual people during your search but don’t let that get you down. You will find the perfect provider it just takes time and patience. It isn’t unusual to visit five to ten providers and call a long list for openings.

Be Prepared

                Schedule out tours and interviews weeks in advance and have a script of questions based off of your values and needs readily available when you speak to the provider. Don’t be afraid to bargain with tuition especially if you have more than one child during the interview. Also keep in mind the price of food, curriculum and supplies is expensive for providers so research the average price of daycare in your area to know what to expect. If you are lucky enough to have a childcare resource and referral in your area utilize their services. They can give you very valuable information and sometimes even refer providers they know have openings.

A great time to call a provider is around nap time. Usually in-between 1pm and 2:30pm a provider may be able to talk. Keep in mind this is their “break time” so keep it short and schedule a meeting. Don’t be offended if they cannot speak right then when you call; they are caring for children and that is there main priority.



Can’t think of any questions for your provider?

Start with the most common and important; why did you go into the childcare field?

 Here is a list of more important questions to ask and write down during the face to face meeting:

       What are your hours, holidays, and policies on sick days?  Do you have a hand book of policies I can have? (Sometimes it is legally required depending on the state).  Providers should have a handbook or contract that outlines their days off, sick policies, and payment requirements. Read over the hand book before enrolling and address any concerns BEFORE you sign the contract.


      How to you communicate with parents? Sometimes the childcare provider can give daily sheets, have a bulletin board, or daily white board they write on. They can also hand out seasonal newsletters or give weekly informal letters discussing the weeks activities. Also, if the provider has a small group (6 or less children) they are available more to talk to you when you drop off and pick up.  (see example of newsletters and communication resources below)

Example of Weekly Newsletter to Parents.






Rice Noodles with Beef


WG Crackers

Orange Slices and Banana




Lentil Soup

Turkey Breast

Corn Tortilla


Plain Yogurt

Sliced Cucumber


Beef Lasagna

Sliced Bread

Carrots with dip

Cottage Cheese

Peaches or Sliced Watermelon


Taco Salad:

Lettuce salad with Sliced Tomatoes

Tortilla Strips with Beans & Cheese

Chicken or Ham




Fish Sticks

Potato with Cheese

Slice Bread

Peaches and Pears




Finally a full week with out rain! We were able to play outside all week. We like to go out in the AM before or after lunch and in the PM, after we have our calendar time or activity. The weather took a toll on the yard but we will continue to work on it throughout the spring. Until then the children love to make mud pies and dig for worms!

We love outside time because it allows the children to move freely and make noise, forms of self-expression that are often restricted indoors. (Inside and outside voices, and walking feet vs. running feet) Playing outside is a valuable activity for toddlers, and preschoolers in all areas of development. 

Activities for this Week

 “Spring Theme”



Same centers from last week, but we added a chalk board table.


Read stories about rain today and watched a book on tape of “Come on Rain”


Tiny Tot Yoga


Shape Match Game (Everyone did great! Large Group)


Sight word music


Play dough


ABC magnets and small magnet dolls and clothes







Large group Puzzles


Fine Motor

 Center Play:

Beading with ABC’s or stringing boards

Marble Play

Checkers (connect four)


Music and dance with Laurie Berkner and Charolette Diamond music

“10 Carrot Diamond”


Large group story time at Calendar


Free Play in afternoon and outside play





Three Small group centers:

Moon Sand

Cutting practice

Music and dance


Open Art Time or water play (inside)


Large group story time


Color Match with shapes


Bendaroos to form their own creation

(Wiki Sticks)


Finger Play songs at Calendar today


Magnet dolls


Art: Tissue Paper Flowers

Mixing Primary colors to achieve secondary colors


Colors can mean something:

Red for stop, Green for go,

Red means hot,

Blue is cold (and so on…)


Rain Pictures: Discussed what happens when it rains:  the sounds, how it feels, what it looks like. Then they colored their rain pictures and cut drops.


Free play in the PM with two small groups based on age


Number Practice

Open play in the Am


Four Small groups:


Train Center

ABC Center

Art-open choice


Art: coffee filter butterflies


Finished our rain pictures and  clouds


Jumping House


Music Time with Salsa Music


Dora: Rain Forest


Open play in the PM




       Do you keep a daily schedule? What is a typical day here? The provider should be able to give you times of free play, activities, and outside play. They should also talk about large group play and individual time. It is best when they walk around and talk about where they do certain activities such a large group play. During large group play you should see plenty of organized toy bins labeled on small child size shelves.

Example of a Daily Schedule:

7:30 am to 8:30 am

Arrival Time and Breakfast:

At this time we will welcome you to daycare and help them wave good bye at the door.  Afterwards your child will have a choice to sit and eat or go and play with a wide variety of toys in free play.

8:45 am

Clean up time

Potty reminders

Diaper Time (changed throughout the day on a needed basis also)

9:15 am

Wash hands and help set up for Snack:

Children are encouraged and expected to help set the table put out snack and clean up when done. Each child can help in their own way such as bring chairs, hand out napkins or give cups. Even the smallest child has a job.

9:15 am

Am Snack

Two Healthy Food groups and choice of milk or water


Clean Up, and wash hands

Potty reminder

Diaper checks


Large Group Welcome Time

Calendar and discuss what we will do for the day

Sing songs together and read a story

10 am

Small Group Curriculum

Rotate Centers

Or Large motor (yoga, dance, or other muscle play) depending on children’s needs.

10:35 am

Outside Play

 or Gross motor inside play depending on weather

11:30 am



Lunch Time

Wash hands, help set up for lunch

We have lunch family style and offer a Whole Food menu selection based off USDA guidelines

12:00 pm

Clean up together

Wash hands

Potty reminders

Diaper checks

12:15 pm

Free Play


12:30 pm

Large Group Story

12:45 pm

Nap Time and Rest Time

Children lay on Angel Premium Cots, listen to soft music and have their backs rubbed to sleep

1:00 to 3:00

Nap Time or Quiet Time in play room

3:30 pm

Wake up and quiet play in Classroom

3:30 pm

Snack Time

3:45 pm

Clean Up

Potty Reminders

Wash Hands

Diaper Checks

4:00 pm

Free Play Time

4:20 pm

Closing Large Group Time on Carpet


We discuss our day and what we will do tomorrow.

4:30 pm to Close

Outside Play

or Gross Motor Inside play if weather doesn’t permit  us to go outside


       Are you registered with the state or have licenses to do care? Hopefully, they will say yes and they can show you their registration that is posted. They might also talk about teacher to child ratios, state annual checks, important files you will need to give them like a physical and immunization record. Almost all state websites have a section for Childcare Providers. There you will be able to access information about the different types available and there rules that govern them. You might also be able to find a list of providers in your area.


       Are you apart of the USDA Food Program? Do you plan a head your meals and snacks? Ask for an example of their menu. They should have something posted or in files. Every provider should be giving children at least Breakfast, AM snacks, a healthy lunch, PM snack for a full day schedule. Infants should eat on demand. A good rule of thumb is a child should eat every two hours. For example: 7:00 am Breakfast, 9:00 Snack, 11:00 Lunch, 3:00 Pm Snack with a 5:30 pm pick up time. Also make sure they serve dairy, protein, fruit and vegetable and whole grain during lunch and at snacks two food groups.



      Where will my child’s belongings be kept? Do they have their own cubby space? Children should have their own spot to keep all of their belongings. It should be labeled and available for the child to access. They should also give you a list of things you will need for care depending on the age of the child. Infants will tend to need more and preschoolers will need things like extra sets of clothes, and a comfort item if needed.

Wait!  Before you go double check…..

Did you get your Handbook and references? If the provider has a hand book they give to you any questions you have should be answered in the book. Be sure to look for important information in the handbook such as emergency procedures, medicine administration, curriculum, and health and safety topics. Remember you need to ask the provider for three references regarding past care. (An employer may work as well).

Did you get a tour? You should also receive a tour of the area of the home where the child will be during the day. It is NOT common to sit in one room and discuss experience and training. A great provider will be walking you around showing you the play areas, calendar of events, cute pictures other kids have drawn and talking about how each section of the home is used during the day for childcare. If they refuse or don’t give a tour think twice about that provider.

Did you get a Registration Packet? All providers no matter if they are in home or centers should have an enrollment packet for you to fill out. To know if you received some common forms you should receive to fill out before care are:

  • Parent Provider Child Care Financial Agreement
  • Child Intake Information
  • Permission to Transport Form
  • Permission to Photograph form
  • Permission for Special Activity form
  • Emergency Medical Treatment Authorization
  • And you should also be advised that you will need to bring in your child’s latest physical and immunizations record.



Good Luck! 

Don’t forget to thank them for their time and allowing you to preview their daycare. Daycare provider’s work very hard, they deserve a simple thank you!