These interview questions for daycare providers are designed to help you gain insight into how someone will take care of your child and if that person will be someone that you can trust with your child. Some of these questions will have definite right or wrong answers. They may even seem like the answer is too obvious to ask, but you will be surprised at how many don’t give you the right answer. For many of these questions for daycare providers, only you can decide what is a right or wrong answer when looking for someone to take care of your child.
How many kids do you currently care for? What are their ages? How many kids in each age range are you licensed to care for?
The answer to this question will help you know the dynamics of the daycare and if your child will fit in. If the daycare has all preschool age kids and infants, then your 8-year-old is probably not a good fit. The answer should also match what the license states.
How long have you had a daycare license and been working in daycare?
Most states require some experience before approving a daycare license. So, most in-home daycare providers should have at least a year or two of experience, even if they just opened their doors. In general, you want someone with experience working with kids in a variety of settings and of different age ranges.
What is your educational background?
Many state’s daycare licenses only require a class or two on child development before someone can open their own daycare in their own home. This is a very limited amount of education. With this question, the more education the person has the better. Education relevant to the position would include courses and degrees in early childhood development, education, teaching, nutrition, social services etc.
Do you have hired help?
Daycare licensing in any state will allow a provider to care for a set number of children alone without the assistance of additional staff. However, that doesn’t mean that a daycare provider should work alone. Ideally, you want to find a daycare provider that has paid help.
In-home daycare providers are typically open for business from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. That’s an 11-hour day caring for multiple children that may include several infants without a single break if there is not an assistant. Your child is going to get much better care if their daycare person can take a break every now and then. You child will also get better care if there are multiple people caring for all the children.
Also, without an assistant, you will not have daycare if the provider has an illness, vacation, or family emergency. With an assistant, you are more likely to still have daycare available during these times.
If the person you are interviewing does have assistants, then you need to ask many of these questions, such as those regarding experience and education, about the each assistant as well.
What kinds of meals do you serve? What is a typical meal plan for the day?
Meals should be healthy and always include fruits and vegetables. There should also be several meals a day including breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Meals should not include high in fat or sugary foods except as the rare treat.
What is the daily schedule like?
Most daycares will have a regular schedule with set blocks of time for certain activities each day. This will help the day flow better for everyone. In general and depending on the age of the children, each day’s schedule should include meal times, free play times, preschool or educational activities, art, games, music, and outside play. How ridged that schedule is will vary between providers. And what is best will depend on you and your child.
Do you let the kids watch TV or play video games?
Kids need down time, but TV and video games should only be in moderation and under your supervision. According to the University of Michigan Health System, “Excessive TV viewing can contribute to poor grades, sleep problems, behavior problems, obesity, and risky behavior.” You are paying your daycare provider to care for your child, provide social opportunities with other children, exploration and playtime learning opportunities, games, exercise, reading, homework help and much more. Your money should not go towards parking your child in front of the television set or video game as the babysitter.
This can be an important question that really gives insight into how a daycare provider cares for children. Some may use TV only as part of an educational lesson. If so, then the daycare provider should be sitting and interacting with the children while the program is on. Some may allow children a movie on Fridays as a reward or treat for the kids. If the answer you get is no TV ever or only as part of an activity (such as a shapes video to teach shapes) or as a weekly treat, then you have a good answer to this question.
However, if the provider answers that she allows TV every day so that she can make lunch, take a break, or during a 2-hour nap/quiet time to entertain older non-napping kids, then you need to cross this person off your list.
How is discipline handled?
The answer to this will give you insight into the child rearing and educational philosophies of the daycare provider, and it should be in line with your own. The answers should show knowledge in how children learn and develop, and an understanding that every child is different. Discipline should also focus primarily on teaching wanted and acceptable behavior and not on constant punishment.
You want a provider that teaches children to talk to each other instead of hitting each other and rewards good behavior before resorting to discipline. Discipline should be time-outs that are age appropriate, which is one minute per age (a 3-year-old gets a 3-minute time out), natural consequences such as taking away a toy a child was using to hit with, and the loss of special privileges such as movie day.
If the answer to this includes (or you witness any of these while there) any yelling, screaming, physical punishment, excessively long time-outs, or focuses only on consequences and does not focus on teaching and rewards, then cross this person off your list.
Do you offer part-time, drop-in, and/or flexible daycare schedules?
If you work full time Monday through Friday, then this question will not be as important to you. However, if you work part-time, do not have a set work schedule, or are a student, you need to choose a daycare with flexible childcare hours.
Do you have any pets? Do these pets interact with the children?
Children can learn a lot from having pets at daycare including compassion and responsibility. However, if your daycare person has pets, take the time to find out more.
The pets should be well behaved around children and very patient with children. Dogs that are kept separated and don’t interact with the daycare children should still be good with kids just in case a mix up happens. The pets should also be well cared for with clean cages and fresh food.
Red flags here would be an aggressive dog, dirty cages, pets without food or water, or any other questionable care of the pets. How the person cares for their pets is a good test for how well they care for children. Also good pet care teaches your child responsible pet care.
Do you help potty train?
If you have not yet started potty training, you may think this isn't something to worry about yet. But many parents find when it comes time to start, their daycare provider will not help potty train. This will cause problems not only for your work schedule as you have to take time off until the process is complete, it will also cause confusion for your child as one of their primary caregivers doesn't participate in the important milestone. You will be much happier with a daycare provider who helps potty train as a normal part of childcare. They should even be able to help guide you on when to potty train and how to potty train your child.
Where do you keep medications and cleaners?
This may seem like too basic of a question for a daycare provider to ask. Of course the medications, cleaners, and other toxic chemicals should be kept out of reach and locked away from children. Check that this is the case for any home daycare provider you ask questions of. Cross off any from your list that does not have these items locked away. And yes, not all do.
University of Michigan Health System: Television and Children