Begin by visiting several child care homes or centers. On each visit, think about your first impression. But don't stop there. Does the place look safe for your child? Do the caregivers/teachers who will care for your child enjoy talking and playing with children? Do they talk with each child at the child's eye level? Are there plenty of toys and learning materials within a child's reach? You should always visit a home or center more than once. Stay as long as possible so you can get a good feel for what the care will be like for your child. Even after you start using the child care continue to come back and check it out.
What does the child care setting sound like? Do the children sound happy and involved? What about the teacher's tone of voice? Do they seem cheerful and patient? A place that's too quiet may mean not enough activity. A place that's too noisy may mean there is a lack of control.
Count the number of children in the group. Then count the number of staff members caring for them. Obviously, the fewer the number of children for each adult, the more attention your child will get. A small number of children per adult is most important for babies and younger children.
The knowledge and experience of the adults caring for your child is very important. Find out about the special training they each have. Ask about the background and experience of all the staff: caregivers, teachers, and the program director. Ask the same questions about any other adults who will have contact with your child in the home or center. Quality caregivers/teachers will be happy to have you ask these questions.
Find out more about efforts in your community to improve the quality of child care. Is your caregiver involved in these activities? Has your child's caregiver achieved accreditation or completed training that exceeds minimum requirements?