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How do I know what child care program is the best fit for my child?

Whether you are searching for a large child care center, a faith-based center, or a smaller in-home program, the one common trait you should always seek in all options is the quality of the program. It can be hard to recognize quality — especially if you’re searching for child care for the first time—and a program that’s the best fit for your child. 

ABC Quality provides a quality checklist of what to look for in a child care program to make sure a potential option is one that provides a safe, stimulating environment and one that will allow your child to thrive. When exploring your child care options, make sure to look for the following:

Facility and Activities

  • Make sure the program is well-lit and clean, including bathrooms, nurseries, and food preparation areas. 
  • Make sure there is room for play. An overcrowded or cramped facility will not provide adequate space for optimum recreation and education.
  • Make sure a facility provides a skill-building classroom program. Because children experience their greatest period of rapid brain development in the first five years of life, a program should provide educational experiences that help with problem solving and skill development.
  • Make sure a TV or video is not taking the place of an attentive teacher or caretaker. TV or videos should not be regular activities and should be used sparingly.
  • Is the center safe and secure? Make sure to ask about security systems and safety protocols in the center.
  • Evaluate indoor and outdoor areas to make sure they are safe, secure places for your child.


Caregivers and Teachers

  • Make sure a program has a low staff-to-child ratio. For newborns to 18 months, this means one caregiver for every four children. For toddlers (two years old), this means one caregiver for every six children. For three-year-olds, this means one caregiver for every 10 children. For four-year-olds, this means one caregiver for every 13 children. And for preschool children (age four4 and up), this means one caregiver for every 17 children.

Ratio Chart

  • Make sure caregivers are well-trained and experienced. Be sure and ask providers about everyone on staff. Ideally, teachers will have some college and/or early childhood education.
  • Make sure a program encourages social and cognitive development (thinking, reasoning, or remembering).
  • Watch out for teachers who speak in “baby talk.” This speaking style will not encourage a child’s overall development. 
  • Also, watch out for teachers who speak too harshly to the children. Tone of voice and intimidating language is not ideal for optimum learning and also becomes a psychological barrier to relationship building.

Programs and Structure

  • Ask about staff turnover rates. A low teacher turnover is ideal as it allows for the building of important relationships and building trust with adults. 
  • Does a program have clear policies and structure? Find out the rules and regulations that are in place. And also review any licensing or violations that a program may have.
  • Has a program pursued ABC Quality and other accreditations? Child care is a constantly evolving discipline, and the best centers will continue to better themselves at every opportunity.
  • Ask for current parent references and ask these parents their opinion of the care their child has received.
  • Ask for a written handbook of policies.

 Parental and Guardian Involvement

  • Ask about opportunities for involvement. From volunteering in person to participating in field trips, see how open a program is to having parental involvement.
  • See how responsive a staff member is to your questions, concerns, or comments. The best programs will also seek parental feedback and implement those suggestions when applicable.
  • Does a program encourage two-way discussions about child development? The best programs seek partnerships with parents or guardians as well as effective communication in both verbal and written ways.
  • Does a program encourage parental visits at any time of the day? The best programs do, displaying total transparency in what they are doing at any given time of the day.

 Personal Care Practices

  • Make sure staff is trained in health and sanitation. Make sure staff washes their hands after each diaper change. Make sure toys are never sticky or dirty. And also make sure food preparation areas are far from diaper-changing areas.
  • Make sure that everyone on staff practices proper routines and procedures on a daily basis — ensuring consistency for your child. 
  • Ask if the staff is certified in CPR and first aid.


To learn more about the quality rating of a child care program you are researching visit Find a Provider on our site.


By ABC Quality Team on October 22, 2020