Picking a daycare sent me into a tailspin as a first time mom dealing with anxiety. However, the experience taught me ways to choose a good daycare, how to leave a bad one, and what you need to investigate.
If you choose to send your baby to a daycare, there are a lot of things you’ll need to investigate.
First, let’s state the obvious: choosing a daycare is hard!
In this video I’m going to tell you how we went about the process of choosing a daycare and how we picked the one we use now as well as a few ways to choose the right fit for you.
Ok now that I’ve shared the cutest baby in the world along with tips via video, let’s talk about themm!
8 Ways To Choose A Good Daycare
Knowing how to choose a good daycare is so important. Your child’s health, safety, and development is riding on your decision.
Don’t worry… you’ll be able to pick the right daycare! Here are a few tips about finding a good daycare.
Start looking for daycares early!
The number one thing is you want to start looking early. Some people get on daycare lists while they are pregnant.
I always thought that was silly, but it is necessary in some cities.
A good daycare will fill up fast. There are only so many slots available so you will want to be on waiting list.
If you can start as soon as you get pregnant then do it. If not? Start looking as soon as possible. You’ll want to be on the list and have a spot as early as possible. Sometimes even nine months is not enough for certain day cares. I had to wait over a year for spots to open up in daycares for my second child.
As soon as you know you’re going to be using a daycare start looking. It’s important to know that all good daycares will have a waitlist.
Research the different types of childcare options.
There are many different kinds of childcare/daycare options:
- church daycares and Mother’s Day Out programs
- chains and corporate daycares
- daycares attached to schools
- in-home daycares
- nanny shares
You will want to check out the different options and decide what you are comfortable with using for your child.
You also need to consider what times and days you need. Do you need part time or full time?
We wanted to do part time so our moms could also participate in watching our baby. Then with my second child I wanted part time so I could watch my baby after quitting my job.
This actually made it harder to find a daycare because many did not do part time. Some even require you to pay for full time care even if you only use it part time.
You’ll want to research what options you have available near you and what rules you may need to know.
Ask for good daycare recommendations.
Asking friends and family will help you find more good daycare options.
It gives you recommendations that you can usually feel good about. If you have a family member that used a certain daycare you can feel good about using it too.
Remember that this is not a guarantee for a good daycare. What your family likes may not be up to your standards. I actually pulled my child from a daycare that my family member used because I was not comfortable with things happening, but she still loved it. Keep in mind your personal preferences and tolerances.
Another good source of recommendations is your local neighborhood group. You can check out the Nextdoor app or a Facebook group if your neighborhood has one and ask for daycare recommendations.
Our final daycare choice was recommended by family because my niece went there and also everyone in our neighborhood always suggested it when people asked about daycare options.
Consider your daycare budget.
Childcare is expensive. It’s grown even more expensive in the last few years as childcare options were stretched and broken.
Paying for daycare will be a large part of most families budgets. You’ll need to consider your budget and what you can realistically afford.
This may mean some of the better more expensive daycares are out of your reach. We would have loved to use our church’s daycare as it is one of the best around us but unfortunately we couldn’t justify the cost. For us it was just too much for infant care.
The daycare we ended up choosing was one half of the cost of the first daycare we expected to use.
You should also see if you are eligible for any assistance, funds, or even a childcare FSA through work. There are programs that exist to help with the cost of childcare so research those to make it fit your budget.
Check daycare references and reviews.
Once you’ve got a list of daycares you are considering, check out the online reviews if they have them.
Read what you can about the daycare. You’ll also want to ask for references you can call and talk with.
Every reputable daycare and in home daycare will provide you with a list of parents you can reach out to for questioning and research. I reached out to some strangers to ask about their experience with the daycare we chose first and discussed in depth with my sister in law about the one we ultimately are using.
Most parents will be happy to talk about the daycare and what they liked and didn’t like about it. I’ve always been thrilled to share experiences with other parents: both bad and good.
Take a tour of the daycare.
You’ll want to check out a daycare in person before you commit to it.
Go and meet the daycare teachers and even the director. Ask them questions about things and make sure it’s safe and clean. Use this handy sheet when visiting to look, listen, and ask the right things.
If you are doing an in home daycare like we did make sure you are comfortable with the setup and how many kids are there.
Ask about their policies and days they are closed. See if they have a strict schedule and yearly list of closings and anything that will affect care.
If you can, go during the day when your child will be there so you can see the exact conditions that your baby will be in. Sometimes daycares are easiest to evaluate when you show up at an unexpected time. I chose not to use a daycare because of this reason when I showed up and there was not adequate adult coverage for the children.
Get on the list for multiple daycares.
Unfortunately most daycares fill up and have waiting lists for new kids. You need to be aware of this when trying to choose a good daycare.
When we started looking for a daycare we got in multiple waiting lists. The one we wanted didn’t have any openings and could not guarantee us a spot when we needed it so we paid a deposit to get on a waiting list for a daycare that could fit us in.
Having a secured spot even if it’s your second choice can eliminate a lot of stress about childcare. Even if you lose deposits it can be worth it to be on multiple daycare waiting lists.
Accept that no daycare is perfect.
In a perfect world every daycare or childcare option would be exactly what you want and affordable.
The reality is that most daycares are going to do things differently than you would or do something that you don’t love.
A good daycare doesn’t necessarily equal a perfect daycare.
There are things about the daycare we use that I don’t love, but I know my baby is safe and care for so I’m letting those little things go.
When I pick her up and see her smiling at the other babies while she is being held I am happy she is in a safe environment and learning from other babies!
Choosing A Good Daycare
I hope these tips help you choose a daycare if you are in the market for one.
It’s a hard choice to decide who will help take care of your precious little ones but with some work upfront you can definitely find a great daycare option.
Mary is the founder of Pennies Not Perfection where she shares her journey to build wealth through online income. She quit her day job in 2021 after she paid off her debt and doubled her 9-5 salary.
Mary's favorite free financial tool is Personal Capital. She uses their free tools to track net worth and work toward to financial freedom.