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Child Care: Questions to Ask About Infant/Toddler Center-Based Care

Ask the Child Care Provider:

  • Is the child care center licensed? Is the licensing permit current?
  • What are the tuition payments? When are they due?
  • What are the hours? Holiday and vacation schedule?
  • Is an initial registration fee required? What are admission requirements?
  • Are there extra charges for such things as meals, transportation, or late pick-up?
  • Are fees reduced if more than one child enrolls?
  • Are deductions offered for periods of absence?
  • Is financial assistance available?
  • Is safe transportation provided?
  • What is the caregiver-to-child ratio? Federal guidelines for centers suggest no more than 1:3 for infants; 1:4 for toddlers; 1:8 for children aged 3 to 6.

Observe or Ask About:


Does the center have:

  • carpeting, pads, and drapery to absorb extraneous noise?
  • child-sized furniture?
  • a cheerful, colorful atmosphere?
  • ample developmental and age appropriate toys and art materials?
  • plenty of indoor and outdoor space?
  • special areas for quiet and active play?
  • smoke detectors and fire extinguishers? Regular fire drills? Alternate exits?


Does the staff:

  • genuinely seem to enjoy cuddling, holding, and talking to my baby?
  • seem cheerful, warm, and affectionate?
  • welcome my questions and suggestions?
  • share my childrearing philosophy?
  • take time to share my child's experiences with me?
  • really listen and talk to the children?
  • have low turnover?
  • sensitively handle feelings of fear, shyness, upset, and anger?
  • respect each child's unique background and interests?
  • guide rather than direct behavior?
  • kneel or sit at child's eye level?
  • spend individual time with each child?
  • actively play with children, indoors and out?
  • emphasize children's strengths and accomplishments?
  • handle discipline positively?
  • establish and consistently maintain limits?


Does the program:

  • balance active, physical activities with quiet, restful ones?
  • provide ample rest and nap times?
  • prohibit play that could quickly get out of hand?
  • encourage children to express themselves?
  • patiently encourage toddlers to solve some problems on their own?
  • provide ample opportunities for children to feel good about themselves?
  • help children deal with feelings constructively?
  • provide security through a well-defined, predictable schedule of daily activities?
  • balance structured and unstructured activities?
  • design graduated goals for each child?
  • encourage language development?

Health and Safety

  • Are important phone numbers posted near the phone? (Examples include police, fire, poison control center, hospital, children's physician, ambulance.)
  • Does the staff always know how to get in touch with both parents?
  • Does my child receive constant supervision, indoors and out?
  • Is my baby checked often when in a crib or playpen?
  • Is all baby equipment strong, stable, and in good repair?
  • Are the crib slats no more than 2 and 3/8 inches apart? Does the crib have protective bumper pads? Does the mattress firmly abut the side of the crib?
  • Does the center have separate cribs and crib sheets for each infant?
  • Do strollers or infant seats have safety harnesses?
  • Are the crib and playpen free of toys that could be used to climb out?
  • Can all doors inside the center be opened from the outside at all times?
  • Are the outside doors and windows locked?
  • Do strong screens or metal bars cover the windows? (especially important above ground level)
  • Do all glass doors have decals?
  • Are the rooms well ventilated and comfortable year-round?
  • Are the bathroom facilities clean and easily accessible to children?
  • Are latched safety gates placed at the top and/or bottom of stairways?
  • Are stairways and walkways free from clutter? Are floors free from spills, slippery surfaces, or small throw rugs?
  • Are small, sharp, or otherwise dangerous items out of reach or locked in a cupboard, drawer, or cabinet? (Examples include pins, thumbtacks, paper clips, matches, lighters, knives, plastic bags, scissors, guns, razor blades, glassware, and working appliances.)
  • Are poisonous items stored out of reach or locked in cupboards, drawers, or cabinets? (Examples include cleaning products, polish, bleach, medicines, cosmetics, perfumes, aerosol cans, and first aid supplies.)
  • Are the center and yard free from poisonous plants?
  • Is my child kept away from dangerous places like the stove or hot water faucets?
  • Do all electrical sockets have protective covers?
  • Has attention been paid to objects that could be pulled or knocked over? (Examples include tablecloths, electrical cords, lamps, furniture.)
  • Are toys safe, clean, and in good repair?
  • Are play surfaces, indoors and out, softened with carpeting or wood chips?
  • Do children get a daily dose of fresh air and sunshine, weather permitting?
  • Do children seem safe with one another?
  • Is the outdoor area fenced and free of hazards?
  • Is the play equipment safe and appropriate for my child's level of development?
  • What is the procedure for medical emergencies?
  • What are the policies regarding illness? (for example, are parents contacted if another child has a contagious disease? Does the caregiver have a substitute in case she gets sick?)
  • Is a physician on-call? Are medical records maintained?
  • Is the staff trained in early childhood education, CPR and first aid?


  • Are the meals nutritious and healthy?
  • Are healthy snacks served mid-morning and mid-afternoon?
  • Are menus varied and posted for my review?
  • Is the staff knowledgeable about my baby's food requirements and feeding schedule?
  • Are children allowed to leave food on their plates? (They should never be forced to eat.)
  • Are portions small and second helpings available?
  • Who plans the menus (dietitian or other staff)?
  • Is the kitchen clean?
Written by Donna Warner Manczak, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-05
Last reviewed: 2004-03-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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