Below is a sampling of possible items to consider when choosing a childcare setting for your treasured child and in no means covers all issue that parents should consider when choosing childcare but is meant as a jumping point for brainstorming issues relevant to your family.
Basic Services Provided:
Provider Training and Experience:
- Does the programs hours of operation meet your family?s needs?
- Is the location convenient for a quick drop off and pick up?
- Is the program close to the school your child will eventually be attending to help with continuity of care for before and after school?
- Is service provided throughout the entire year?
- What is the fee structure?
- Is the program closed on Stat holidays? Are fees collected for these closures? (Charging for statutory holidays is often standard practice as childcare workers are entitled by Employment Standard laws to be paid for these in any other setting so often home based providers incorporate that benefit into their contracts as well)
- Are there any other closures such as PD days, Christmas week, March Break? What is the policy on fee collection for these types of closures?
- What is the vacation policy for families?
- Are fees collected for absences due to family vacation?
- What is the programs policy for illness of children?
- Are fees charged if the child is too ill to attend?
- What is the program policy in the event that the provider is too ill to offer care; does the provider find a substitute caregiver, will care still be provided in the same place or will children have to adjust to another environment, if it is the parents responsibility to arrange alternate back up care how much notice will be required to be given?
- What are parents responsible to supply for their children each day?
- Is provider trained in Early Childhood Education or have an equivalent early years background to aid in program development for children?
- If not, what training in child development and early years programming does provider have?
- What additional professional development opportunities are taken to ensure providers stay current in the developmental needs of children?
- Does the provider hold current first aid and CPR training?
- What is the provider screening policy ? are criminal reference checks or family and children services checks required? Is the home provider willing to have one completed or show you one that has been completed recently?
- What is the history of educator turnover in a licensed centre or how long has the home provider been in business?
- Does the centre or provider belong to any professional associations that support and advocate for the growth and development of the early years field?
- Do the educators portray a warm, caring friendly attitude towards the children and other adults in the home?
- Are the other children in the program happy; comfortable and relaxed, engaged in play either on their own or with each other?
- Can you see the caregiver praising the children? For example saying, "You did a good job hanging up your coat."
- Are the provider?s interactions driven out of redirecting behaviour or designed to support or engage children?s learning and development?
- Does the provider communicate effectively with the children? Explaining in clear steps what she/he wants the children to do, answering children's questions patiently, frequently bending or kneeling down to the child's level when talking.
- Are providers engaged in activities with the children or do they keep themselves busy with paper work or engaged in conversations with other adults?
- Are children?s needs continuously met? Such as noses are wiped, faces clean, diapers changed, clothes dry and relatively clean, injured/sad child comforted?
- Does the provider encourage children to do some things for themselves? Patiently giving time, help, and praise so that the child can learn to master the skill, such as getting a drink, washing hands, putting away a toy.
What is the provider?s personal behaviour and guidance philosophy?
- How are socially inappropriate behaviours, such as biting, hitting, kicking, screaming, handled in the program?
- Is corporal punishment used?
- Are time outs used and if so under what circumstances and for how long?
- How long would a child be left to cry before support is offered?
- What methods are used to try to calm a hurt or distraught child?
- What would happen if a baby didn't respond to the provider?s efforts for calming?
- How does the provider handle daily stresses that may arise out of caring for children?
- Overall is the provider someone you would like your child to copy or imitate. As children are much more likely to do as the caregiver does, more than what she/he says this is a very important point!
Safety and Nutrition Factors:
Are the facilities safe for children?
- Are child proofing measures are evident in any areas accessed by young children?
· Such as baby gates or other safety devices block access to stairs or unsupervised areas; safety plugs in all unused electrical sockets; electrical cords are bundled and secured to avoid tripping or pulling items down on top of child; blind cords are tied up and out of reach of children; medicine and cleaning materials in a locked / inaccessible area; cupboards which contain adult only resources have been made inaccessible either by safety latch or locking mechanism; etc.
- Are all areas used by children free from hazards such as broken floorboards, curling carpets or other tripping obstacles, are stair ways kept cleared with a handrail support for young children, is any chipping paint on walls addressed immediately?
- Is due diligence practised in regards to fire safety?
· Are smoke detectors installed on every floor and are fire extinguishers present in at least the kitchen but ideally at every exit?
· All fire safety devices are in working order ? how often are the checked?
· Are fire evacuation plans n place? Are they posted? Are parents informed of exits?
· Are there multiple exits from every area used by children in case on is blocked by fire?
· Are evacuations practised by the provider and children, at least monthly, to ensure that in the event of an emergency the provider is able to assist all children and themselves out of the house in a timely and safe manner? Is there is a safe back up shelter in place where children can engage in quiet activities while parents can be called to come and get children. ?
- Is the program equipped with sufficient emergency first aid materials?
· Does a First aid kit along with emergency contact information for each child accompany all offsite excursions?
- Is the program properly insured for the services being offered? Is proof of insurance available for clients review ~ copy of business liability insurance and if transporting a note to the policy for additional business liability insurance on vehicles. In a private setting these are both highly recommended and in regulated settings are legally required.
Is there adequate supervision?
- Can the provider supervise all areas of the program or outdoor area being used by the children?
· If there are blind spots how does the provider address this issue to ensure safety of children?
· Does the provider position them self in a place where they can see all children at play?
- How are young infants who need to sleep while others are awake supervised?
· How far are they from the other children?
· Is a monitor used?
· How often are they visually checked on throughout their nap?
· What is used for sleep time? A cot; crib or playpen? Is it safe from collapse? How often are mechanisms checked? How often are the sheets changed and laundered?
- Are children ever left unsupervised, if so under what circumstances of for how long?
- Are the toys and equipment geared for safe independent use by all the children enrolled?
- What precautions are taken to allow older children to engage in developmentally appropriate play while ensuring the safety of younger children?
- Is the backyard or playground fenced? How many exits are there? Are the supervised to ensure children do not accidentally get out into the road?
- Are there safety surfaces around climbing equipment?
- Is there access to shade in hot months?
- Is sunscreen use promoted? How often is it applied? Who supplies it?
What are the sanitary practices observed to reduce the spread of germs?
- What are the hand washing practices of children and providers?
· Such as before and after handling food; after outdoor play, after bathroom or diapering routines, nose blowing or wiping faces? Is there visual evidence of these practices in the program?
- How often are floors swept, washed, vacuumed?
· Does visual evidence support this?
- How often are counter tops and bathroom facilities disinfected?
· Does visual evidence support this?
- How often are toys and equipment washed and disinfected?
· Does visual evidence support this?
- Are washroom facilities in or close to play areas to encourage independent use but still offer adult supervision?
What snacks or meals are provided?
- Are menus posted in advance for parent review to help ensure that dietary needs and nutritional requirements are met?
- If they are spontaneous at the provider?s chose each day how can parents ensure that they meet Canada?s Food Guide or their child?s special dietary needs?
- Is there a strong representation of fresh and homemade items or are foods mostly pre-prepared, canned or frozen foods?
- What kind of milk is served? Children should receive homo milk or equivalent substitute until they are at least two years old, as their brains need the fat for growth.
- Are the foods offered culturally diverse and developmentally appropriate to reflect the needs of all children enrolled?
- How are allergies or special dietary restrictions handled?
- Does the provider role model good nutrition and eating habits for the children?
- Does the provider sit at the table with the children during meals to facilitate conversations and encourage children to try new foods and increase budding self-help skills?
- Are all provider?s trained in first aid, medical emergencies and CPR?
What are the policies on immunization and illness?
- What happens if a family chooses not to immunize their child?
- What illnesses require exclusion from the program?
- What happens is a child becomes ill while at the program?
- Will providers administer medications and if so under what circumstances?
- What policies are in place for handling a medical emergency that requires EMS to be called and a child to be transported to hospital?
- Is the play area set up in way to be warm and inviting for children?
- Are there enough toys and materials so that each child can play without having to wait more than a few minutes?
- Are there a variety of toys and equipment that support the development of the whole child?
Examples would be variety of building blocks, small and large vehicles, pretend people and animals, different types of puzzles, variety of books, puppets, felt board stories, equipment that supports role playing such as kitchen centre or wood working station, costumes for dress up and pretend play, creative art materials such as crayons, markers, paint, scissors, glue, paper, sensory materials such as sand or water play, play dough, clay, fun foam, etc.
Outdoors there are toys and equipment that promote large muscle coordination as well as cooperation such as small climbers or obstacle course materials such as tunnels, tires, pylons, etc. Ride on or push style toys. Sports equipment such as balls, sticks, bats, hoops, buckets, etc
- How often are toys changed or new items added to the program to keep play fresh and prevent boredom or stunt new development of skills?
- Does the provider offer any planned activities each day?
- Are the planned activities chosen based on children?s interests through observation of their play or based on a predetermined theme or other curriculum method?
- Is there a schedule? Does it have a balance of active and quiet time, structured and free play learning, indoor and outdoor time?
- Is there access to new technology, computers, Internet, etc. as part of the learning environment?
- Is television used as part of the curriculum? If so for how long and how is content determined and monitored?
- Are field trips taken as part of program? What are the safety precautions taken?
- How is the children?s developmental progress monitored? Are there annual written reports for parents to review?
**Persons are more then welcome to use the list as a frame of reference or ideas, however if you are choosing to make a complete reproduction of the checklist please remember to give credit to the original author. Margaret Wake, RECE, ECE.C. **