What to Look for When

Touring a Child Care Provider

Visiting child care providers in person is crucial for making an informed decision about your child’s care. It allows you to get a feel for the environment, observe staff interactions, ask questions and address concerns. By visiting in person, you can gain valuable insights that pictures and online reviews cannot provide.

 

Early Learning Marketplace is a free tool to help parents find and connect with providers. Through the easy-to-use interface, families can search for programs near them, filter based on their needs, learn more about different child care programs, schedule tours and send messages to providers.

Preparing for the Visit

Scheduling the Tour

Early Learning Marketplace makes it easy to schedule tours with child care providers. When you find a provider you are interested in, you can click on the Schedule a Tour button. If you’d rather communicate with the director to set up a visit, click on the message director button.

 

It’s important to make an appointment in advance. High-quality child care is often in high demand, and spots can fill up quickly. Making an appointment ensures you have dedicated time and attention from the provider, allowing you to fully discuss your child’s needs and ask any questions you may have.

 

Child care providers have busy schedules, and making an appointment respects their time and ensures that you both can have a focused conversation without interruptions. It gives the provider a chance to prepare for your visit and gather relevant information about your child’s needs and preferences in advance.

Questions to Prepare

By taking the time to ask thoughtful questions during your child care tour, you can gain valuable knowledge and make an informed decision about the best environment for your child’s care and development. Bring a list of your questions to help you stay organized and ensure you cover all your concerns.

 

Here are questions you may want to ask:

 

  • Are you licensed and accredited?
  • What is the child-to-staff ratio?
  • Have all staff undergone background checks and CPR/First Aid training?
  • What are your emergency procedures?
  • How do you handle medication administration?
  • What are your security measures?
  • What is a typical daily schedule like?
  • What types of activities are offered?
  • How do you handle discipline?
  • How do you communicate with parents?
  • How do you handle outdoor play?
  • What is the staff’s philosophy on child development?
  • What are the staff’s qualifications and experience?
  • What are the policies on screen time and technology use?
  • How do you handle allergies and dietary restrictions?
  • What is the tuition and fees structure?
  • What is the enrollment process?
  • Do you offer trial periods or visits?
  • What are your references?
  • What are your policies on sick children?

Ask open-ended questions, as this encourages the provider to provide more detailed information. It’s a good idea to take notes to help you remember important details. Pay attention to your overall impression of the environment and the staff.

What to Observe During the Tour

Safety and Cleanliness

A safe and clean child care environment is crucial for the well-being of young children. It reduces the spread of illness, promotes physical safety, supports cognitive development, reduces stress and fosters positive social-emotional development.

 

Here are some ways to assess safety measures and hygiene standards:

 

  • Are there age-appropriate safety features in place, such as gated entrances, covered outlets and secure storage for hazardous materials?
  • Is the environment free from tripping hazards, sharp edges and other potential dangers?Is the facility clean and well-maintained to prevent accidents?
  • Are there fire extinguishers and smoke detectors readily available?
  • Is the staff-to-child ratio appropriate for the age group? Are staff members always present and actively supervising children? Do staff members respond promptly to children’s needs?
  • Is there a clear plan for handling emergencies?
  • Is the outdoor play area safe and secure? Is there adequate supervision during outdoor play? Is the play equipment age-appropriate and well-maintained?
  • Are the floors, surfaces and toys clean and free of dirt and grime?
  • Are restrooms clean and sanitized regularly? Are diapering areas clean and well-maintained?
  • Is there soap, water and paper towels readily available for handwashing? Do staff members wash their hands frequently, especially after changing diapers or handling food? Do children have opportunities and reminders to wash their hands regularly?
  • Does the facility have a policy on excluding children who are sick? Are staff members trained in recognizing and preventing the spread of infectious diseases? Are there procedures in place for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces when a child is sick?

Staff Interactions and Qualifications

Staff interactions are a key indicator of the overall quality of care provided at a child care facility. Observing how staff interact with children during your visit will provide valuable insights.

 

Here are some tips for assessing the qualifications and demeanor of child care providers:

 

  • Do staff members seem confident and comfortable interacting with children?
  • Do staff members greet children warmly and respond to their cues and needs?
  • Do staff members treat children with respect and empathy? Do they listen to children and validate their feelings?
  • Do staff members remain patient with children, even when they are challenging? Do they use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior?
  • Are staff members able to communicate effectively with children, both verbally and nonverbally?
  • Are activities and interactions tailored to the children’s individual needs and developmental stages?
  • Do staff members encourage children to explore and learn through play?
  • Do staff members focus on the children’s interests and needs?
  • Do staff members understand the different stages of development and how to support children’s learning?

Child-to-Staff Ratios

Another indicator of high-quality child care is a low child-to-staff ratio. This means that for every adult staff member, there is an appropriate number of children.

 

Research consistently shows that lower ratios are associated with better outcomes for children, including:

 

  • More individualized attention
  • Enhanced learning opportunities
  • Improved social and emotional development
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Better health outcomes

Additionally, lower ratios have benefits for educators, including improved working conditions, reduced stress and burnout and enhanced professional development.

 

The recommended child-to-staff ratios for child care in Indiana are as follows:

 

Age of the Youngest Child in Group

Maximum Number of Children Supervised by One Caregiver

Maximum Number of Children in One Group

Infant (birth – 15 months)

4

8

Toddler (12 – 36 months)

5

10

2 years

5

10

30 – 36 months

7

14

3 years

10

20

4 years

12

24

5 years

15

30

When you visit a child care provider, observe the number of children and staff members in each group and compare this to the required ratio. If you notice any discrepancies or have concerns about the ratio in any group, don’t hesitate to ask the staff for clarification. Observe how staff members interact with children and ensure they are adequately supervising all children within their group.

Learning Programs and Curriculum

Overall, the role of a child care curriculum is to:

 

  • Provide a framework for promoting children’s holistic development in all areas.
  • Guide educators in planning and implementing effective learning activities.
  • Support communication and collaboration between parents and educators.
  • Create a positive and stimulating environment that fosters children’s curiosity and love of learning.

You will want to assess the quality and relevance of learning activities during your visit. Here are some methods to do so:

 

  • Are the activities engaging and age-appropriate? Do they capture children’s attention and encourage participation?
  • Do the activities allow for open-ended exploration and creativity, or are they overly structured and restrictive?
  • Does the learning approach emphasize play as the primary vehicle for development and exploration?
  • Are the materials diverse, age-appropriate, clean and safe? Are there sufficient resources to accommodate all children?
  • Do children have opportunities for self-directed play and exploration, or are activities primarily adult-led?
  • Is technology used meaningfully and appropriately to enhance learning, or is it used for entertainment purposes?

You can also ask staff about the specific learning goals and objectives of activities, as well as the overall curriculum and how it integrates various learning activities. Discuss how staff measure and assess children’s progress and adjust activities accordingly.

Facilities and Resources

Observing a child care facility and its available resources is a crucial component of choosing the best possible environment for your child. Having age-appropriate toys, equipment and play areas is vital for children’s healthy development and well-being. Here are some key benefits:

 

  • Age-appropriate toys and equipment encourage children to move, climb, crawl, jump and explore their physical capabilities. This promotes gross motor skills development, coordination and spatial awareness.
  • Playing with age-appropriate toys stimulates brain development, problem-solving skills, critical thinking, creativity and imagination. Children learn through exploration, experimentation and manipulation of objects.
  • Play areas and equipment designed for specific age groups encourage social interaction, communication, cooperation and conflict resolution. Children learn to share, take turns and develop empathy for others.
  • Age-appropriate toys and activities such as reading, singing and storytelling promote language acquisition and communication skills. Children learn new vocabulary, express their emotions and develop their listening and speaking abilities.
  • Mastering age-appropriate tasks and challenges helps children build confidence and self-esteem. They feel competent and capable, which motivates them to explore and learn new things.
  • Play areas and equipment designed with safety in mind minimize the risk of falls, bumps and injuries. Age-appropriate features ensure children can play safely and confidently.

Using Early Learning Marketplace for Research

How the Tool Complements the Tour

The Early Learning Marketplace can assist you both before and after your tour. Before your visit, you can search for programs near you, filter based on your needs and learn more about different child care programs. Each provider profile has a wealth of information, including hours of operation, child-to-staff ratios, pay schedules, meals offered, Paths to QUALITYTM levels, if subsidized care is accepted and more. You can also use Early Learning Marketplace to help schedule your tour. After your tour, you can read reviews of other parents and even claim an open seat.