Selecting a Child Care Facility

How to select the right Child Care facility – Answers from a Child Care Director!

(NOTE: The presence of the logos above does not indicate support in the centers)

There are a thousand child care centers to choose from, so how do you pick the right one? Okay, I get that selecting a child care facility isn’t quite the same thing as selecting where you want to go to college or what your future career is going to be, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the most important decisions you will make.

Honestly, I was pretty passive about selecting my college. I went where my sister went, and didn’t really think twice about it. But, selecting the child care center where my children would attend, that was harder. Not only are these people (whom you don’t know) going to care for your child and teach your child they are most likely going to be with your child more during his/her waking hours than you are five days out of the week. You can’t just select a child care center at random. You have to make sure you are 100% comfortable with the facility and staff because they will soon become like family to your little one.

There are some very important questions you should ask when ever interviewing a child care facility. And yes, I do mean interviewing. You shouldn’t be going in trying to be accepted by them. It is the Center Director’s responsibility to prove to you that they are good enough for you, not the other way around. So, questions you should ask, and answers you should hear:

(1) Is the facility safe and secure? Child care centers should be locked from the outside at all times. Parents should have a code to get into the building or be buzzed in. This ensures the safety of the safe and all the children in the center.

(2) Does the facility utilize an education based curriculum? Okay, I know it may sound silly to want your child to have a curriculum at say 6 months, but there have been studies to prove that children that start in an early education facility at a young age, even infancy, will do better in their later education years. Yes, my children both went to centers with a curriculum. My kids were doing sign language at 9 months, singing their ABCs between 18-20 months, and talking in complete sentences before they were 2. I am a firm believer that children need to be stimulated regularly with music, colors, books, paint, etc.

(3) Is the facility licensed through the Department of Human Resources? Every state has an organization that regulates what child care facilities are allowed to do and have in the center. Check out the Minimum Standards set up by the Alabama Department of HR at This covers everything including but not limited to: equipment in the classrooms, teacher to student ratio, procedures for illnesses, etc. In my state it is called the Department of Human Resources, you may want to do a little online research to see what state department regulates child care facilities in your state. With that said, I do not recommend enrolling your child in a facilities that is not licensed through the Department of HR or equivalent. If a center is affiliated with a church it is not required to be license, as well you may find some in home centers are not licensed. But, don’t just assume one way or the other. Make sure you ask!

(4) Can I see your most recent Department of Human Resources evaluation? Okay, this only applies if the answer to number 3 above was yes. If they are licensed then their most recent evaluation/inspection report should be prominently displayed in the main area where you and anyone else that is interested can read it. Look on the front page under DEFICIENCIES. This is the most important section. You want to look for things like: Student to Teacher Ratio not followed, Students left unattended, Director of the center is not qualified, Health Hazards, etc. When you see deficiencies on the report make sure you ask the Center Director to explain them to you, and make sure you feel 100% comfortable with his/her explanation before just moving on to the next part of the tour.

(5) Is the facility accredited? That’s right I said accredited. Child Care Facilities just like schools can get academic accreditations. This goes back to number 2 above when you asked about a curriculum. Elementary Schools, High Schools, and Colleges all seek accreditation. That is how you know they are worthy of your attendance. Child Care Centers do the same thing. The most common child care accreditation is NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) Child Care Centers can also obtain accreditation through AdvancEd AdvanceEd is the ideal education accreditation. Any center with a current accreditation from AdvancEd has proven themselves as a leader in the education field. Doesn’t your child deserve every advantage he/she can get?

(6) Does the center serve a well-balanced meal plan? Child Care centers, for the safety of your child and every other child in the facility should provide snacks and meals for every student. That doesn’t mean it always happens. A lot of centers make the parents pack a lunch and bring in snacks every day. My feeling is that the cost of meals should be an expense the center takes on. This ensures every child is served a healthy well-balanced meal each day – Double check the centers menu though, you don’t want to just take their word for it. You shouldn’t see a lot of cookies, juice, or sweets on the menu. Those types of things should be the occasional item for special occasions. Look for a vegetable, fruit, and a main dish to include a protein, along with milk at lunch. You should be seeing a nutritious breakfast snack and a light afternoon snack. Your child shouldn’t have to go all afternoon without eating. Centers should also provide occasional snacks if the children get hungry between meals. Kids eat more when they are going through growth spurts – make sure the center can accommodate.

(7) Lastly, and this isn’t really a question, but more an observation you should make as you tour the facility. Do the teachers talk to you and make you feel welcome as you enter their classroom? If they don’t make you feel welcome what makes you think they will act any differently when your child comes in each day. Is the Center Director/Assistant Director knowledgable about the center, the state/federal regulations, education, and child care in general? Ask a lot of questions and find out just how much the management team really knows. They need to be the experts because they are the ones that are going to ensure your child’s safety, education, and treatment. Make sure the managers are qualified and that you are 100% comfortable with the fact that they will be in charge of how your child is treated each and every day. Is the staff (management and teaching staff) educated? Just because they are teaching children between the ages of 6 weeks and Pre-Kindergarden doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be educated. The best early education facilities are hiring teachers even for the infant classrooms. Your child’s teacher should have a minimum of a high school education and at least three to four years experience in child care. However, preferably, and especially for the children that are 2 years and older the teachers should have a minimum of an early education degree or a related field (or going to school currently for a degree in education or a related field).

So, these are just a few things you need to look for when searching for the perfect center. If you have questions about other child care related issues feel free to comment and ask. I worked in the child care industry as a center Director and I would be happy to share my knowledge.

Child Care Weather Watch – Understand the Weather!

The Department of Human Resources (DHR) lays out clear regulations and procedures for every licensed child care facility throughout the state. Regulations include, but are not limited to; size and available space of facility, equipment within the facility, transportation provided by the facility, disciplinary practices utilized within the facility, student to teacher ratios, staffing and qualification requirements of staff and volunteers, health and safety needs of the students and staff, and so much more. The list just keeps going. There are so many areas that are covered through the legal authority of the Department of Human Resources.

As the director of a licensed child care facility I can honestly say that I work in partnership with the Department of Human Resources. I rely on their insight and knowledge in all aspects of my job, and seek out their guidance when necessary. I hope that I am able, through this blog to share some of what I have learned through my experiences as a center/school director, and through working with our DHR Representative.  

According to the DHR Minimum Standards for Day Care Centers, all children (Infants/Toddlers and Preschool/School-age) shall spend time outdoors daily when weather permits. With that said, winter time is known for the dropping temperatures and the runny sniffly noses. Although all of our little ones want to play outside, we want to make sure they are doing it safely, and I believe that is what our families want as well. Therefore, it is important that parents remember to bundle your child(ren) up in weather appropriate clothing (layers layers layers), to include a jacket/coat, gloves, and hat.

The information below should give everyone a clear picture of how to understand the weather and what temperatures are comfortable for out-door play during the summer-time and winter-time, and what temperatures are not. I use this guide at home with my children, and at the school with all of our students.

Watching the weather is part of a child care provider’s job. Planning for playtime, field trips, or weather safety is part of the daily routine. The changes in weather require the child care provider to monitor the health and safety of children. What clothing, beverages, and protections are appropriate? Clothe children to maintain a comfortable body temperature (warmer months – lightweight cotton, colder months – wear layers of clothing). Beverages help the body maintain a comfortable temperature. Water or fruit juices are best. Avoid high-sugar content beverages and soda pop. Sunscreen may be used year around. Use a sunscreen labeled as SPF-15 or higher. Read and follow all label instructions for the sunscreen product. Look for sunscreen with UVB and UVA ray protection. Shaded play areas protect children from the sun.

CONDITION GREEN – Children may play outdoors and be comfortable. Watch for signs of children becoming
uncomfortable while playing. Use precautions regarding clothing, sunscreen, and beverages for all child age groups.

INFANTS AND TODDLERS are unable to tell the child care provider if they are too hot or cold. Children become fussy when uncomfortable. Infants/toddlers will tolerate shorter periods of outdoor play. Dress infants/toddlers in lightweight cotton or cotton-like fabrics during the warmer months. In cooler or cold months dress infants in layers to keep them warm. Protect infants from the sun by limiting the amount of time outdoors and playing in shaded areas. Give beverages when playing outdoors.

YOUNG CHILDREN remind children to stop playing, drink a beverage, and apply more sunscreen.

OLDER CHILDREN need a firm approach to wearing proper clothing for the weather (they may want to play without coats, hats or mittens). They may resist applying sunscreen and drinking beverages while outdoors.

CONDITION YELLOW – use caution and closely observe the children for signs of being too hot or cold while outdoors. Clothing, sunscreen, and beverages are important. Shorten the length of outdoor time.

INFANTS AND TODDLERS use precautions outlined in Condition Green. Clothing, sunscreen, and beverages are important. Shorten the length of time for outdoor play.

YOUNG CHILDREN may insist they are not too hot or cold because they are enjoying playtime. Child care providers need to structure the length of time for outdoor play for the young child.

OLDER CHILDREN need a firm approach to wearing proper clothing for the weather (they may want to play without coats, hats or mittens), applying sunscreen and drinking liquids while playing outdoors.

CONDITION RED – most children should not play outdoors due to the health risk.

INFANTS/TODDLERS should play indoors and have ample space for large motor play.

YOUNG CHILDREN may ask to play outside and do not understand the potential danger of weather conditions.

OLDER CHILDREN may play outdoors for very short periods of time if they are properly dressed, have plenty of fluids. Child care providers must be vigilant about maximum protection of children.

Understand the Weather

The weather forecast may be confusing unless you know the meaning of the words.

Blizzard Warning: There will be snow and strong winds that produce a blinding snow, deep drifts, and life threatening wind chills. Seek shelter immediately.

Heat Index Warning: How hot it feels to the body when the air temperature (in Fahrenheit) and relative humidity are combined.
Relative Humidity: The percent of moisture in the air.

Temperature: The temperature of the air in degrees Fahrenheit.
Wind: The speed of the wind in miles per hour.
Wind Chill Warning: There will be sub-zero temperatures with moderate to strong winds expected which may cause hypothermia and great danger to people, pets and livestock.
Winter Weather Advisory: Weather conditions may cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, these situations should not become life threatening.
Winter Storm Warning: Severe winter conditions have begun in your area.
Winter Storm Watch: Severe winter conditions, like heavy snow and ice are possible within the next day or two. 


30º is chilly and generally uncomfortable
15º to 30º is cold
0º to 15º is very cold
-29º to 0º is bitter cold with significant risk of frostbite
-20º to -60º is extreme cold and frostbite is likely
-60º is frigid and exposed skin will freeze in 1 minute

Heat Index

80º or below is considered comfortable
90º beginning to feel uncomfortable
100º uncomfortable and may be hazardous
110º considered dangerous

All temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit

Child Care Weather Watch was produced by the Iowa Department of Public Health, Healthy Child Care Iowa. This guide was produced through federal grant (MCJ19T029 & MCJ19KCC7) funds from the US Department of Health & Human Services, Health Resources & Services Administration, Maternal & Child Health Bureau. Wind-Chill and Heat Index information is from the National Weather Service.