Finding Daycare

Finding daycare can be an overwhelming process; finding affordable daycare can be even more difficult. As you think about the daycare search and the important decisions ahead of you, you might be wondering, “When should I start looking for daycare and how can I avoid being put on a waitlist?”, “What will my child learn at daycare?”, and, “How will I find the best daycare for my child — one that I’ll feel comfortable with?”

Three toddlers with food
Here are some helpful tips for finding daycare that can make the process a bit less stressful.

Start Your Search Early

When it comes to finding daycare, the earlier you start, the better. You’ll be able to avoid gaps in child care, avoid being placed on a waitlist (or get a spot on the waitlist that corresponds with the date you’ll actually need care), and take the time you need to make an informed decision.

During your search, be sure to do a daycare comparison of the centers in your area. Research what to expect at a daycare and visit your options to see what they’re like firsthand. This will give you the best opportunity for finding daycare you can feel great about for your child.

What to Look for When You’re Finding Daycare

As you research local centers and take daycare tours, you’ll start to notice similarities and differences — but what should you actually be looking for in order to find a high-quality daycare?

One of the first things to consider in a daycare is each staff member’s child care experience, their level of education, and whether the center can provide parent references and/or testimonials.

Teacher and Staff Retention
How many staff members have been at the center for years or even decades? Ask what the turnover rate is like. How many new employees are there — and why? Has the center expanded recently or are the new employees replacing those who’ve left? High turnover can be a red flag.

Licensing & Accreditation
At minimum, daycare centers must be licensed by the state in which they operate. Those that go above and beyond strive for accreditation through national accrediting associations, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). 

Finding daycare with a curriculum that supports all areas of your child’s development is key. Look for a curriculum that includes math, science, literacy, art, movement, support for social-emotional skills, and more; plus, ask how the curriculum was created and whether daily activities are based on children’s interests.

Engaging Experiences
As you tour centers, observe what the interactions are like between teachers and children. Ask about age-appropriate classroom activities and extra enrichment activities. Finding daycare that keeps your child engaged throughout the day is important.

Daily Routines
Structure and repetition help children learn, so a quality care program will have a routine that they follow — usually including classroom time, meals, nap, and movement or outdoor time.

A Welcoming Environment
Finding daycare where all are welcome will help your whole family feel comfortable. Look for a center that celebrates diversity and inclusion, explores all cultures, and fosters a community of support and understanding.


How do I choose the right daycare?

Parents may have different priorities, standards, and requirements when finding daycare. And choosing the right center for your child means considering a variety of factors. Do you want your child to go to an educational daycare? Is there availability now or will you have to add your child’s name to the waiting list? Is waiting even an option for you? A daycare’s schedule flexibility, policies, curriculum, activities offered, teacher experience and certifications, and more can all play a role in choosing the right daycare for your child. 

What should a parent consider when choosing a child care center?

When searching for child care, you can never ask too many questions! Ask (and consider their answers) about teacher-to-child ratios, teacher experience, curriculum, health and safety, the food provided for meals and snacks, parent references, and any other details that are important to you.

What age is best to start daycare?

It all depends on your individual situation. Some families enroll their babies in daycare when it’s time to go back to work after maternity leave. Others wait until the preschool years. It’s all up to you and based on your needs. No matter when your child starts, they’ll reap the benefits! 

Is daycare bad for child development?

No; in fact, daycare can have a positive impact on development. From an early age, children are exposed to new and enriching activities and materials, and they’re able to interact with other children their age, as well as their caregivers. Daycare can help children build communication skills, social-emotional skills, and self-confidence, and help them get ready for school. 

How do you know if a daycare is good?

Finding daycare you can trust starts with looking for a high-quality center. Take tours and ask daycare visit questions about caregiver qualifications, health and safety policies, licensing and accreditation, curriculum, references from other parents, and more.
mother holding child

Get Started Today

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Bright Horizons is a United States–based child-care provider and is the largest provider of employer-sponsored child care. Employees looking to become a child care teacher are offered the opportunity to earn an early education degree for free as part of their corporate benefits. Search by zip to find a child care center near you. Bright Horizons Global Headquarters are in Newton, Massachusetts, USA.