What to Expect at a Daycare

Your baby or child’s first day at daycare is quickly approaching. Understandably, most parents want to know what to expect at child care when they’re away. The relationship between the child care provider and you, as a parent, is an integral one for your peace of mind. A good relationship means you can feel comfortable with the care your child receives.

Two children playing
Are you trying to find an at-home daycare provider? Or maybe you’re looking for high-quality daycare centers near you. Whether you’re still finding daycare or already preparing for your child’s first day, it’s important to know what to expect at a daycare.  

Learning What to Expect at a Daycare 

Becoming an informed parent is the first step to figuring out the standards for what to expect. Every parent is different, so the quality standards you expect may vary, but there is still a minimum level of quality to anticipate.  

This is especially important amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Daycares across the nation that can remain open must maintain strict safety, sanitization, and COVID prevention policies. 

As you read what to expect at a daycare below, consider building a list of valuable daycare visit questions to ask potential providers. Even if your child is already enrolled, it’s never too late to request a tour and get answers to vital questions.  

High-quality daycare facilities understand that health and safety is your number one priority. They’ll be accommodating and capable of answering any concerns or questions you might have. With that noted, let’s look at the most important things to look for and expect in a high-quality care facility. 

Open Communication 
Transparency and full communication are a must when it comes to your little one’s care, and that communication should go two ways. You should feel comfortable asking anything you need to regarding your child.  

However, the provider should also be forthcoming with information. They should be honest and open about your child’s day, including anything related to development, their behavior, and all the moments in between. 

Friendly Environment 
And by friendly, we mean clean, safe, and stimulating at an age-appropriate level for your child. Both indoors and outdoors, your baby or child should have access to clean, organized spaces and ample room to learn and play.  

If you’re wondering, “What will my child learn at daycare?”, it comes down to the curriculum, teacher experience, and the daycare program style. For example, there are different structures in place for play-based child care centers and Montessori programs. 

A high-quality daycare center should focus on the developmental milestones and various stages of all children in their care. They should also be able to help children through developmental challenges. 

Wondering what to expect at a daycare as far as visitation policies go? Before COVID-19, an open-door policy for parents was common. Now, child care providers offer virtual visit options.  

While it’s not the same as being able to visit in person, a virtual visit helps keep everyone safe. Whether you’re looking for a daycare center or your child is already enrolled, a video call can help you get a feel for the environment or allow you to see the full scope of what your child is doing throughout the day and how they’re enjoying daycare. Check to see if virtual daycare visits are offered. 

How well does the daycare truly know your child? Can they tell when they’re not feeling well or behaving out of character? Properly supervising your child means knowing the smaller details, like their favorite toys and activities. What interests them or makes them laugh? What developmental stages are they excelling in? 

Kids are incredibly active and agile, so accidents are bound to happen. While some injuries might be inevitable, supervision limits these incidents. In many cases, proper supervision can also limit the severity of these kinds of incidents. 

Ask about daycare ratios to ensure proper supervision — how many teachers will be in your child’s classroom? How many other children?

Written Guidelines 
Even before their first day at daycare, you should have a list of the daycare provider’s procedures and policies. This will allow you to understand the full scope of what to expect at a daycare and what they’ll expect of you, the parent.  

Clearly defining everyone’s role will protect everyone involved, especially — and most importantly — your child. 

Empathy & Compassion 

Finally, compassion, love, and empathy are essential for your child’s emotional growth. They should feel safe and happy when they go to daycare — your child is a sponge, and they absorb what they’re exposed to.  

The daycare provider should demonstrate that they can encourage your little one to explore who they are and discover their own interests. When your daycare facility cares about your child, you can be confident your child is in good hands. 


What do you need for the first day of daycare? 

A daycare center might have you provide information about your child ahead of time; others will have you bring information on the first day. This can include signed forms, your child’s preferences and a development plan, birth certificate, social security card, and more. Ask your child care provider what to bring with you for your child’s first day in daycare. 

What should I expect from my daycare? 

Your child and your family should be treated with respect, your child should be given the opportunity to learn and grow, and there should be health and safety policies in place to protect your child and give you peace of mind. 
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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.