If I had known the right questions to ask our new daycare, would I have felt better about leaving my child that first day? I’ll never know the answer to that question, but if I had known then what I know now the answer would be heck yeah! Here’s my story of finding child care, the first time around, and the 38 questions I would have answered.
We searched for daycare after our son was born because I couldn’t face the truth.
I loved my job but I loved my son more. Secretly I wished we’d hit the lottery or that my husband would get a surprise promotion. Since neither of those things happened six weeks after my son was born we started looking for child care.
Large daycare centers scared me. I thought my son would get lost in the crowd. I wanted to find a home that was similar to mine, a person who was similar to me and a daycare that didn’t have too many children.
My dental hygienist highly recommended someone but they were full. Finding out a popular daycare is full is like finding out the bid you put on a house wasn’t accepted. You feel like you missed out on a great opportunity and you’ll never have again. When I called the next daycare I was nervous we wouldn’t get a spot.
When we visited our to-be home daycare provider asked a slew of questions and hired her on the spot. Honestly, I didn’t want to go through the hunt of finding childcare.
We had a good feeling about her, she was close by, and the kids she watched were nice.
Fast forward a few years later I’ve had two more kids and have experienced daycare centers, a pre-school and having a nanny. One of my biggest fears was that I’d leave my kids with someone who is incompetent. To help you get a warm and fuzzy feeling at your next daycare interview I came up with 38 questions and things to notice.
A few can be emailed ahead of time and then ask the rest face to face to watch their reaction.
How does she run her business?
1. “Why do you like running a home daycare?” Find out why she likes doing what she does. What does she enjoy most?
2. “Who do you lean on for support for running your business or getting daycare advice?” Not only are you are hiring her but behind her comes her support system so who is she getting guidance from?
3. “Do you belong to a local daycare association?” If she doesn’t does she know other home daycares in town and does she meet up with them?
4. “How are incidents or accidents reported?” Accidents will happen so how does she manage this? Are you called right away? Does she write up a report that’s given to you and maybe the other child that was involved? Each US state has their early child care policies (here’s what Massachusetts’s looks like) and she should know this. There should also be a website per state where you can look up if any accidents have been reported for her business.
5. “Who are your references?” Go beyond the person who recommended her. You want to talk to as many people as possible to get their perspective on how she runs her business and how happy they’ve been.
Find current and past customers. How have their kids benefited from being her care.
6. “How do you keep track of the kid’s daily activities?” Does she use an app or a baby tracker journal? Does she give you a piece of paper every day with your child’s daily activities?
7. “Are you open to changing the way you do business if I have suggestions?” You’re going to learn from other working mom how their daycares work. Will she be open to learning about what you learn and willing to test different ways of doing things?
8. “How do you manage an emergency?” What procedure does she follow and how are you informed?
9. “In case of an emergency, who do you reach out to?” Does she call a neighbor for help? If so, ask to meet them to see what they are like.
10. “What emergencies have you managed in the past?” For instance, we discovered my child had a peanut allergy while at daycare and she couldn’t have Benadryl in the house due to allergies.
Luckily another daycare provider down the street rushed over with medicine.
11. “What are the napping arrangements?” Where will your child sleep? Does she recommend bringing a blanket and sheets or does she provide ones so your child gets used to the smell of her home.
12. “What’s your vacation policy?” Does she close for a few weeks per year? Good thing to know so you can take the same weeks off. If you take a vacation and she doesn’t, do you need to pay her for that week?
13. “What’s the rule for driving with the children?” Are you OK with her driving your children around town? You need to know what is acceptable to you. This needs to be specific and set right up front for when and if the relationship becomes more comfortable she tries to go against your wishes (I know this from experience).
14. “What’s your policy on sharing information about the kids you watch?” Does she share personal stories about the other kids? If so, how much information does she share? Would you want her sharing information about your child? If it’s OK, check how she shares info, does she respect the privacy of her children and parents under her care?
How does she keep the kids happy?
15. “What do you do to foster an environment where everyone gets along well?” What kind of culture has she grown? What does she do when there are disagreements?
16. “What is the daily schedule?” Kids love structure! Yes, there’s a time to be a kid, but kids like the predictability.
17. “Do you attend educational programs or monthly meetings about caring for kids?” We all benefit from learning new things and in this scenario so will your child. What is her attitude toward education?
18. “Do you follow a pre-school curriculum?” Although this isn’t applicable to your baby it’s good to know what she offers older children. There are curriculum’s daycares can send away for that include lessons and art supplies or download. If she does love a curriculum what about it does she love?
19. “Is there a seasonal activity you like to do with the kids?” What traditions does she have with her daycare children?
What does she do for the holidays? Is there some summertime fun she loves to do with them?
Who is she like personally?
20. “What are your hobbies?” Get to know things about her personal life. Does she try to teach the kids about her hobbies?
21. “What kind of equipment do you have?” What brands does she own for swings, pack n’ play’s, play mats, etc? Does she play music during the day? What kinds of indoor and outdoor toys does she have?
22. “Who is your favorite child author?” Does she enjoy reading to the kids during the day? What does her book collection look like?
23. “How would you describe yourself as a mother?” If she’s not a mother, “What are your personal values?”
24. What was your upbringing like? Where did she grow up? Does she have a large or small family? Are her parents nearby?
How does she manage life and work?
25. What was your worst day like managing the maximum amount of children (which is usually one adult to six children) and how did you bounce from that?” Think about how you feel taking care of one or two children, then multiply that times four or five kids. This is a heavy workload and commendable but be curious about how she handles this.
26. “How do you avoid letting your emotions get the best of you during the day?” This will show how emotionally intelligent she is. You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to and kids can invite you often!
27. “How do you stay patient throughout your day?” It takes a patient person to watch over many children. You could learn from her if she has some good tips!
28. “How do you manage your time and energy?” How organized is she with work-related events and personal ones? Since she works out of her home it can be challenging to juggle work and life so what kind of boundaries does she put up?
29. “What did you do over the weekends (or last weekend)?” Look for how she releases stress and has fun.
30. “What is your favorite book (for adults not kids)?” Look around for magazines and books during your visit.
Things that you should take notice
31. What does her house smell like? Your kid will come home smelling like her house every day, so do you like it? Does she wear too much perfume?
32. How does she speak? Does she talk like you? Does she cuss? Does she sound educated? Your kids will be listening to her all day and may start to mimic things she says. Would you be OK with her as a role model? What about the other kids in her care, do you like how they speak?
33. Does she listen well or interrupt? Does she keep eye contact? How she interacts with you will be a clue to how she will interact with your child.
34. How does she interact with your child? Does she ask to pick them up? Does she interact with them or coo with them? Does she make a connection with your child first or you? What do you think you’d prefer?
35. Ask her opinion on current events. What is her reaction like when asked about the tragedies happening in the world? This gives you a glimpse at her values and how she views the world. Do they somewhat match yours?
36. What kind of body language does she have while being interviewed? Is she open or closed up with arms crossed and not engaging?
37. Does she have pictures up of her family? If so, what are their facial expressions like? Do they look happy?
Answer most important question!
38. What does your gut say? Do you believe you can trust her?
There’s a lot on the line when putting your newborn with someone you don’t really know. So asking in depth questions like these and watching their reactions will help you decide. Listening and trusting your intuition will be the best way to decide if a daycare provider will be right for you and your family.