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How to Find Good Child Care

A lot of firsts in your child's life will make you smile: first laugh, first step, first word.

One first that isn't as appealing is the first day you have to leave your child with someone else. Preparing yourself by learning the options and choosing the best care can make that day less stressful.

There are three main kinds of child care:

  • In-home care lets your child get one-on-one attention from a caregiver who comes into your home. That gives you a flexible schedule, but you'll need a plan for times when the caregiver isn't available.

  • Family child care takes place in the home of the person caring for your child, who often has a young child of his or her own. Family child care works best in small groups, with no more than six kids.

  • Center-based care handles larger groups of children, who are usually grouped by age. Group care often has a consistent schedule and several staff members.

When you're considering a provider, visit the site. Casually watch the children and whoever is supervising them and get a sense of whether there is more of a positive, negative or neutral interaction, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. Ask whether you can drop in unannounced and watch from a distance.

Questions to consider

  • What kind of experience and training does the caregiver have?

  • Is the facility or home licensed or accredited?

  • How is food prepared, and where will the children eat?

  • What are the policies for how the caregiver will handle children who are ill or become ill?

  • Is the facility clean and kept up?

  • Are there proper safety features such as smoke alarms and outlet covers?

  • Can the children play outside safely?

  • Is the facility secure?

  • What is the ratio of adults to children?