Choosing a Center

To download a .pdf of Washington State’s “A Guide to Finding Quality Child Care” – click here.

General Guidelines: Take your time. Your child’s health and safety are at stake. Be assertive. Ask all of the questions you want to ask. Listen to your intuition. Be sure you feel good about the provider. Take your child along, if possible. See if the child likes the place and the people.

Qualification/References: Ask the provider to tell you why they are qualified to care for your child. Ask for a list of references. Call the references and talk to them.

The Physical Layout – An Emphasis on Safety: Is it the kind of place you want your child to be in? Is there a safe outside play area? Is there a lot of street traffic? Are there dangerous stairs? Are stairways equipped with gates? Is the facility neat and clean? Is the lighting adequate? Are unused electrical outlets plugged? Are poisons stored securely out of the reach of children? Are there sharp objects or other hazards? Are the toilets and washrooms adequate? Is the kitchen set up so children can use it under supervision? Can they be kept out of the kitchen when staff are preparing food?

Emergencies: Is the provider trained in First Aid and CPR? What are their general emergency procedures? Do they have regular fire drills?

Play/Toys/Activities/Naps: Are there plenty of good toys suitable for the age? Are toys broken or dangerous? Are there places to take walks? Are there tricycles and other outside play equipment? Are there educational materials and art supplies such as clay, paint, puzzles, books, records, musical instruments? Is there a regular schedule of activities? Is there a place for naps? Are there cribs for infants? Who provides towels and blankets?

Travel: Will the provider have your permission to take your child places in a car or van? If so, ask to see the vehicle. Is it in good repair? Are there seat belts? Are the drivers insured?

Food: There should be a hot lunch and snacks provided. Ask to see a typical meal or menu. Discuss any special diet your child may need.

Philosophy of Child Care/Discipline: Does the provider seem truly interested in children? Is the atmosphere positive and loving? Is the provider’s philosophy close to your own? Will your child receive mixed messages? Limits on behavior should be clear, firm and consistently applied. Discipline should not be enforced through teasing, shaming, scolding, shouting or physical abuse. Discuss methods of discipline with the provider and agree on a policy. Washington State regulations prohibit spanking.

Licensing: Is there a current license on display? Washington State law requires that people who provide child care outside a child’s home be licensed by the DSHS.

Payment: How much do they charge? Is it comparable to the going rate? How often will you pay?

Your Responsibilities: Give the provider addresses and phone numbers where you can be reached at all times. Leave the number of some other person who has agreed to be called if you’re not available. Leave the number of your doctor or someone else the provider can call in a medical emergency. Have your child’s immunization records with you. Be sure they are up to date. Make your payments promptly. Tell the provider about any allergies, physical problems or other special needs of your child. Have an alternative plan if your child is too ill to attend. Arrange for regular conferences with the provider. Don’t let doubts or problems build up. Let the provider know who will pick up your child.