Category Archives: In-Home Daycare

Day Care Gifts for Birthdays and Holidays

Gifts for Day Care Providers

daycare_craft_messYour child’s day care center teachers, in-home childcare provider, or nanny, deserve recognition for the priceless service they provide. You want to give them a token of appreciation for their hard work, especially around the holidays, but what would be appropriate? Decide on Day Care is here to help!

Day Care Center Teachers

Your child may be in a room with several teachers. If you are strapped for cash, an appreciative note is very welcome. If you would like to give more, you certainly can. Since you probably don’t know too much about their lives outside the center, a gift like cash or a gift certificate to a restaurant or a store would be good.  If you have a better idea of hobbies or needs, you may be able to tailor your gift a bit more to the individual.

In-Home Child Care Provider or Nanny

When you drop your child off at someone’s home day care five days a week, or she comes to your house, it’s easier to get an idea of a good present for her.  Again, a note expressing your appreciation for her is very nice. She has a close relationship with your child, and something from your child or with your child’s photo on it is a sweet gift. If you are not sure, the cash or gift card route is always appreciated.  For a day care provider, you could also purchase something for the day care, like toys, books, or craft supplies. Also, don’t forget your child’s day care on her birthday. It will really make her feel appreciated to be celebrated on her special day.

Best Gift Ideas For Women
Best Gift Ideas For Women

She may love:

  • Cash
  • Gift cards (to restaurants, salons, her favorite store)
  • Something from your child
  • A note of appreciation
  • A cleaning service (make sure you know she won’t take this as an insult instead of a gift!)
  • If she has children of her own, offer YOUR babysitting services
  • A day off, with pay

Teaching Moments with Day Care

This is also a great opportunity to teach your child the meaning of the season of giving.  Have your child make something special for your child care provider.  They love craft projects and your day care provider will love the specialized gift and note of thanks straight from your child. This is a great opportunity to talk to them about the merits of giving and why we give things to each other. Talk to them about what it means to offer appreciation to those in their lives.

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Day Care Locator

daycare-center-climbingAt, we want to give you the parenting information you need to make the search for the perfect child care provider as easy as possible. Here’s a good place to begin the search. We’ve gathered links to websites for specific states to help you find day care in your area. Most are government-run websites for a child care locator containing certified day care providers. In some cases we were unable to find a suitable government site, so we substituted another daycare resource.

Just click on your state’s name. The link will lead to an external website to help you find day care providers in your area.

We cannot warranty or guarantee the accuracy of any information on any of these websites. This list does not constitute an endorsement by . Our hope is that this list can help you get started in your search for quality day care.

We hope that you find the information here helpful in your search for quality day care providers.  If you have any questions or comments concerning this list please feel free to contact us at by using our contact us form.

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Daycare Research Spreadsheet


When I first tried to find daycare for my children, I realized how difficult it was to keep track of my findings about each of the daycare providers, and it wasn’t easy to compare the different providers.

I learned so much information as I interviewed them over the phone. There were many questions I asked the daycare providers as I interviewed them on the phone: Does that daycare have a preschool curriculum? Did that daycare have any pets? What was the childcare provider’s discipline style?  Were there any smokers in the house?  What were their hours?  So I created a spreadsheet to track all this information I collected during the phone interviews.  I also collected information from the local United Way and other organizations that had information on daycare providers specific to my area.

Ecosystem Grid Journal
Ecosystem Grid Journal

This tool became invaluable. I realized I could look at different daycare providers at a glance and see which ones fit our needs better.  When I became tired of calling providers, my wife could see where I had left off, call more providers on the list, and fill in the information we needed. It was such a helpful tool for us, I hope that it can help you in your own search for daycare. The spreadsheet includes costs, extra fees, and some of the more common questions you’ll ask. There are also several places for miscellaneous daycare information for any specific questions you may have.

Download the spreadsheet and save it to your computer. Fill out as much detail as you’d like…I would suggest being very detailed.  You need to have enough information on the sheet to make a decision between many daycare providers.  If your notes are too generic it will be difficult to see differences between providers. Specific references to the conversation may jog your memory about the provider.  It is possible that you may need to return to your daycare search sooner than expected. If it hasn’t been long since you started, your spreadsheet will be very helpful to you, and providers who didn’t have openings when you began looking may have an opening six months later.

Make sure to have this spreadsheet open and ready when you start making your phone calls and start investigating the specifics of each daycare provider.  This spreadsheet can be used for preschools, daycare centers, nannies and even babysitters.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.  We would also love to hear any feedback you may have, including suggestions about items that we could add or change to make it more useful.

Good luck tracking down your perfect daycare! This extra effort will be well worth the reward of finding the perfect daycare or preschool for you!

Click here to download the spreadsheet. (This does not have any macros in it.)

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The First Week at an In-Home Daycare

daycare_sidewalk_artThe first week in an in-home daycare will be a very important week for you, your child and the provider you chose.  You’ll have to get used to how each other handles the daily routine.  Make sure that you’ve talked to your child about the upcoming changes in their routine and the exciting new daycare they are about to attend.  This can be a difficult time for everyone as they adjust to this new change. Just remember to take it one day a time, be patient, and maintain open and honest communication.

Transitions for Young Children
Transitions for Young Children

It’s very important to make sure that you prepare yourself as well as your child for starting in this new in-home daycare.  Talk to your child frequently in the days leading up to beginning.  Answer any questions your child may have and make your best effort to help your child be comfortable with this idea.  They’ll be going into a stranger’s house with strange people and children they don’t know.  This can be very difficult for child who has known only comfort and familiar faces.

Routines and Transitions
Routines and Transitions

Make sure to schedule plenty of extra time in your daily schedule for this first week so you can properly drop your child off and pick them up.  Give yourself an extra fifteen minutes to a half an hour for both drop off and pick up for your first week.  For the drop-off, you will likely need to hang out with your child for awhile until they get comfortable with their new situation.  The new provider will probably get the child playing with the other children right away. This will help your child feel better about the new daycare.  When you pick them up make sure to speak with the daycare provider about the details of their day and how your child did.  Make sure to offer lots of praises to your child as this will surely help them to warm up to the new daycare.

The first week at the in-home daycare is your chance to make sure the standard of care is at your desired level.  This is the best time to make any adjustments for the long-term.  Most daycare providers will be very receptive to making some minor changes should it make the parents and the child happy.  If you see anything drastic, be sure to bring it up immediately so that it can be addressed.  Once a certain amount of time passes both your provider, and you, will have an unspoken agreement about how care is handled.  It’s easier to make minor adjustments during the first week.


Children Starting School
Children Starting School

During this first week you also want to make sure the daycare provider has all of the equipment and supplies they may need.  For younger children in diapers this means you’ll have to supply all the necessary things surrounding a diaper change: diapers, wet wipes, any creams or ointments.  You should also provide an extra set of clothes or two in case they get messy.  You may even need to supply an extra car seat should they take any trips.  Some daycare providers will also want you to leave coats, gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen and possibly other things to help them take care of your child.  Make an effort to get all these to them as soon as possible.


Preschooler Problem Solver
Preschooler Problem Solver

The right in-home daycare can be the toughest to find. In home daycares can provide some of the most benefit once you find the right one for you.  It’s important to start early, remain diligent, and make sure that the daycare fits your needs.  If you make this effort, you’ll be rewarded by a high quality in-home daycare that will take great care of your children.  Hopefully a long lasting bond of friendship will forge between the children as well as you and the daycare provider. This kind of care can be ideal.  Bringing the social setting of a few kids together with the focused personal attention that children need and deserve, it is no wonder that in-home daycare is so popular and widely used.


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Needs That Match an In-Home Daycare

daycare_girl_reading_floorWhen considering daycare for your child, it’s important to keep in mind what you want in daycare.  You may find that in-home daycare is the best solution to meet your needs.  These daycares range widely in the type of care they offer.  Some are little more than a playroom in the basement or the kids are cooped up all day.  Others are highly structured with daily itineraries that plot out what your child will be doing.  Some include religious curriculum, and some often take the kids out during the day on various trips.  It’s good to have a clear understanding of what you need in the daycare and remember your priorities when seeking one out.

In-home daycare is often less expensive than a daycare center or a nanny.  This is often a driving factor in parents choosing in-home daycare.  However, being less expensive doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice the quality of child care.  Keep this in mind when you are searching for a daycare because the quality care of the care is very important.

Quality in-home daycares rarely have openings when you need them!  Therefore, it’s very important to get a good lead on enrolling your child in the in-home daycare of your choice.  Looking for a daycare really should be considered six months or more out from the time you’d like to enroll your child. If this isn’t possible, you should still be able to find someone, but you will definitely need to contact a lot of people.

In-home daycare providers offer personalized care for children that they wouldn’t get in a daycare center.  Most in-home daycares will have six or maybe eight children total.  The ratio for this is almost always better than the child to teacher ratio you’ll find at a daycare center.  Much stronger bonds between the daycare provider and your child will form. Many childcare professionals see this is a valuable and a source of happy and healthy child development.  This is a very important time in your child’s life and being able to forge strong bonds with those around them can help them considerably in the future.  This often helps children feel much more comfortable in this type of daycare.

Choosing Childcare For Dummies
Choosing Childcare For Dummies

In-home daycares often offer a kind of customizable care.  Having such a small group of children to look after, they can easily make arrangements to suit your needs.  They’re definitely an excellent choice for children with special needs.  Be sure to discuss any special needs and the combinations required with the daycare provider.  With the marked increase in child allergies in recent years, in-home daycare providers may offer a certain peace of mind.  This is because the provider is able to modify her menu, in-home snacks and be acutely aware of your child’s  allergies, which allows them to screen any snacks that might come in and to make other parents of the daycare aware of this.

Being less expensive than other forms of daycare, in-home daycare providers are the preferred choice for many parents.  Not only are they less expensive, they offer a type of customizable care that allows the parents and the children to feel more comfortable.  They offer custom care and often quality preschool so important in child development. The best ones are incredibly difficult to get into, but being a proactive, educated and well-meaning parent you too will be able to get your child into the care of your choice.

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How to leave In-Home Daycare with a Smile

daycare-girl-pink-outfitIn-home daycares and the providers that run them are incredibly varied in their personalities, situations and how they run their own businesses.  This makes specific advice challenging due to the nature of everyone’s unique situation.  But there definitely some good rules of thumb to follow to finish up a relationship with an in-home daycare provider with a smile.

Make sure to plan ahead and around the contracted notice time.  This can be different between in-home daycare providers but is usually 2 to 4 weeks.  You will be responsible to pay for care from the time you give notice to the end of the time noted in the contract, even if you decide to pull your child out early.  This can often be a very sticky point between parents and the daycare providers which can sour the relationship instantly.  So make sure you are aware of the agreed-upon time frame and plan accordingly for it.  It is also a good idea to write up a quick friendly letter notifying a provider that you will be leaving.  Here’s an example letter you can use:

Dear (daycare provider’s name),

I wanted to thank you for all of the great care you have provided for (child’s name(s)).  I have really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know you and appreciate all you have done for our family. Unfortunately our circumstances have changed and our last day at daycare will be (date).

Thank you again!





It is very important to make sure that you speak to your child about the upcoming change in their routine.  On the Friday before their last week make sure that they are aware that the next week is going to be their last week at the daycare.  You can use the weekend to have them make some pictures or cards for their friends as well as one for the daycare provider.  This is a critical step in helping your child prepare for the changes to come.  You can try to make it easier for them with a good transition.  Make sure you remind them that this is their final week with the children and daycare provider they spent so much time with.  You may even want to do little extra to mark the event.   One final thing you can do is to make up some healthy and allergen-free treats to take  to daycare on the last day to help make a fun little going away party.  As a sign of your appreciation you might think about getting a gift for the daycare provider.

You might want to let the other parents at the daycare that your child is leaving, and collect their contact information so you can schedule future play dates or invite them to birthday parties. An in-home daycare setting is much more intimate than a childcare center and it’s likely that your child has built up some strong friendships and bonds.  If you have the ability to keep these friendships going after leaving the daycare provider, it may help the transition.

Keep these steps in mind to help make leaving your daycare provider easier. It will help to show your child some valuable skills about how to handle change in their lives.  Leaving with a smile will also leave a positive impression with your old daycare provider. This often reverberates through the local daycare community.  You never know what the future holds.  If you and your family are known in the neighborhood as friendly and polite, should you need daycare the future, you’ll have little trouble finding it.

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Your Time in an In-Home Daycare

daycare_reading_togetherIs very important to make sure you stay vigilant even after you’ve decided on what appears to be the best in-home daycare for your child’s needs.  This step is often neglected but it is one of the most important ways for you to ensure that your child is in a quality daycare.

In a childcare center, other faculty members can keep an eye on what’s going on with the children and each other. But in a person’s private home, it’s another story. The intimate personal setting of an in-home daycare can give your child a much stronger bond with a provider and the other children, and more specialized care but the private nature of the daycare can also come at a cost—nobody is there to report a questionable situation.

It is in your family’s best interest when picking up your children and dropping them off to actually take them inside of the daycare.  This allows you the opportunity to do a quick scan of the daycare for cleanliness, safety, and where the children spend most of the day.  Every so often, you should be able to wander some at the daycare to see where children will be.  Make sure to scan the main play area inside, the kitchen or where their food is prepared, the bathroom, and their outdoor play area.  All of these should remain clean and tidy during drop off and pick up.  The provider’s home should be clean and ready for the day in the morning, and at the end of the day, perhaps a bit cluttered with toys, but things should be tidied during the day. The older children can help more with cleaning up than the younger children, but picking up toys should definitely be a regular part of the day. The floors should be clear enough for people to walk on, meals should be cleaned up and table areas should be wiped down. A clean house is important for healthy and safe environment.

The Other Parents

It’s a good idea to learn the names of the other parents and their children that go to the daycare.  If you can get into a friendly relationship with them, you can work together to keep an eye on the daycare and your children.  These relationships can really be to your advantage when discussing situations with the daycare or with their kids.  It really is only a matter of time before the kids at the daycare are close friends.  But some children may develop problems with other children in the daycare. If you’ve already established a good relationship with the other parents, tackling a situation will be less awkward.

Ask About Their Day

Most daycare providers will generally write up a synopsis of their day or week.  If they don’t volunteer this, ask for one.  One of the advantages of enrolling your children in an in-home daycare is their flexibility to meet your needs.  An update of the day should be posted on an information board just inside the home.  It should include what their meals were for the day, what activities they did and any special events, such as field trips, birthdays or other celebrations.

You can ask the provider specifics about the day, should you need to, but for the most part, the written summary should be sufficient. The activities and preschool topics for the kids should be in line with what the provider promised during your interview with them.

The “Drop In”

Any daycare provider should allow you to visit at anytime.  This can be one of the most effective ways to get a true gauge of how the daycare is run.  During interviews, drop off and pick up, the daycare provider will be on their best behavior.  As a responsible parent for the well being of your child, you also need to be sure that these best practices are carried throughout the day.

It’s best to give your child a few weeks before you have your first drop in.  You don’t want to drop in until your child is more comfortable at the daycare, and knows the routine.  If they’re still nervous or unsure about the daycare, or don’t know the routine, your visit could cause quite the scene, and you don’t want to be the reason they have trouble acclimating. The best scenario is that your child sees you, possibly greets you, and then continues on about their business.  This gives you the opportunity to see how your child interacts with the other kids, how they interact with the provider, and what a normal day might be like.

I would recommend three or four of these visits spaced out about a month apart when you first start daycare.  This should help you to get a very accurate idea of how the daycare runs and how well your child is doing.  You can keep dropping in, but the first two or three visits are most important.  If you can avoid it don’t come on the same day at the same time every month.  You don’t want them to get used to when you’ll arrive and prepare for your visit.  The whole idea of the drop-in is that they’re not prepared for you, so you get a true view of the daycare center.

Dropping in is a very useful tool if you are concerned about the care your child is receiving.  The effectiveness of this visit will depend greatly on the amount of information you can get from your child.  You’ll need to find out if there’s a specific time, a specific child, or specific teacher that your issue might be with and make sure to coordinate your visit with that information.

Things to Look For:

  • An excess of candy or treats.
  • Excessive TV watching.
  • Free play time – This is definitely important for child development; however, the children shouldn’t just be stuck in a room and left to play all day long.  Structured and educational activities are very important.
  • Not having time to discuss the day regularly.
  • The provider sends your child out of the house to meet you instead of having  you pick them up inside.
  • Any talk of secrets from your child.

In-home daycare providers are usually less expensive than daycare centers and offer a very wide variety of care styles.  They are more oftentimes more flexible than centers and can often better accommodate special needs such as allergies or developmental disabilities. Your child will build stronger and longer lasting bonds with in-home daycare providers, which can be very beneficial.  It is very important for you to keep your eyes open and to remain constantly involved in their care.  Daycares are not inspected regularly and may only get a visit from a state investigator when a complaint has been filed. So it is very important that you act as the daily inspector for your child’s well being.

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Situations with Other Children in Daycare or Preschool

Biting and Hiting

daycare_bullySome children may bite or hit. Their parents are generally just as horrified by it as you are.  As they and your child’s daycare provider or preschool teacher are working on the problem, it may help to realize that for children under 3, it is a way to communicate their frustration or wanting a toy from another child. It may take a little while for the parent and daycare provider to work through the issue with the child. If the child seems overly aggressive you will need to make a decision for the welfare of your child. Whatever you decide, handling the situation with grace and compassion will go a long way in the eyes of the other child’s parents.

Some situations require that parents of children in the same daycare discuss the issue.  This may seem awkward, but if the provider can help both sets of parents, as well as the children involved, come to a solution, it may lead to a better environment for all.


We know bullying occurs in school-age children, but it may also appear in daycare and preschools.  It may not be constant, and it may not be to the degree that older children bully, but be sure to take your child seriously if he or she talks about experiencing this kind of behavior from another child. The first thing to do is listen and show love and support to your child. When you speak to your child, find out if there are certain times or circumstances during which the offending child begins bullying your child. Ask your child how he or she responds to the behavior. Perhaps you can offer some suggestions for your child to deal with the situation. It’s a good idea to talk to the provider about the situation. Perhaps he or she can offer some suggestions or let you know what the daycare is doing about the child if they already know about it.

Keep in mind; bullying shouldn’t be trivialized as “kids being kids”. This type of situation can be very harmful to the victim. Also, a child who is emerging as a bully can perhaps be more easily set back on track than a child who has been displaying the behavior for years. Early intervention for all children involved may save a lot of heartache in the future and is very important for child development.

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What to Look For in an In-Home Daycare

kid_blocksYou may not even realize what questions you’ll have when you set out to get daycare for your child. An experienced in-home daycare provider will be able to give the basic information that every parent needs.  The first question to ask is if they have any openings for your child’s age.  Even though they may be listed on a website or have been recommended by someone, there’s no guarantee the provider has an opening.  Just getting through this part may take awhile, but don’t get discouraged.  If the provider cannot take any more children herself, ask if she knows of anyone else who may be able to. Daycare providers are often members of local associations, so they tend to know the other daycare providers in the area.

After availability, you’ll need to know:

  • Hours (does that schedule work with your schedule?)
  • Weekly rate (do you pay the same amount regardless of if the child attends or not?)
  • When is the payment due?
  • Location
  • Is the provider licensed?
  • If you have a school-age child, is transportation to and from school available?

If the provider’s information is fitting your needs so far, you can get more specific:

  • Pets in the home
  • Does anyone smoke in the home?
  • Who else lives there, and are they involved with the daycare?
  • Will anyone else be helping the provider?
  • If the provider has an emergency, is someone else available to watch the children (even just until parents can arrive to pick up kids).
  • Is the provider trained in CPR?
  • How many children are currently in the daycare?
  • Discipline philosophy
  • Are there any preschool activities?
  • What activities do the kids do?
  • Do the children play outside?
  • Do the children go on field trips?
  • Are babies fed on demand or on a schedule?
  • Can the parents visit at any time?
  • If you have a baby or toddler, do they potty train? What method is used (does it match your own plan for your child?)

There are other subjects to consider, that are a bit more delicate, and are really more personal preference items:

  • Religion – how does the provider handle Christmas and Easter, for example?
  • Does the provider feel comfortable talking with you about your child, or other things going on in the home that may impact your child?
  • What does the provider expect from you as a parent?
  • What kind of food is served? What is a typical meal?
  • How often do they receive sweets or candy?
  • How much time will they typically spend watching T.V. or movies? What kind of programming will they watch when they do watch something?
  • Keep in mind, anybody who lives in the home or visits on a regular basis will be around your child.
  • Does the provider try to stay on a semi-consistent schedule?
  • What role does music/art/science play in the daycare?

If the provider has children of her own, you may want to find out of the provider takes the child to and from school or activities, and what she does with the daycare kids during this time. She may also have another family member that she takes care of, like a parent. It may be your child is in the car quite a bit. It is up to you if this is OK or not.

These are just some of the things that should be considered and discussed with potential daycare providers over the phone. If they match up to your needs it is time to schedule an in person interview with the provider.

Check for more information on what to look for an how to go about an in person interview.

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Warning Signs in Daycare or Preschool

childcare_artOnce your child is enrolled in a home daycare, daycare center, or preschool, you need to be aware of the provider and the children. If the provider always seems unhappy, exhausted and overwhelmed at the end of the day, you might want to ask her about it.

Relationships between daycare providers and parents aren’t always the most comfortable. Sometimes they can get downright frosty. Oftentimes this is because the provider and the parent have different ideas about childcare. Hopefully it is something that can be resolved. The parent’s relationship with the daycare provider is important. If you don’t have an honest relationship with the person who is taking care of your child, you can’t trust that person to work with you when something goes wrong.

You must take action promptly when you suspect abuse or neglect. It’s something none of us wants to even consider, but you need to be on the lookout for red flags.

Here are some signs of trouble:

  • The provider never has time to talk to you.
  • Child is shuffled out the door when you drive up.  You should always pick them up inside.
  • You should be allowed to visit your child at any time. You should not be discouraged from seeing your child.
  • Change in your child’s behavior—any sort of dramatic behavioral change.
  • Your child starts using inappropriate words.
  • Showing an unusual interest in people’s private parts.
  • Any talk of secrets or keeping anything from anyone.
  • An excessive fear of going to daycare.
  • An excessive amount of scrapes, cuts, and bruises.

Talk to other parents, they may be stumbling onto something you do not know about yet.

Parenting is hard enough without having to worry about your child while you are at work. But no matter the great references or reputation, if you feel that something is not right, listen to your gut. It’s better that you be an overprotective parent than to have a bad situation continue.

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