After getting some information from the initial contact with the daycare center or preschool (see What to Look for in a Daycare Center or Preschool), you’ll want to visit the location. Remember that a lot of what they do is probably heavily regulated by the State: how they clean, how often, and even what cleaning solution they must use. The caregiver-to-child ratio is also regulated. So when you visit, try to pay attention to the teachers. Do they seem happy and engaged when they are with the children? If you are touring with the director, does the director treat the teachers respectfully? If the daycare center treats their teachers well, the chances are better they will have more patience with the children and the staff turnover will be less. After this initial impression, look around to determine the following:
- Is the center clean and bright?
- Are the toys mostly educational?
- Does the environment seem warm and inviting?
- Do you see normal safety equipment (fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, baby gates, outlet covers, etc.)?
- Is the bathroom child-friendly? Are there stools for reaching the sink, is the soap easy to use, and are there potty chairs for potty trainers?
- Is there an area outdoors for running, jumping, playing? Is there playground equipment?
- Do the children have naptime? Is the area for naps quiet and dark?
- Can the provider give you the names and numbers of some parents for referrals?
Most daycare centers and preschools alike will have take home packets with detailed information on the daycare center. Make sure to scrub through everything they provide and write down any questions you have as you go through the preschool material. Make sure to follow up with the daycare center about your questions on their documentation.
After you have visited, and feel comfortable, be sure to bring your child to visit. Pay close attention to their reaction to the visit. This can be a great indicator of how well your child will do at this daycare center.