Category Archives: Daycare Centers

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 in a Daycare Center

daycare-center-classroomThe first week a new daycare center is going to be an important one.  It is important to do your best to do it right, prepare your child correctly, and work with the daycare center to make sure this transition goes as smooth as absolutely possible.  This first week may well end up shaping you and your child’s overall experience with this daycare center. You don’t want your child to dislike the daycare center or have to fight them every time you drop them off. Remember to have an extra amount of patience during this first week with your child as this is a very difficult time for them. This will help to make a happy daycare center experience.

Meeting New Friends
Meeting New Friends

Once you’ve signed all the papers and your start date for the new daycare center is set, make sure to ask the administration specifically how the first few days are going to go.  It may be a little different as they will certainly have their own methods to integrate your child into their daycare facility.  Do your best to follow these procedures that they give you to help with this transition.  They will likely tell you a few things to do when you arrive to get used to the daily drop off and pick up schedule.  Make sure that you speak with your child about this transition ahead of time so they are excited and eager to start the new daycare center.  If you spring this decision on them as you are dropping them off for the first day you’re guaranteed to have a lot of problems.  Do what you can to generate excitement in your child about starting with the daycare center because this will really help them prepare for this new experience.

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time this first week while dropping them off and picking them up.  You may have questions for the administration or teachers and they may have questions for you. Be prepared to spend a little extra time there than you will normally to make sure everyone is on the same page.  You should also have some extra time to comfortably drop your child off.  Most daycare centers will encourage you to hang out for a few minutes in the morning to help your child adjust to the new classroom and the new people.  You definitely don’t want your child to think you are abandoning them in this unfamiliar environment.  So take your time, help them feel comfortable as you introduce the teacher and the children.  You may even want to sit down with the teacher and your child and start playing a game or with some of the toys.  This will help to distract them and allow you to leave without tears.


The Fairy Twins: Land of New Friends
The Fairy Twins: Land of New Friends

This routine should last through the week and then you can gradually wean your child off the heavy attention this first week demands.  Eventually you would like to get your child to the point where you sign them in, give them a hug, and then let them run off to their daycare friends.  Be sure not to push your child too much and allow them the time they’ll need to feel comfortable in this new daycare center. Don’t be too surprised though if there is nothing that can be done to calm your child, and you have to leave when he or she is crying. It is heartbreaking, but usually they’ve stopped crying by the time you’ve reached your car in the parking lot.


Make sure to touch base daily with your child’s teacher to ask how they’re doing and if there is anything you can do to help.  Make sure that you stay connected during this first week to the needs of your child to as well as the daycare center.  This is a transition time for you and your child.  Make it’s the best you can and you’ll have a pleasant and lasting daycare center experience.

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Assessing Needs For Daycare Center

daycare-kids-in-playgroundThere’s a wide range of things that you need to consider when thinking about taking your child to a daycare center.  Not only should you consider the needs of your child but you should also consider your own needs.  Make sure to keep in mind your budget, your work schedule and the kind of experience that you’re hoping to give your child.  Remember this is always a partnership between you, your child and your daycare provider.

One advantage that draws many people to a daycare center is their availability.  Most daycare centers are open Monday through Friday, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM, year round.  Some even have longer hours during the week. They also can offer things like a once a month “Parents’ Night Out”, when they keep the children longer into the evening, giving them dinner and a movie.   A Something you may not even consider when comparing daycare types is that centers are usually only closed during the major holidays. In-home daycare providers or nannies will generally be closed or unavailable around major holidays, but also will have vacations during the year, sick days, appointments, and other scheduling conflicts, when you will need to find backup care for your child.

Daycare centers offer the closest facsimile of school which will make that eventual transition much easier for child.  Daycare centers also offer a myriad of other services.  So if you are looking for more than just daycare for child a center may be the choice that you want.  They often have sports activities, field trips and optional classes.

Choosing Childcare
Choosing Childcare

Daycare preschool centers are often more structured than in-home daycares.  If your child, like many, thrives on a very structured day, a daycare center could be the right choice.  They generally have a day to day routine that remains similar.  They will also have a daily routine that remains consistent.  Oftentimes reading time, craft time, lunchtime and nap time are usually started and completed at around the same time every day.  When your child has a structured routine this helps them feel more confident during their day and comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar people.

If this sounds like what you’re for in a childcare provider, is likely that a daycare center would be right for you.  Daycare centers may seem the same but they often vary greatly on the specifics of what they offer or what their focus may be.  Some are religion-based, some academic-based, and some are activity-based. Make sure that you ask them the details of their day and what they focus on with the children.  If the focus of the center aligns with your primary goals for your child in daycare, you may have found the right place.

You’ll want to prioritize what you find most important in the daycare center.  Then when you are calling, and then later interviewing these daycare centers, you can compare them with your priorities.  This should give you the knowledge and information that you need to make best informed choice for you and your child.

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How to Decide on a Daycare Center

daycare_crayonsWhen it comes to picking the right daycare center, it’s important to keep all your top priorities in mind.  Most of the daycare centers in your area are going to be regulated by state laws and inspected by the same inspectors, so the basics of how they operate will be the same.  However, each individual daycare center can still vary widely depending on what they offer.  So make sure to look into all of the various programs and activities your child will be involved in.

Here are few of the programs and activities that you may want to ask about.  These daycare centers should go into as much detail as you request with any of the programs they offer.  Sometimes for extra fees you can even enroll your child in extra programs such as swimming lessons, gymnastics, art classes, and sports activities.

Daycare Programs That May be Available:

  • Art classes
  • Preschool education
  • Music classes
  • Sports classes
  • Physical education
  • Sciences education
  • Religious studies
  • Swimming lessons

Daycare centers are often more expensive than in-home daycare providers.  They also tend to have more hidden fees that might take you by surprise if you do not ask about them.  Make sure to ask about late pickup fees.  Many daycare centers charge a fee should they need to stay past their closing time waiting for you to pick up your child.  These can range widely and can be charged per minute, in 15 minute blocks or even a percentage of your weekly fee.  Make sure to also inquire if there are any extra crafting fees, field trip fees or anything else is not disclosed up front.  They are required to make you aware of these fees should you ask but sometimes they’re hidden or buried within the mountain of paperwork.

It’s also a good idea to ask the daycare center how they inform the parents of the children’s activities.  They may have information walls, send out a weekly newsletter, or have talks with the parents.  However the particular daycare center prefers to keep parents up to speed is fine, just so you know what to look for.

Having your child in a daycare center can be very convenient.  With their long hours, different features and ability to accommodate many different needs and children, they can be the ideal care provider for child.  Ask other parents which centers their kids attend.  If you know parents of the kids in your daycare, you can remind each other of upcoming events, keep an eye on each others’ kids, and share any concerns you may have. You might even be able to work out arrangements and take turns picking up both children.  Since the classes are larger, it’s easier to connect with a friend of yours whose child attends the same daycare center.

Be sure the daycare center goes over the security measures and procedures of the facility.   Daycare centers are full of many different children every day.  This can make it difficult to keep an eye on every child all the time.  So make sure you check for open doors and an open playground.  Make sure to ask about their sign in and sign out policy.  Ask them how you authorize others than yourself to pick up your child.  And in this day of high technology ask them about video cameras or any other security measures they use to make sure children are safe.

Daycare centers can offer a wide variety of services and experiences for your child.  Their convenience and long hours, availability, wide range of services including preschool, and ease of enrollment make them a popular choice for many people.  They are more expensive than in-home daycares but not as expensive as in-home nannies.  Budget, convenience, and preschool activities are usually the reasons people end up deciding on daycare centers, but you need to make sure this option works best for your child and your family.

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In-Care with a Daycare Center

daycare-kids-in-classIn our busy lives it is easy to forget the importance of staying vigilant after you’ve chosen a daycare center for child.  This vital and often overlooked step is very important in making sure you have quality daycare for child.  You’ll want to monitor the situation to ensure that the daycare center and your child are working out well together.

You definitely don’t want to question the teachers on a daily basis, spend an extra half an hour with them every time you drop them off, or be overly critical about the day-to-day activities.  But you do want  to stay vigilant and watchful for signs of trouble or turmoil within the daycare center.  Often if issues are spotted early they can be resolved easily and quickly.  Make sure to address them as soon as you see them and not to let any issues get out of hand.

It’s important to let your child feel empowered by letting him or her have control of some part of the daily routine. Don’t push them into anything they’re not ready for, but giving them decisions to make will help them feel like a part of the process.  It will really help the transition between home and daycare if your child feels that it is (at least partially) his or her idea. It’s a good idea to to stick to their routine as much as possible. Children like to know what to expect.

Ask the Teacher Specific Questions About the Week

Games for Children

It is probably too much to ask the teacher every single day for a summary of the day. However, you can definitely ask the teacher at least once a week how things are going.  Asking specifics and looking at examples of what they are doing will help to give you get a better idea of your child’s day at daycare.  Note your discussions and compare them with your priorities and what you’re looking for in a daycare.  Make sure that these are matching up. If they aren’t, raise the concerns you have with the teacher.  Most daycare centers generally have a daily plan for what the children will do, but they are generally unable to accommodate the individual needs of specific children.

Ask Your Child About the Specifics of Their Day

It is important, to ask your child each evening about their day. Ask them specific questions about the activities they were involved in during the day, about teachers, about other kids.  Sometimes it’s hard to get details but if they mention something, ask them more questions about it. This is very good and healthy for your child.  It makes them think about their day and what they liked about it.  This is a very important part of early childhood development.

Talking to your child about the day can also give you a good and accurate idea of what they’re doing at the daycare center.  Should your child mention something that sounds little suspicious, such as hitting, biting, coarse language, or any other strange behavior make sure to remain calm and neutral.  If you overreact, show surprise or anger toward your child when talking you’ll just cripple you ability to find out about their day.  You want to make sure that your child is always 100% comfortable with talking to you about anything.  Should something stand out ask more details about it, being careful not to plant any words, suggestions, or hints of the behavior you’re trying to isolate.  Once you have an idea of what might have happened in the center and the teacher didn’t discuss it with you, make sure to bring it up with the teachers, then the administrators if you need to.  Most daycare centers are highly regulated and required to report to you even the most minor incidents.

The “Drop In”

Any daycare center should allow you to “drop in” anytime.  I find this to be one of the most effective ways to get a true gauge of how the daycare center is run.  During interviews, drop offs, and pickups, the daycare center and its employees 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 and best behaviors are carried on throughout the day.

It’s best to give your child a few weeks before you have your first drop in visit.  You don’t want to drop in until your child is more comfortable in daycare.  If they’re still nervous or about daycare, your visit could cause quite the scene.  That is definitely something you do not want to happen.  The best scenario is if you are able to observe your child without your child seeing you.  This gives you the opportunity to see how your child interacts with the other kids, how they interact with the teachers and aides, and what a normal day might be like in the center.

I would recommend three or four drop-in visits spaced out about a month apart when you first start a daycare center.  This should help you to get a very accurate idea of how this daycare center runs and how well your child is doing within it.  You can keep up the pattern of visits but the first two or three are most important.  If you can avoid it don’t come in 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 so you get a truer of the daycare center.

Drop-in visits are also a very useful tool should you suspect something is happening at the daycare center and you want to try to catch it happening.  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.

The Virtual Drop In

Many daycare centers are employing technology to ease parents’ concerns in this area, by using video cameras in the classroom that the front desk or administrators can watch. Some daycare centers even give you the opportunity to watch streaming video of your child’s classroom over the internet, so you can keep track of your children at work.

Daycare preschool centers can be a great experience for you and your child.  They offer a wide variety of services and education, and grant you one of the most flexible daycare options.  It also gives your child good preparation for entering school. The larger classes and the more organized daily routines are the most like a school environment.

The quality of daycare centers can vary widely so be sure to stay vigilant.  They usually have a high turnover rate which means you may see a lot of different teachers for the children. Make an effort to welcome new teachers and pay attention to how your child is reacting to them.

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How to Leave a Daycare Center Gracefully

daycare-center-classroomMost parents find daycare centers are the easiest type of daycare to leave.  Daycare centers are used to children enrolling and leaving as part of the business.  If the teachers and administrators are be upset at the news, it means they really enjoy having your child there. Even though this might be the easiest of exits, it is always important to make sure that it is done gracefully.

Make sure that you adhere to the amount of notice required in the enrollment agreement. This is usually two weeks for a daycare center.

It is very important to speak with your child about the upcoming change.  When they have a week to go, make them aware this is going to be their last week.  Your child may want to give something to their classmates, so you can help him or her write up little notes or drawings to give to their friends on their last day. They might also want to make something for their teachers.

Be sure to talk to your daycare teachers and administrators to inform them that you will be leaving.  Some teachers do baby sitting on the side and may offer their contact information. It would be handy to have a good babysitter to use.

When the last day arrives, try to make it a happy event.  Ask the daycare teachers if it would be OK to bring in some treats. If so, try to bring in treats that are healthy and as allergen-free as possible.  Many centers will have little going away party, especially if your child has attended for a long time.  You definitely want to make the last day a happy day with fond memories.  This is much better than dragging your kid out of the daycare kicking and screaming because they weren’t properly prepared.  Remember that this daycare center has been a major part of your child’s life and a transition from this routine can be very difficult for them.  Take the extra effort to make it as easy as possible for a child and ultimately it will make it easier for you, your child, and the daycare providers.

Even though you may never step foot in this daycare center again is very important to make sure you leave on a good note.  Make sure to consider the transition for your child and make it as easy as possible for them.  If you leave this daycare center right they’ll happily accept you back in the future should your circumstances change. It would be nice to be welcomed back to a familiar place.

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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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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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