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Child Care: What to Ask

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KEY POINTS

  • When checking out child care options, ask lots of questions about the caregiver’s background, what activities are offered, if care is offered in a safe place, what kind of meals are served, how health problems are handled, what to do in case of an emergency, finances, and other questions.
  • Watch how the caregiver behaves around children.
  • Take the time to look at several options, ask lots of questions, and trust your instincts.

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Questions about caregiver background:

  • Do you know first aid and CPR for children?
  • Can you tell me more about your background and experience? What are the ages of children you have cared for? Why do you enjoy taking care of children? Do you have children of your own?
  • Do you have any health problems that would affect how you take care of my child? Do you smoke? Do you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs?
  • What are your views on discipline? Meals? TV? Computers? Video Games? Playmates?
  • Can you give me references?
  • If a child care center, do you have a current license?

Questions if you have a baby

  • Can I bring in breast milk for my baby’s feedings? How do you store breast milk?
  • Will you follow my baby's feeding schedule? Do you hold babies to feed them, or prop bottles?
  • Do strollers or infant seats have safety harnesses and do you use them?
  • Is all baby equipment strong, stable, and in good repair? Does all equipment meet safety standards?
  • Are there separate cribs and crib sheets for each baby? How often will you check my baby when in a crib or playpen? Is the crib latched? Are the crib and playpen free of toys that could be used to climb out? Are the crib slats no more than 2 and 3/8 inches apart?

Questions about activities

  • What kinds of activities might you plan for my child?
  • Do you balance active, physical play with quiet, restful activities?
  • Will you plan field trips or invite people to visit?
  • Do you limit the amount of time children are allowed to watch TV or videos?
  • Do you design step by step goals for each child?
  • Do you teach children to wash their hands?
  • Will you follow my training routine if my child is being toilet trained?
  • If a child care center, do children seem safe with one another? No bullying allowed?
  • If a child care center, is there a mix of small group and large group activities and things each child can do alone?

Questions about caregiver behavior

Does the caregiver

  • Wash hands with soap and water after diaper changes and contact with body fluids? (Alcohol gels can be used at other times as long as hands are not visibly soiled.)
  • Spend time with each child?
  • Play with children, indoors and out? Sing and read to each child?
  • Always watch children, indoors and out? (Young children should never be left alone while on a bed, changing table, high chair, infant seat or near water.)
  • Praise children's strengths and what they learn to do?
  • Kneel or sit at a child's eye level?
  • Stop play that gets out of hand?
  • Really listen and talk to the children? Answer children’s questions with patience?
  • Discipline in a way that is gentle, yet firm? Set and maintain limits?
  • Respect each child's unique background and interests?
  • Seem cheerful and friendly, and like they enjoy babies and children?
  • Help children handle feelings of fear, shyness, upset, and anger?
  • Take time to tell you about your child’s day?
  • Welcome your questions and suggestions?

Will the caregivers:

  • Let children do things without being disturbed by other children?
  • Help children to express themselves and improve language skills?
  • Show children how to do things and solve some problems on their own? Let children try out new ideas?
  • Provide rest and nap times?
  • Make your child feel safe by having certain routines every day?

Questions about environment

  • Are dangerous items out of reach or locked in a cupboard, drawer, or cabinet? Are the inside and outside areas free from plants that could poison a child?
  • Are important phone numbers posted near the phone? (parents, police, fire, poison control center, hospital, healthcare provider.)
  • Are latched safety gates placed at the top and bottom of stairways?
  • Are play surfaces, indoors and out, softened with carpets or wood chips? Are there carpets, pads, and drapes to absorb noise indoors?
  • Are there lots of age appropriate science materials, books, building blocks, musical instruments, toys, art supplies, costumes, and clay for "hands on" learning?
  • Are there enough people to watch children on the playground? Will children play outside when the weather is good?
  • Are walkways free from clutter?
  • Are floors free from spills and not slick?
  • Are the bathrooms clean and easy for children to use?
  • Is the kitchen clean?
  • Are the rooms warm enough or cool enough year-round?
  • Are toys safe, clean, and in good shape?
  • Are the outside doors and windows locked? Do all glass doors have decals? Do strong screens or metal bars cover the windows (especially above ground level)?
  • Are entrances and exits secured against unauthorized visitors?
  • Are things that could be pulled or knocked over made safe for small children? (electrical cords, lamps, bookcases)
  • Have objects such as tables with sharp corners been padded or removed?
  • Is the outdoor area fenced and safe for children of all ages?
  • Do all electrical sockets have protective covers?
  • If there are pets, will my child be safe? Are pet dishes out of reach?
  • Are there working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide monitors, and fire extinguishers? Do children practice fire drills?
  • Are there child-sized chairs and tables?
  • Are there areas for quiet and active play, and a quiet place for homework?

Questions about meals

  • Is it okay for children to leave food on their plates? (They should never be forced to eat.)
  • Does the caregiver know about healthy foods? Are healthy snacks and meals served?
  • Are portions small and are second helpings okay?
  • Do caregivers cut food into small pieces to prevent choking?
  • Can caregivers prepare special foods if a child has allergies or other special needs?

Questions about health

  • Are caregivers and children required to be up to date on immunizations?
  • Are caregivers trained in first aid and CPR?
  • Do you call parents if one of the children has a disease that other children might catch? What do you do if a child gets sick or injured?
  • Do you have someone to take over in case you get sick?
  • What would you do in case of an emergency such as tornados, or other natural disasters or a terrorism attack?

Questions about finances and other specifics

  • How much do you charge? Is there a discount if you take care of more than one of my children?
  • Are there extra charges for meals or driving my child somewhere? Do I need to provide a car seat?
  • When are payments due? If my child is on vacation, do you still require payment?
  • Will other adults be here while you take care of my child?
  • How many babies does each adult care for? How many children does each adult care for? What happens if a caregiver calls in sick or is on vacation?
  • If a child care center, do the staff quit often or work there for a long time?
  • What are the hours?
  • If a caregiver will work in your home, ask:
    • How will you get to and from work?
    • How long are you willing to take care of my child?

Choosing child care is an important decision for you and for your child. Take the time to look at several options, ask lots of questions, and trust your instincts.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-10-16
Last reviewed: 2015-09-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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