What does Quality Childcare Look Like?

Written by Bailey Grogg. M.Sc Candidate Family Studies and Child Development, University of Central Oklahoma.


Placing your children in the care of somebody else can be incredibly daunting, especially if your child is young and you have never had to place a child in care before (read our article on stress and a baby's brain when starting daycare). In addition to investigating child care providers and early education facilities, there are a few other things you can look for or questions you can ask in order to ensure your child is going to receive the best childcare (or early learning programming as it is referred to in research) possible!

1. Family Involvement Programs

Family involvement programs ensure that your child’s childcare provider or early education teacher is willing to work in partnership with you rather than viewing the care of your child as an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. gig. These programs can take a number of different mediums, for instance some facilities have started offering live feeds to your child’s childcare classroom. Other forms may include home childcare providers that are willing to text or email a picture of your child during the day while they’re having fun (this is helpful at setting some parent’s minds at ease). Other programs may be open houses, parent teacher conferences, or celebrations like “Donuts with Dad” for Father’s Day. Any of these kinds of programs are indicative of quality programming, as best practice in Early Childhood highlights how important a strong partnership and open communication with the parent is to creating a good early care environment (Copple & Bredekamp, 2012). 

2. Play-Based Programming and Curriculum

A child’s most important work is play! We, here at Curious Neuron, are always reiterating how important play is in early childhood and a quality early care program should prioritize play as well. While touring a facility or potential early education program, don’t be afraid to ask questions about curriculum and programming. Ask to see the room where your child will be several hours per week and make an assessment on whether or not the room is set up for good, quality play. Quality childcare rooms that prioritize play will have several interest centers set up with plenty of toys should be available and at children’s height. Interest center should range from dramatic play to manipulatives and blocks to art. These interest centers should engage your child in play that targets development across several developmental spheres. (For instance, children will develop fine motor at the art area while learning to hold a paintbrush.) Additionally, ask to see a daily schedule (if one isn’t already posted) to make sure that ample amounts of time are left for children to engage in self-led exploration and play.

3. Continuing Education and Professional Development of Early Education Teachers

Early Education is a developing field with new and rapidly changing ideas on everything from types of curriculum to how to best handle challenging behaviour. Therefore, teachers and educators working in early care programs should be receiving regular training and professional development. Things like standards on safe sleep for infants can vary from year to year, just like CPR and First Aid recommendations change and evolve periodically. Your child’s early learning care provider should be up-to-date on the latest, empirically based information to ensure the best care for your child. Not to mention, better-trained and educated teacher have been linked to higher classroom quality (Phillips et al., 2000). So, don’t be afraid to ask how many times per year a program requires teachers to attend professional development trainings or what the requirements for level of education may be for hiring. 

4. Continuity of Care (or Turnover Rates) 

When visiting early care programs, ask what the turnover rate is like and whether or not teachers have been teaching for long periods of time. Teacher-child interactions are imperative; as children learn and develop within the interactions they have with their caregivers (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). Therefore, consistency in childcare providers is important. An early learning program that works to keep turnover rates low will ensure that your child has a chance to form secure, positive attachments with their teacher, better enabling them to learn, grow, and thrive in their new environment. In addition, a program with several tenured early educators indicates that teachers are experienced and happy with their jobs, and that means they’re more likely to be happy in their classrooms!

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 Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (2012). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Washington: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Phillips, D., Mekos, D., Scarr, S., Mccartney, K., & Abbott–Shim, M. (2000). Within and beyond the classroom door: Assessing quality in child care centers. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15(4), 475-496.

Shonkoff, J.P., & Phillips, D.A. (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods : The science of early child development. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.