If the thought of leaving your baby or toddler with someone else while you go to work makes you cringe, you’re not alone! Choosing the best childcare is a big decision, especially if this is your first kid! There are plenty of parents who work outside the home and have to find suitable childcare, whether a nanny, a preschool, a group daycare, or a family member.

Many childcare centers offer exceptional care with licensed, trained caregivers that provide a great environment and valuable socialization for your little one.

If you’ve been searching for “the best childcare near me,” we’ve got some tips to help you choose the right option for you. Here we’ll cover some of the benefits of daycare and provide valuable information on what to ask potential providers and what to look for when visiting.

All Available Options For Childcare Near Me

Most daycare facilities are defined as places where parents drop children of varying ages off for a full day. They usually are group daycare or preschool – state-licensed facilities and usually run similarly to a school, with kids of various ages split into groups.

In-home daycare is usually run out of the provider’s home, and you can generally find the provider’s children there as well. Not all states require in-home daycare providers to be licensed, so it’s essential that when searching for “childcare near me,” you’re double-checking regulatory requirements while doing your research.

Benefits of Childcare

There are several advantages to a group daycare or preschool. To start, most childcare centers offer continuous care, from the early months of infancy through toddlerhood, and sometimes even beyond!

Another benefit is the education and socialization your child will receive from a well-organized facility. They will be geared to your child’s development level and help them grow, all while getting quality face time with other kids their age.

Daycare might even be more affordable than hiring a nanny, depending on the number of children you have. With a preschool or daycare facility, your children will be cared for all day, and you won’t have the risk of someone bailing on you as you might with a babysitter or nanny. There is certain reliability that comes with childcare centers, and many centers stay open for up to 12 hours to support a variety of parent schedules.

However, there are likely fewer children with home daycare than a group daycare center, which means more personal attention for your child and less exposure to potential illnesses.

How To Choose Childcare Near Me

Depending on where you live, finding the right childcare you need could be a process. We recommend starting your search at least two months before you plan on going back to work. If you live in a larger city, you might even start looking for options before your baby even arrives.

The first step is research. Ask for recommendations from other parents if you can. It might also be a good idea to ask your pediatrician for their opinion as well. There are plenty of online resources for childcare referral services and state-regulated agencies.

Once you have a few candidates for childcare providers, the next step is to interview them. Start over the phone and ask them your questions to get a feel for their level of communication. If they don’t get back to you right away or the staff isn’t forthcoming, it might be a good idea to scratch it off the list and move on.

Next, we recommend checking out the center in person. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s always a good idea to see them in action. Trust your gut! If something doesn’t feel right to you, it’s likely not suitable for your baby either.

Make sure you check references too. Ask other parents who use this facility how happy they and their kids are with their experience. It’s also wise to ask about their accreditation and determine what standards they are holding themselves to. Those places accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) meet even higher standards, including a good ratio of adults to babies; low turnover in caregivers; and a philosophy that promotes health, safety, and development of kids.

Lastly, consider dropping by unannounced. This is a great way to get a more accurate picture of what the center is like when the staff hasn’t been prepped. If the center doesn’t allow unscheduled visits of any kind, this could be a red flag, and you should probably cross it off your list.

Schedule A Visit

When you are ready to schedule a visit to your shortlist of potential daycare centers, here are a few things to look for when visiting:

Happy Children And Staff

It’s important that you see alert, content, and clean children in the childcare center. Look for play areas and quiet areas where they can nap in separate cribs according to their own schedules.

How content are the caregivers? Look for energetic, patient, and happy staff members who seem genuinely interested in the kids. When you visit, maybe plan one trip in the morning and another in the evening to get a good picture of how morale shifts throughout the day.

A Stimulating Environment

You want to make sure the childcare facility you choose is stimulating for your child. Look for verbal and physical interactions between kids and caregivers. Are the staff playing with the kids or ignoring them? Do the kids seem engaged or zoned out?

Additionally, what condition are the toys in? Are they age-appropriate? Ask the staff for a rundown of daily activities, including reading, dancing, singing, playtime, talking, and learning.

It might also be prudent to check for separation of age groups. Infants under one year old shouldn’t be mingling much with older children, as bigger toddlers can be pretty rambunctious and haven’t mastered being gentle with infants.

A Clean And Healthy Setting

A well-run daycare spells out its health and sanitation rules, and it’s obvious when they don’t follow them. Caregivers should frequently be washing their hands, specifically after each diaper change. Both the diaper change area and the food prep areas are kept separate from each other and cleaned thoroughly after each use.

Look for how they clean feeding utensils, bottles, teething rings, pacifiers, and washcloths. Toys should also be cleaned with a sanitizing solution regularly and have separate boxes for each of the children.

Safety Measures

You’ll definitely want to ensure that the daycare provides a safe environment for kids. Look for similar precautions you do at home, like locked doors, no choking hazards, gates on open stairways, window guards, smoke detectors, clean kitchen and bathrooms, and more. Your child likely isn’t allowed to wander at home, so she shouldn’t be able to roam at the daycare center either.

It’s also a good idea to make sure they have a strict policy regarding adult visitors. Only staff and authorized grown-ups who are there to pick up and drop off can enter the facility.

Final Thoughts

Finding childcare while balancing the challenges of daily life and your work responsibilities can be a challenge. When you need a better way to find childcare, then PreK.com might be what you’re looking for. PreK.com makes the entire process easy, and you’ll find everything you need all in one place.

They vet every daycare and preschool option thoroughly, and if they don’t meet PreK.com’s standards, it won’t be an option on the site. Plus, they even assign you a Family Adviser who will answer all of your questions and make sure you find the exact childcare option you need. Get started here.