Finding Happiness in Choosing a Childcare Center

The most important thing to a working parent is feeling that their child is safe and happy during each day, and the relationship with daycare can be an emotional one for many people. As a working and commuting mom for 18 months, my son has been in three daycare centers since he was just nine weeks old. We changed providers once due to issues and the second time due to our recent move to Jacksonville (even switching him from a place the day before he was supposed to begin). We have learned a lot of lessons along the way, and I thought I would share a few tips with you all today.

The best piece of advice, and I cannot say this enough: TRUST YOUR GUT. If something feels off to you, no matter how prestigious or recommended a center is, trust your instincts and act on it.


You want to find a childcare option that involves your child being this happy!

Here are lists of specific questions from and to think about. Start your daycare search while you are pregnant, as early as possible, depending on where you live. This will help in case there is a waiting list at the center of your choice.

In-home Daycare, a Nanny, or a Childcare Center

Decide whether or not you feel more comfortable with having your child at an in-home daycare or a facility.

Ask around through local parenting boards online and friends for nanny suggestions ( and are also highly recommended).

My experience has been with childcare facilities; therefore, my advice is tailored for those looking at the same option. I am sure a lot of the same criteria apply, but you may already have a level of comfort with an in-home/family provider versus hiring external help.

Determine Your Budget

Ask (and call) around to see what the costs are in the area. Prices can vary significantly by region and proximity to city center, and you want to make sure you are prepared before investing time in a place that may not fit your financial needs. If a choice that you love is a bit above your budget, visit it anyway. It is amazing what you can afford when it comes down to it. Cutting out cable and other costs is simple if it matters when choosing a place where your child is happier, and your comfort level is higher.

Research & Recon

Check state accreditation, provider violations and inspections. You can check Florida’s here. Ask local parenting groups on Facebook and your pediatrician for recommendations. Narrow your list down before touring. Stop by in person to make an appointment to tour. Drop by during rush hour and ask another parent their opinion. Dropping in unannounced to set up a tour can let you have a glimpse at the center in its normal rhythm.

Does the daycare director seem warm, friendly, and inviting along with the teachers? Trust your first impressions, they are usually spot-on.

Tour the Facility

Tour at least two places with your partner if you share parenting. This is important because there are two sets of eyes on the center to notice things, ask questions, and get that gut feeling if you would both trust the place with your child.

Ask Questions. When you arrive for your tour, ask questions. Ask a million questions. You are a new parent, and they expect that. Don’t be afraid if a question seems silly to you. Asking the teachers how much they cuddle and love the babies might seem funny, but you can tell a lot about their care by judging their reactions.

Observe. Are the babies or children being held, cared for, comforted when crying, or are they redirected in activities, or left alone. Gauge that style of care with your own style of parenting to see if they’re a good fit. We like our son to be held and comforted when he is upset. We toured one place several times when moving, and I noticed that the teachers consistently let the children stand alone while they were crying. It made us uncomfortable and gave us doubts to how our son would be loved during each day.

Health & Safety. Check to see if the infant room asks parents to remove their shoes at the door. Babies are crawling on the floors, mouthing things, and this is a great health and safety practice for facilities to enforce. Sit down on the floors and see what your baby or young child will see. Are there safety hazards? Are there areas of concern (cleanliness, toy sanitizing, cloth diapering, vaccinations, bottle labeling rules, parenting choices allowed)?


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Your child will have good and bad days, and that’s okay. Just make sure the happy outnumber the sad.

Once Enrolled

Stay active in your happiness with your chosen center.

Volunteer in your child’s class if possible, even just to read a book when you pick them up. Participate in center-wide events, holidays, and festivals. Start or join a Facebook group for other parents where you can arrange playdates and share questions.

If you are unhappy with something during your child’s day, be open about it immediately.

Is your child happy each day when you arrive to pick them up?

Check in on your child during the day.

Call the daycare and ask to speak to their teacher. Ask how they are eating, if they have been fussy or upset, and if they seem ok. This is especially important and normal during a period of transitioning daycares, after a vacation with family, or sicknesses since children can often be more emotional.

Log in to the daycare webcam if available (I LOVE this option) and see how the teachers treat the children, see if your child is being cared for to your comfort level.

Transition your child slowly if possible.

Over a period of a week, gradually increase the hours each day spent at the new center. Spend time in the classroom with your child so they can see you interacting with the teachers. This can be especially important with toddlers. Make sure your evenings at home are as calm as can be so they are not over-stimulated after processing so many new changes all day.

Finally, just remember that nobody will parent and love your child like you do. Childcare will never fulfill that role. Just trust your gut and find a place and staff to whom you feel comfortable sharing your child.

What do you think? Have you ever had questions or concerns with your child’s care? What would you add?

Brandi recently took a break from her career as a mapmaker (GIS Analyst) to stay at home with her toddler son after moving to Jacksonville, Florida. She is knee-deep in diaper bags and baby gear as the founder of her website Little Brim Baby and as a contributor for BuyModernBaby and Child Mode. Passionate about breastfeeding, babywearing, and children’s books, she also enjoys spending time with her son browsing the local stores for unique baby and toddler items, enjoying area waterways with her family, and trying to adjust her native Illinois body to the humid Florida climate. Brandi is a baby gear enthusiast and loves sharing her favorite products, reviews, tips, and fellow moms’ advice with her readers.


  1. I toured when I was pregnant and remember seeing a daycare where several babies were left while crying and no comfort was being provided because they were busy doing other tasks. I literally couldn’t hold my tears back thinking about my baby being treated like that. I toured another place that was well above my budget & it was amazing. It was a warm and nurturing place- so we crunched numbers and made it work- I’ll never regret that decision.

  2. The best advice I got as a first time mom looking at daycare centers was to narrow down my list then go back to the centers after baby was born (I was getting on waiting lists while still pregnant). Your standards change a bit once that little baby is actually in your arms. Also, while waiting lists work in theory, really, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so keep checking in with the center if you’re trying to get a coveted spot.

  3. I am looking for a child care program for my daughter. It’s important that I find a facility I can feel comfortable leaving her at. As you said, it’s a great idea to tour the facility and observe how the children are treated. Making sure they are getting adequate attention is essential.

  4. It’s good to know that I can take tours of a facility before deciding on which one to send my child to. Now that my wife has started working, we’ve been looking for a daycare to send our daughter to while my wife works. I’ll definitely use the tour as an opportunity to ask questions and get to know the staff so I can feel comfortable with my decision of which facility I choose to go with.

  5. My wife and I think that being able to find some good childcare would be helpful for us at least a couple days a week so that she can start working again. I’m glad that you talked about being able to tour the facility for childcare, and being able to ask questions and observe what goes on, so we know if it’s right for our child. I think that being able to take a few of these tours would be good beginning steps for us in choosing childcare, and hopefully make our decision easier when we see the facilities!

  6. I liked that you had mentioned that it can be important to tour the facility and ask a lot of questions to make sure that the center will work great for you and your child. My wife and I are trying to transition to a daycare school for our son but we haven’t really been sure what to look for in a daycare for us. We’ll just have to start touring a few daycares in the area and we’ll be sure to ask plenty of questions to make sure it works great for us.

  7. This is some really good information about child care. My sister is looking for a daycare for my nephew soon. So I liked what you said about how it would be a good idea to take a tour of the place before you send your child there. I know that my sister would want to know safe they are at the place.


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