Four steps to find the right child care

Step 1: Think about what type of care your child needs

Consider the following questions about your child care needs:

  • Do you need to find a child care program near your home, work or school?
  • How many hours each day, and days each week, will you need child care?
  • Will you need help paying for child care?
  • If you have more than one child, what type of care do you need for each and do you want them at the same location?
  • Does your child have any special needs that the child care provider has to meet?
  • Do you want your child in a home-based program or in a child care centre?
  • What type of setting would your child be most comfortable in?
  • Do you want your child to be in a program with other children of the same or different ages?

Once you have a clear idea of your needs and wants for child care, you can start looking at possible options.

Step 2: Find at least three programs to consider

To find child care providers, try these sources:

If you are looking for a First Nations provider, please contact your local band office administrator.

In addition, some Ontario Early Years Centres, Parenting and Family Literacy Centres or child care resource centres may have a list of child care providers for their area. Please keep in mind that these lists have not been approved by the Ontario Early Years Centres, family resource centres or the Ministry of Education. It's up to parents to research, choose and monitor their own child care arrangements.

Call child care providers to find out more about the programs they offer and to see if they meet your needs.

Try to find at least three child care options that would be good for your family. That way you can choose the program that best meets your needs.

Step 3: Interview each program you're considering

Call each of the child care providers you are considering. Speak to the person in charge, such as the supervisor or a home visitor at a private-home day care agency. If they are not available, ask when would be a good time to call again.

When you call, have a list of questions ready to ask the child care provider. The answers to these questions can help you choose the places you want to visit.

Here are some questions to ask agencies and different child care providers:

  • How does the agency choose providers?
  • What happens when providers are sick or on vacation?
  • Do providers have special training?
  • What is the agency's philosophy or approach when working with providers?
  • What kind of activities do providers do with the children? Are there opportunities to experience art, music, group and individual play and indoor and outdoor play?
  • What hours of care are available? Are they flexible?
  • How many children are at each location?
  • What age groups are at each location?
  • How soon is care available?
  • What is the cost of care? Are there any additional charges? Is there a charge when children are sick or away on holiday? Is there an application fee?
  • Is transportation provided if children have to travel a distance to and from school?
  • Is a fee subsidy available?
  • What are your hours?
  • How many children do you care for (including your own)? What are the ages of the children you have in care?
  • Who else lives in the home and may or may not have access to your child?
  • What training do you have?
  • What areas of the home will the children have access to?
  • What kinds of meals and snacks are provided? Are they nutritious?
  • How do you deal with children's misbehaviour? Offer “what if” scenarios. For example, what if a child hits another child? What if a child throws a tantrum over a toy another child is playing with?
  • Do you toilet train children and how do you approach the training?
  • Do you show television shows or movies to the children? How much time do the children spend watching television or movies each day?
  • How many staff members care for each group? How many children are in a group?
  • Are staff registered as early childhood educators with the College of Early Childhood Educators?
  • Can the centre accommodate the special needs of children?
  • Are parents encouraged to drop in?
  • Do you have a waiting list?
  • What is your philosophy or approach to working with children?

After you get the answers to your questions, decide whether or not the licensed child care program meets your needs and whether or not it's a good fit for your family. Then make plans to visit each program you are considering.

Step 4: Visit each option

After interviewing each option, decide which programs you want to visit. It's very important to visit the home or child care centre before you enrol your child. You may want to schedule your visit during the day when you can see the centre in action. You should schedule your visit with the centre ahead of time.

Whether you're visiting child care centres or home, you'll want to:

  • Talk with the caregivers
  • Watch the children and staff and how they interact
  • Look at the physical setting, including the condition of the building, play equipment available, and indoor and outdoor space.

Find out as much as you can about what happens there day to day. Take notes. When you have finished your visits, you can look over your notes. Then you can make your decision.

Here are some points to look for.

  • First impressions

  • The daily program

  • Health, nutrition and safety

  • Staff training and staff-to-child ratios

  • Administrative policy