How to Spot Red Flags When Deciding on Daycare

Deciding on a daycare center for your child is one of the most important decisions a young parent will make. Your child will spend hours in the care of others, and you won’t be around to monitor their every move. This can be stressful for many parents, and there’s nothing worse than realizing that a daycare center has neglected or harmed your child.

Parents need to know how to spot some basic red flags when choosing a daycare center for their child. Here are some tips.

Beware the lopsided ratio

It’s simple math: a very small number of caregivers can only care for a certain amount of kids. If a daycare center has too many kids and not enough staff, you may want to rethink enrolling your child there. Each state has its own guidelines for staff to child ratios, and you should research these in your state. But it also needs to pass the eye test. If you walk into a daycare center and the staff is struggling to keep up with the amount of children, that’s a big red flag.

Mind the curriculum

Your child isn’t going to daycare to sit in the corner and nap. Daycares without defined curriculums are huge red flags.

“Skip centers that either have no daily program or offer one that is static and unchallenging. Children need variety, change, and a chance to grow. The best centers offer a wide range of both group and individual activities,” says Baby Center. “Don't linger at centers with a poor selection of age-appropriate toys. Having enough of the right playthings not only encourages your child's development by stimulating creative, imaginative play, but it may also help prevent kids from getting in too many tussles over who gets to play with what and when.”

Open door policy is a must

If the daycare center is wary of letting parents come by whenever they want - you guessed it, major red flag. A good daycare center will have an open door policy for parents.

“If a center or caregiver requires you to call ahead before you visit, something is wrong. If your child is in such care now, we strongly urge you to start making unannounced visits. Walk right in. See what's going on. Even if you are told the caregivers are 'on a break,' see if your child and others are being held or attended to. Is your child crying or happy? Bored or enthusiastic? What about the other children? If you don't see interaction or find a sense of joy, you should be concerned that your child is not receiving good quality care,” says

Be wary of complaints

One bad review doesn’t mean that a daycare center is bad. Things happen, people get upset, and parents can get angry even when a situation isn’t caused by malice or neglectfulness among daycare staff.

But a handful of bad reviews? A dozen? Now’s the time to be concerned.

If a daycare center has consistent negative feedback, there is probably a reason. Many parents complaining is a lot of smoke, and it’s unlikely that there is no fire.

Sick children

If the daycare center is caring for sick children, then it doesn’t have a solid sick child policy in place and that’s a major red flag. Sick children need to be kept at home, as to not infect the rest of the class. Ask what their policies are, and if they can’t give you a clear answer then it might be time to look elsewhere.

This article is a guest contribution from Alex Robbins.

SASSNA has only conducted a general review of the article for appropriateness. SASSNA has not verified all statements in the article, and SASSNA does not endorse or warranty statements in the article.