Guidelines for Choosing Quality Child Care
for Infants and Toddlers*

More women than ever before are returning to work soon after their baby is born. Choosing just the right child care for your infant/toddler is not only a difficult task but it is also time consuming. In Alabama, parents have three basic child care options:

  1. An In-Home Caregiver - the caregiver comes to the home of the child
  2. A Family Day Care Home - the child is taken to the caregiver's home
  3. A Day Care Center - the child is taken to a facility where groups of children are cared for.

Two of these options, family day care homes and day care centers - unless exempted by law - are required to be licensed by the Department of Human Resources. A license displayed in a center or home shows that the provider has met the minimum standards. It does not guarantee that quality child care is being offered.

In order to make the best child care choice possible, parents need to:

  1. Think about the kind of quality of care they want
  2. Shop early
  3. Observe and ask questions
  4. Compare care giving situations and caregivers

In order to help you in your search for just the right child care, consider the following questions:

  1. Does the caregiver:
    • Appear to be warm and friendly?
    • Seem calm and gentle?
    • Seem to be someone with who you can develop a relaxed, sharing relationship?
    • Treat each child as a special person?
    • Understand what children can and want to do at different stages of growth?
    • Seem to have enough time to look after all the children in her care?
    • Take time to discuss your child with you regularly?
    • Have previous experience or training in working with children?
    • Seem to enjoy cuddling your baby?
    • Care for your baby's physical needs such as feeding and diapering?
    • Spend time holding, playing with, talking to your baby?
    • Provide stimulation by pointing out things to look at, touch, and listen to?
    • Provide dependable and consistent care so your baby can form an attachment and feel important?
    • Cooperate with your efforts to toilet train your toddler?
    • "Child-proof" the setting so your toddler can crawl or walk safely and freely?
    • Realize that toddlers want to do things for themselves and helps your child to learn to feed and dress him/herself, go to the bathroom, and pick up his or her own toys?
    • Follow a written schedule that meets young children's need for routine but that is flexible enough to meet the needs of each child?
    • Help your child learn language by talking with him or her, naming things, reading aloud, describing what she is doing, and respond to your child's words?
    • Have enough clean bathrooms for all the children in care?

  2. Does the child care facility have:
    • An up-to-date license, if one is required?
    • A clean and comfortable look?
    • Enough space indoors and out so all the children can move freely and safely?
    • Enough caregivers to give attention to all of the children in care?
    • Enough furniture, cribs, play things and other equipment for all the children in care?
    • Safety caps on electrical outlets, covered radiators, and protected heaters?
    • Equipment that is safe and in good repair?
    • Equipment and materials that are suitable for the ages of the children in care?
    • A safe place to store medicines, household cleansers, poisons, matches, sharp instruments, and other dangerous items?
    • An alternate exit in case of fire? (Fire plan)
    • A safety plan to follow in emergencies?
    • An outdoor play area that is safe, fenced, and free of litter?
    • Enough heat, light, and ventilation?
    • Nutritious meals and snacks?
    • A separate place to care for sick children where they can be watched?
    • A first aid kit, fire extinguisher and smoke detectors?
    • Gates at top and bottom of stairs?
    • A potty chair or special toilet seat in the bathroom?
    • A clean and safe place to change diapers?
    • A wash basin and soap in easy access to the caregiver for hand washing?
    • Cribs with firm mattresses covered in heavy plastic?
    • Separate crib sheets for each baby in care?

  3. Are there opportunities for infants/toddlers to:
    • Play quietly and actively, indoors and out?
    • Play alone at times and with friends at other times?
    • Use materials and equipment that help children learn new physical skills and to control and exercise their muscles?
    • Crawl and explore safely?
    • Play with objects and toys that help infants develop their senses of touch, sight, and hearing? (For example, mobiles, mirrors, etc.)
    • Take part in a variety of activities that are suited to toddlers' short attention span?

Once you have selected the caregiving situation/caregiver you prefer, remember to drop in periodically and to monitor the care being provided. If you observe a situation that causes you concern; talk with the caregiver. If the situation cannot be resolved to your satisfaction, you may want to consider making a change.

Choosing just the right caregiver is difficult and time consuming. If you need assistance in locating child care for children under age 13, Childcare Resources, a United Way Agency can assist you. CALL 252-1991

*Developed by: Childcare Resources for Jefferson, Shelby and Walker Counties, 309 23rd Street North, Birmingham, AL 35203, (205) 252-1991, A United Way Agency. Please be advised that Childcare Resources does not license, endorse or recommend child care providers nor do we assure that any provider gives quality care.

Questions taken from: Parents Checklist for Day Care, U.S. Office of Human Development Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, Day Care Division, DHHS Publication No.: (OHDS) 81-30270, originally printed 1980.