Finding Quality Child Care
Choosing quality child care for your family is a very important decision. You want to find a safe, healthy environment that supports the social, physical, intellectual, creative and emotional development of your children.
There are many types of child care available:
- Day care programs serve infants, toddlers and pre-school-aged children.
- Family day homes offer care in a private residence. There are typically six or less children, including the caregiver’s own children, with one caregiver.
- Group family child care programs offer care in a private residence. There are typically between seven and 10 children with two caregivers.
- Out-of-school-care programs operate before and after school, during lunch hours and sometimes when school is closed.
- Pre-school program that offer child care for four or less hours per day for pre-school aged children
Finding the best arrangement for your family takes time and planning, but it is worth the effort. Here is a quick list of things to consider before making your choice. Also, please read the guide, Choosing Child Care: A Guide to Licensed and Approved Child Care in Alberta to help begin your search.
You know your child best. Think about where he or she will be most comfortable. List your needs. For example, if your child needs a lot of quiet time, a large, busy centre may not be the best choice. Some points to consider are:
- Your child’s age
- The types of activities your child enjoys
- The number and ages of children your child enjoys being with
- Any food allergies or food preferences that must be accommodated
Also, each program will have different approach to how they offer child care and may provide different services, such as snacks or meals. Other things to consider are your work hours, location, and cost. Do you require assistance with your child care fees for your pre-school children? If so, check out the Child Care Subsidy Program.
Locate a child care facility or family day home agency
The next step is to find a child care program. A good way to find a program is to ask friends and neighbours for references. You can also contact your local child and family services office for a list of child care programs or use our online tool to find a program.
Visit a child care program
It is very important that you visit each program that you are considering. This allows you to ask questions and to see first-hand the kind of care offered.
To help you ask the right questions, use the child care checklist and telephone interview planner in the Choosing Child Care guide to assist you. When you are making your visit, there are a number of things you should be looking for, such as:
- Are the facility and equipment clean and in good condition?
- Is space arranged for children to freely choose activities?
- Are toys and equipment in reach of all children?
- Do toys and equipment suit the ages and sizes of all children?
- Are there enough toys for the number of children?
- Is there a program listing daily activities?
- Can children choose from a variety of activities?
- Do activities suit the ages of the children?
- Do children appear relaxed and involved in activities?
- Is there room for outdoor play?
- Does food for all children meet the standards in Canada’s Food Guide or Alberta’s Nutritional Food Guidelines?
- Do caregivers sit with children during meals?
Health and safety
- Do staff and children wash their hands before and after diapering or toileting?
- Are medications stored in a locked container, out of reach of children?
- Is all indoor and outdoor equipment clean and safe?
- Do staff have training in child care first aid?
Child care staff and providers
- How may staff per child are present?
- What is the training of staff?
- Are staff engaged and involved with children?
- Do staff calmly reassure children who are upset?
In Alberta, all licensed and approved child care programs must meet a minimum set of provincial standards. The Alberta Child Care Accreditation program establishes standards that exceed those in the provincial standards. These higher standards have been developed by members of the child care sector, together with the Ministry of Human Services. An accreditation agency works with accredited programs to make sure they follow these standards. This voluntary program is the only one of its kind in Canada.
Look for the accreditation logo in your child care program.