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Choosing Child Care

Choosing Quality Child Care

Child Care Choices

The decision to leave your child in someone else's care can be very emotional. Child care can create anxiety for both parents and children of any age. While cost and location will be a concern, the most important thing to look for is quality care. Knowing your child is safe and well-cared for will greatly reduce your anxiety.

Quality Child Care

Whether you are choosing a day care centre, a family day home, or a relative to care for your child, take the time to make sure the care they get while you are away is top quality. Give yourself lots of time to find the right arrangement for your child. Feeling comfortable with your child's caregivers will enable you to work together as a team.


According to the Canadian Child Care Federation, the staff at the child care centre or family day home you are thinking about using should:

  • understand how children grow and learn
  • be affectionate and responsive to children's needs
  • know how to provide safe and healthy care for children
  • provide a stable environment with activities that encourage learning and play
  • work together with you as a team
  • know about resources and programs in the community
  • use appropriate strategies for guiding behaviour

What to Look For

The day care or day home you are thinking about using should:

  • be clean, safe and secure
  • have a warm and caring atmosphere
  • have the best interests of your child as their main goal
  • have books, toys and activities for different ages
  • have child-adult ratios that are appropriate to the type of care they are providing
  • provide a variety of play spaces (indoor, outdoor, active, quiet)
  • follow a flexible, yet predictable routine
  • provide healthy meals and snacks
  • be inclusive and respectful of different languages and cultures
  • have established policies about child guidance

Starting Day Care

Once parents find child care that they are comfortable with, they can focus on adjusting to new routines. The following can help:

  • Spend time at the centre or home with your child. Be there for your child as he explores his new surroundings and begins to build trust with the caregiver(s).
  • Do a couple of trial runs by leaving your child for short periods in the new child care facility before leaving them full time.
  • Have your child take something familiar to child care. For example, some children bring a favourite blanket, stuffed animal or family picture.
  • When you leave your child, talk to her about what is going to happen. Don't sneak out without telling her, as this can damage the trust you've built with her. Tell her that you are leaving to go to work and will come back and pick her up at the end of your day. Let your child express feelings such as fear or sadness. It's normal for children to be upset when their parents leave. Say goodbye in a loving, calm manner and leave.
  • When you pick up your child, tell him that you came back just like you said you would. This will help your child to understand that you will always come back to get him. It will also increase his sense of trust and security in his new routine. In the early years, your child is just learning object permanence (that things can go away and come back again).
  • If you act secure (even if you may not feel it), it will help your child feel secure and know that he will be okay. Your child will begin to understand that this is a new part of his routine and that he is safe.
  • If your child has special needs, make sure that the caregiver or day care centre is able to meet them. Children with special needs in high-quality, inclusive child care do just as well, or better, than those in segregated settings.

In Other's Care

Before leaving your child in the care of others (relatives, friends or babysitters), make sure they know where you'll be and how you can be reached. Be sure to leave the phone numbers, your first and last name, and your address next to the telephone where they are easy to find in case of emergency.

Make sure whoever's looking after your child knows that they should never shake your child. Write out a list of ideas of what usually works to soothe your child so that they know what is appropriate. Leave enough breast milk or infant formula in prepared bottles in the refrigerator along with instructions for feeding. Your child's caregiver will do their best to care for your child, but they need to be assured that you will return when you say you will. Let your caregiver know that you will be easy to reach if they have any questions or need you to return home early.

From "Growing Miracles", Alberta Health Services, 2010.
Reprinted with permission.

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