Choosing Quality Child Care

High quality child care embraces a child-centered approach, nurturing each child’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Through trained and compassionate caregivers, safe environments, stimulating activities, and meaningful interactions, high quality child care creates a supportive environment where children feel valued, secured, and empowered to explore, learn, and build essential skills for their futures.

Children in high-quality early learning programs:

  • perform better in school.
  • are more likely to earn higher wages as adults.
  • are less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.
  • do better with math, language, and social skills.
  • are more likely to attend college.

Choosing quality child care is one of the most important decisions a family can make, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Your family is unique, and you want to find a program that can fit your needs while offering a safe and structured learning environment for your child.

Just like your family is unique, each provider is unique. Though individual factors may vary between providers, there are a few commonalities between quality care providers.

Low Ratios and Group Sizes

Ratio and group size are two factors that are critical to your child’s health, safety, and development. Low child-to-adult ratios and small group sizes help ensure that your child gets enough one-on-one attention from an adult who is available to take care of each child’s unique needs.

The VA Dept. of Education outlines the following ratios for Child Care Centers:

AgeAdult:Child Ratio
Birth – 16 months 1:4
16 months – 24 months 1:5
2 years 1:8
3 year olds up to school age 1:10
School age up to 9 years 1:18
9 years through 12 years 1:20

Because Family Day Homes typically care for mixed-age groups, they follow a point system rather than a ratio system. A Family Day Home provider can have a maximum of 16 points.

Age Point Value
Birth – 15 months 4 points
16 months – 23 months 3 points
2 – 4 years 2 points
5 – 9 years 1 points
10 years and older 0 points

Caregiver Qualifications and Training

Trained providers understand how children grow and learn, are more likely to engage in positive interactions, plan developmentally appropriate activities, and structure the learning environment to provide maximum opportunities for children to learn.

Health and Safety

A quality child care program puts health and safety first. The environment is organized, clean and safe, and safe health practices (such as proper handwashing, toy sanitation, regular emergency drills, etc.) are consistently followed. If your child will need medication while they are in care or has emergency medications (inhaler, EPIPEN®, etc.), make sure the provider is MAT trained and certified. 

Play and Learning

Quality programs provide a curriculum that is age-appropriate and supported by a variety of toys and materials.