Choosing a Child Care Provider—The Tour

Before you can decide if a provider is right for you, you will want to see the program in person.  As a parent, you want to ensure that your child is safe and happy in a child care environment that is fun, educational, and nurturing. 

Write down some questions you want to ask during your tour.  We’ve created this helpful checklist to get you started.  See the lists below for more questions you may ask!

See this helpful graphic from our friends at Child Care Aware of America for what to look for during your tour.


**COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS**

Many providers have chosen not to offer in-person tours during the pandemic due to health and safety concerns.  Remember, young children are some of the most vulnerable at this time. You can ask the provider about other options, such as taking a live video tour or viewing recent pictures of the program.  Before the video tour, list the areas you would like to see—including classrooms, common areas, bathrooms, eating areas, drop-off/pick-up locations, and outdoor play areas.

Ask to see health and safety measures the provider has in place. Look for a posted license, safe sleep areas, age-appropriate toys and books that can be sanitized, etc. Ask the provider what the policies are regarding COVID exposures, staff or child vaccinations, masking, etc.

See this helpful checklist for more insight about what to look for regarding health and safety during your tour.


Start by going to see several child care centers or family day homes.  Your child’s early development depends on the early childhood professional you choose.  If possible, you should try to visit a home or center more than once.  Even after you enroll with the provider you should continue to visit from time to time.  Think about your first impression after each visit.  This will help you determine if the provider may be a good fit for your family.

Make sure you address any health and safety concerns you may have.  For instance, if your child needs to take medication during the day, or has an emergency medication such as a rescue inhaler or Epi-pen, a provider will need to have the necessary training and certification.  Ask about their cleaning and disinfection practices. 

Make sure you ask the provider’s policy on mask wearing and quarantine in cases of exposure.  Visit the Virginia Department of Health website for the latest guidelines for child care centers.

Below, we’ve put together some questions you may want to ask during your tour.

General Questions

  • Is the program licensed?  Is the program accredited?
  • Does the program provide safe and reliable transportation?  If so, are drivers licensed and insured?  Are children properly restrained in the appropriate car safety seat that is appropriate for their weight and age?
  • Are there clear check-in and check-out procedures?

Health and Nutrition Questions

  • Does the program have records proving that the other children enrolled are up to date on all required immunizations?
  • Is handwashing a regular part of the program’s practices for both staff and children, especially before eating and after using the bathroom?
  • If the program serves food, does it meet nutritional standards?
  • How does the program handle if a child has food allergies or dietary restrictions?

Questions for Infants and Toddlers

  • Are infants fed on demand?
  • Is breast milk stored appropriately?
  • Is there a place where mothers can comfortably breastfeed their child?
  • How are new foods introduced to toddlers?
  • Are diaper changing areas clean and well-maintained?  Do caregivers keep a hand on the child while diapering?  Do caregivers clean and sanitize the surface after finishing the changing process? 

Safety and Supervision Questions

Supervision Questions

  • How many children are cared for in the classroom or home?  How many caregivers are in the classroom or home?  Does the program follow state ratio guidelines?
  • Are children supervised at all times, both indoors and outdoors, and even when they are sleeping?
  • Can caregivers be seen by others at all times so that a child is never alone with one caregiver?
  • Have all caregivers undergone comprehensive background checks?
  • Have the caregivers been trained on how to prevent, recognize, and report signs of child abuse?

Safety Questions

  • Is the indoor and outdoor environment clear of safety hazards, such as cleaning supplies and tripping hazards?
  • Has the building been inspected for radon, lead, and asbestos?
  • Are toys clean, safe, and within reach of children?
  • Are caregivers trained in First Aid/CPR, and is their certification current?
  • Are outlets covered/protected?
  • Does the program have a plan in place in case of disaster, like a fire, tornado, flood, or active shooter?
  • Does the program practice drills every month?
  • Does the program have an emergency plan in place in case a child is sick, injured, or lost?
  • Does the program have information about how to contact in an emergency?
  • Does the program have first aid kits?
  • Are medications kept out of reach of children?
  • Are caregivers trained and the medications labeled to make sure the right child receives the right amount of medication?

Questions for Infants and Toddlers: Safe Sleep Practices

  • Are all infants put to sleep on their backs?
  • Are the infant sleep spaces appropriate?  Infants should be placed to sleep on their backs on a firm surface, with no other bedding or soft toys present.
  • Are infant sleep spaces kept free of soft objects, toys, crib bumpers, and loose bedding?
  • Are all child care staff, volunteers, and substitutes trained on safe sleep practices to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
  • Do all infants have their own designated sleep space that is the same every day?
  • During rest time, can caregivers see and hear infants and toddlers at all times?
  • Do caregivers regularly check on infants and toddlers while they are sleeping?
  • Are safe sleep infant practices posted in the infant sleeping areas as a reminder to all staff, volunteers, and substitutes?
  • If infants can roll over, is there a sign posted by their bed indicating that the child can roll?

Indoor and Outdoor Environment Questions

  • Is there enough room in the environment for children and caregivers to move around?
  • Are there different areas for resting, quiet play, and active play?
  • Is the indoor atmosphere pleasant?
  • Is the environment clean?
  • Are there enough toys and learning materials for the number of children?
  • Do the classroom materials change based on what children are interested in?
  • Does the program use TV, computers, or other types of technology with the children?  If so, how often are these materials used?  Do you agree with this policy?
  • Is there ample space for outdoor play?
  • Is the outdoor play area fenced in?
  • Is the outdoor play area regularly inspected?
  • Is the outdoor play area clean?
  • Is the equipment the right size and type of the age of children who use it?
  • Are children taken outside on a regular basis?
  • Do caregivers actively supervise (and play with) children outdoors?

Caregiver-Child Interaction Questions

  • Are children comforted when needed?
  • Do caregivers and children enjoy being together?
  • Are children warmly greeted when they arrive?
  • Do caregivers talk to children and seem genuinely interested in what the children are doing?
  • Do caregivers get down on children’s level to speak with them?
  • How do caregivers help children solve their own problems?
  • How do caregivers react to children’s behavior?
  • How do caregivers encourage peer interactions?
  • Do caregivers play with children to help facilitate their learning?

Program Structure Questions

  • Is there a daily balance of play time, story time, activity time, nap time, and homework time?
  • Do children play for a significant part of their day?
  • Do children get to choose who they want to play with?

Parent Partnership Questions

  • Do caregivers share and talk to parents about their child’s daily activities, either at drop off or pick up?
  • Does the program incorporate technology as a communication tool?  If so, is information shared with parents on how to access it and how the information is secured?
  • Are parents encouraged to visit at any time?
  • Are there ways for parents to be involved in the program?  How are parent ideas incorporated into the program?
  • Are there regular opportunities (at least twice per year) where parents can meet with the staff and share their child’s strengths and hear how their child is developing skills?
  • How often do caregivers share observations and ongoing assessment information with parents?
  • How do caregivers work with parents to incorporate the family’s culture and values into the classroom?

Staff Qualifications Questions

  • Do the providers hold a degree in a child-related field? 
  • Have the providers worked in child care for at least one year?
  • Do staff have experience working with your child’s age group?
  • For school-agers, do staff seem experienced and knowledgeable about school-age issues?
  • Do the providers plan lessons and experiences for the children that help them learn and grow?
  • Do the providers understand what children need to learn and grow?
  • Do the providers have additional staff that will be working with your child?  What are their credentials?
  • Do the providers participate in ongoing training or continuing education programs?

Policies and Procedures Questions

  • Does the program provide a written contract before you enroll your child?
  • Does the program provide a copy of the parent handbook prior to enrollment?
  • Does the program clearly outline the cost of care, field trip, or special program fees, and any other fees?
  • Does the program have a policy regarding drop-off and pick-up times, including who can pick up your child?  Are there fees for late pick-ups?
  • Does the program have a policy for times when it may close, such as for certain holidays, inclement weather, or in case of emergencies?
  • Does the program have a policy regarding when your child and other children should stay home because of illness?
  • Does the program have a policy regarding termination of your child care agreement?
  • Does the program have a written policy for when the provider is allowed to give medications?
  • Does the program have a written supervision policy or plan that ensure children are supervised at all times?
  • Does the program provide a written guidance and discipline policy?
  • Does the program follow a certain teaching philosophy or use a curriculum?

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