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3 Rules for Choosing a Daycare

A couple of years ago, Jenn and I were finishing up our book. (Buy yours here!) I had had my two kids in daycare for a few of the most miserable months of my life. Even though we were only doing a couple of half-days, my kids were sick constantly (as were my husband and I), they were both very anxious about separating and cried a lot at drop-off, and I just didn’t have the puppies-and-rainbows feeling I wanted to have about a childcare center. I felt an immense relief when they finished their last day there and I pulled them out.

Compare that to their current daycare center and it’s like night and day. From the moment I walked into the center —ECYC (Education with Care for Young Children) in Rahway, N.J. — it felt right. So much more like “home” than any of the other ones I’d been to. It was clean and cheery. The staff didn’t feel like “staff,” but rather educators who wanted to be there. Over a year later, I still love everything about it. They take swimming lessons at the local YMCA; they go on field trips. They have exercise classes and music classes. The outdoor playgrounds are age-appropriate and amazing. The indoor space is large and clean. And one amazing perk for a busy mom: they provide a nutritious breakfast, lunch and snack. A key card is required to get both into the gated parking lot and into the building. And now that the daycare is actually now open to the public rather than specifically for company employees, I’m always recommending it. I love it, my kids love it, and even my husband, who does the majority of pickup and drop-offs (aka work), loves it.

Even though I’m used to sending my kids off for a couple of days each week, I still remember the feeling of not wanting to let my babies go. The feeling that no one else can take care of them like I do. Which is true; there is only one mom. But the most important lesson I’ve learned is that there are other people who can also do a fabulous job of taking care of my kids. For those nervous first-time parents who are picking out a daycare, I’ve got a few tips.


1. Shop around. You won’t know how a daycare stacks up against others if you have nothing to compare it to, so be sure to tour a few child care centers. I recommend visiting at least three, even if you love the first one you go to. You might be surprised by facilities and offerings one school has that you never would have known about without a tour. Don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions; they’ve heard it all.

2. Talk to other parents. The best critics of daycare centers are other moms and dads. These are the people who know the policies and practices, the ins, outs ups and downs of the facility. They’ll know if Miss Bertha loves her job or hates to be there and acts grumpy at drop-off times. Parents who have wonderful experiences love to share; parents who have had terrible experiences always want to make sure no other parent goes through the same.

3. Trust your instincts. If the place doesn’t give you a good vibe when you show up, keep shopping. If it’s not well lit, crowded, and the staff seems annoyed, you can do better. I toured a facility just blocks from my house and chose to go with ECYC, which was $100 more a month and 25 minutes away. The peace of mind was more than worth it to me.

What tips would you give other parents who are choosing a daycare center? Go with the gut is what I say! —Erin






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  1. I like that you talked about visiting three different day cares to see what each one offers. I have been looking for a place to watch my son now that I work full time. I can see how it would be nice to visit a few different places, so I can see which one I feel safest trusting with my kid.

  2. I like that you talked about finding a place that is run by people that have had kids themselves. I have been looking for someone to watch my son while I’m at work. I can see how it would be nice to find a daycare run by other parents. That way, I know that the management knows how to keep children calm.

  3. My wife and I are looking for a daycare to enroll our son in, so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about shopping around the find the best location. We’ll be sure to visit at least three locations so we can compare them.

  4. I wanted to thank you for this advice for finding a daycare. I’m glad that you mentioned to look at a few centers and to even tour them. This seems really important if you want to get a feel for the day care center and how the staff works.

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