When it comes time to prepare childcare arrangements for your soon-to-be baby, it’s hard knowing exactly what to ask on a daycare tour because… well, you don’t even have a baby yet! I actually remember Googling “what to ask on a daycare tour” while driving to our first daycare tour because it hit me that I was very pregnant, and very underprepared for the next 30 minutes.
I quickly found list after list after list of questions to ask on a daycare tour. Many of them were obvious, but it was still helpful to know I was walking in with a list of ready to ask question. Frazzled, unshowered, hungry, tired, and probably late to my appointment, at the very least these folks might think I was a thoughtful, put together soon-to-be mom.
So I asked all the normal, expected questions that people suggest you ask on a daycare tour. Don’t skip those questions. Ask them. The information is absolutely necessary. What’s your teacher to child ratio? What kind of training and certifications do you require? Etc., etc.
But fast forward many months and imagine me as a new mom with my little baby. All of a sudden, the thought of starting at daycare became very, very real, and very, very scary. And all of a sudden, I had so many more concerns than I did back when I was pregnant and pleasantly underprepared.
Now a days, I’m concerned about getting my baby to successfully transition through sleep, eat, wake cycles. I’m watching the clock like a maniac, and concerned about the difference between a 60 minute wake time and a 70 minute wake time. I’m hounding my husband on the weekend about exactly how many ounces she did or didn’t drink at the last feeding. I’m panicked because I can’t remember if she pooped today, or if that blowout I’m remembering was actually 4 days ago. I’m texting all of my friends and asking wait, is it okay for a baby to go 4 days without pooping? I’m thinking about how many diapers I usually go through a day, to try and plan for how many diapers I’ll need this week, this month. I’m panicked at the thought of leaving our daughter with a babysitter for two hours and want to cry when I hear her cry because she can’t find the familiar face of mom and dad in a crowded room.
See, I found that when it came time to actually start our daughter in the daycare of our choosing, I had so many more questions than when I was simply pregnant and trying to prepare for this distant, foreign moment.
So in addition to the usual slew of questions that you should definitely ask, here are 7 more questions to ask on your daycare tour. While you many not be able to predict your top postpartum concerns, I bet that asking these questions will help you feel out which daycare is going to be the best fit for your family.
7 Additional Questions to Ask on a Daycare Tour
- Do you have specific drop off/pick up times? Our daycare has an open door policy, which means I can drop off my daughter at any time during their open hours, and I can pick her up at any time. I don’t have to get us there by 8A, and the only pickup window is not between 3-6P. This may not seem important to you when you’re pregnant and not yet in the newborn stage, but depending on your daily routine, desired wake time, and work expectations, this can be an important factor.
- Does your infant room have set nap times? Some daycares have set nap times, even in an infant room. This means that they put all babies down for a nap at the same time each day, regardless of whether it fits a baby’s established routine. Some moms have to adjust their well established at home routine to fit in with daycare, and I’ve heard parents gripe about their child’s sleep at daycare just not ever really working for them. Our daycare’s infant room on the other hand is 100% based on the parent’s wishes. They do their best with all 8 babies to eat, wake, and sleep based on the parent’s preferences. As someone who has worked so hard to establish a healthy routine with Gemma, this was music to my ears.
- How do you encourage healthy sleep habits in the infant room? Some daycares rock babies to sleep. Some daycares don’t. Some daycares will hold a baby an entire nap if that is what the baby needs/parent wants. Some daycares don’t. Some daycares will let a baby fuss/cry/work it out in their crib if that’s what the baby needs/parent wants. Some daycares won’t. Some daycares allow for white noise. Some don’t. As Gemma’s daycare start date approached, my biggest concern was whether she’d be able to fall asleep/stay asleep at daycare because she had become so accustomed to sleeping in her crib, alone in a quiet nursery, with white noise and blackout shades. I was so relieved to hear that our daycare often takes bigger kids out of the room for play time / walks if there are multiple babies napping at the same time. They’ll often dim the lights if multiple kiddos are napping, and they allow white noise, sleep sacks, lovies etc.
- What does it look like if multiple babies are crying at the same time? See how your daycare responds to this question. There’s no one right or wrong answer, but it’s absolutely going to happen. Your child is going to be upset, and there are only so many teachers in the room at a given time. Just listen to their response, and gauge how comfortable they are with comforting babies, distracting, supporting etc.
- Do you provide food, formula, diapers, or any other products? Our daycare provides food once babies are eating solids, but for now I supply formula (already mixed in bottles), diapers, wipes, Aquaphor, Desitin, Boogie Wipes, bibs. Another facility we toured actually provided diapers, wipes and formula! Can you imagine the cost savings if you didn’t have to provide diapers and formula for your child 8 hours a day for however many days your child is in daycare? That was a huge perk of the other facility, but ultimately it was not the right choice for us.
- Do you take your infants out of the classroom? How often? For what kind of activities? When I first toured daycares, I was so sad at the thought of my baby sitting in the same room all day long. At home, we have our whole house. We move around. We go outside. We go on errands. We go to the library, and friends’ houses. To sit in the same small room all day long felt almost wrong. So I was happy to learn that our daycare takes even the smallest babies outside when weather permits. The infant rooms have baby buggies that they take for walks around the daycare facility. And they even visit the play spaces that are usually reserved for older kids.
- How often do teachers turnover? If you’ve ever browsed caretakers on Care.com, you’ve likely seen a lot of young woman who say they currently work at a daycare but are looking for a 1:1 in home position. Daycares see a high annual turnover rate (one report shows as high as 30%) which means your little babe may become quickly attached to a teacher only to cycle through a few in a given year. This may not be a deal breaker for you, but it will at the very least be a good thing for you to prepare yourself for mentally.