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9 Red Flags to Watch Out for on Your Daycare Tour
Updated on
February 17, 2023

9 Red Flags to Watch Out for on Your Daycare Tour

By Karell Roxas
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9 Red Flags to Watch Out for on Your Daycare Tour.
Be especially wary (maybe, run!) if you notice any of these problems on your daycare tours.9 Red Flags to Watch Out for on Your Daycare Tour

You’re on the hunt for the greatest daycare that ever existed and now that you’ve narrowed down your list to the handful of places you feel best about, it’s time to visit to see if they’re as good as they seem on paper.

When you first step in the door, it may feel overwhelming. Give yourself enough time to take it all in. “Spend at least one hour observing the facility, paying careful attention to interactions between adults and children,” says Rachel Robertson, Vice President for Education and Development at Bright Horizons.

You may have lots of questions on the visit itself, like should you bring your child with you? It depends on your preference—and if your child is actually born. Some daycares have six-month or year-long wait lists, so you may be touring daycares while pregnant. While it can be beneficial to leave your baby at home so you can focus on the task at hand, it can be helpful to see how the staff interacts with your child, as well as your child’s reaction to the environment. Do what makes the most sense for your family—you can always come back for a second visit if you need to.

So how will you know if the daycare you’re visiting is right for you? Some things will be obvious the minute you step in the door but others won’t. This visit is a crucial part of the decision-making process, so you’ll probably already have your antennae way up. Here are red flags to keep in mind as you tour any daycare:

  • Too many kids. Does it seem like there aren’t enough adults for all the children in the space? Licensing laws mandate daycare centers follow specific child-to-caregiver ratios for safety and quality of care purposes. You can find your state-specific regulations on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’s website.

  • It’s unclean or unsafe. Does the overall environment or toys feel shabby or dirty? Maybe the toys aren’t age-appropriate or nothing looks child-proofed. Or you notice that they don’t wipe down surfaces after the children have eaten or don’t wash their hands after diaper changes.

  • Children seem bored or unhappy. Maybe there’s little to no interaction between the caregivers and kids, or the interaction you do witness doesn’t feel warm or engaging. Or the environment isn’t age-appropriate and the activities or games aren’t stimulating.

  • Caregivers don’t seem caring. Are they ignoring the kids, leaving children unattended or seem like they’re too harsh in their interactions and disciplinary tactics?

  • High employee turnover. This could be a sign that the caregivers aren’t being treated well or the overall environment isn’t one that encourages good people to stay. If some of the caregivers have been there for more than three years, that’s a great sign.

  • The daycare isn’t licensed or its license is expired. Well, that’s illegal. To find this out, ask the daycare for their license number and then do a little detective work online Find the database of licensed childcare facilities for your state on a government website, which varies by state. It’s usually found on the Department of Social Services website or the Office of Children and Family Services. Any licensing complaints will be found there.

  • The caregivers/daycare director gives you a bad vibe. Perhaps they skirt answering your questions, don’t seem forthright about the daycare’s policies or procedures, or seem sort of okay but still give you a bad feeling. Trust your gut.

  • They won’t provide references or won’t let you drop by the daycare unannounced. Reviews are everything and hearing other families’ experiences with the center is really helpful in the decision-making process. Once your child is actually attending the daycare, you won’t want to drop by since it could be disruptive or upsetting to your child (since they’ll expect to leave with you). While you’re still searching though, the facility should be OK with an unannounced visit.

  • The director is difficult to get a hold of, or generally slow in getting back to your emails or phone calls. As a parent, establishing a relationship with the center director and teachers is just as important as your child’s relationship with them—they’ll become a big part of your child’s village. If communication is tough, this could be the beginning of a frustrating relationship where you don’t feel prioritized or heard.

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Karell Roxas

Karell Roxas is a writer, editor and parent who lives in Brooklyn.

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