What to Look for When Choosing a Preschool or Daycare - 21 Questions t - The Montessori Room
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by Laura Berthiaume February 14, 2022 5 min read

There are A LOT of factors to consider when choosing your child's daycare or preschool, many you might not have thought of.  

And if you live in an area where childcare is in demand, like Toronto, you might feel a lot of pressure to act quickly on any spot you're offered. 

No matter how urgent the situation may seem or how in demand the school is, you can still go through the questions below with the centre. 

Even if it's the top daycare/preschool in your area, you still might not share the same values and this could lead to a lot of clashing and stress for your family down the road. 

The questions below will help determine if you're mutually a good fit.  

Licensing and Accreditation 

1. Is the school/daycare licensed?

Parents in Ontario can find this out here: https://www.earlyyears.edu.gov.on.ca/LCCWWeb/childcare/search.xhtml

Most states and provinces will have a similar search engine to look for licensed child care centres in your neighbourhood. A quick Google search should pull up something similar. 

You will also find information on what types of programs they offer, i.e. infant, toddler, preschool, etc. and how many children they are licensed to care for.  This may be especially helpful to parents of infants, due to the limited amount of centres that have infant programs.  

2. If you're interested in a Montessori school, is the Montessori school accredited?

In Canada, Montessori schools are accredited by CCMA (Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators).  There are plenty of good Montessori Schools that aren’t accredited but it's something to look into if you want your child to go to an authentic Montessori school.

3. What are the qualifications of teachers?

In Ontario, preschool programs must have a Registered Early Childhood Educator (or approved equivalent) in the classroom.  Educators with an understanding of child development are important when choosing care.  

If parents are sending their children to private preschool (Montessori, Reggio, Waldorf, etc.), do the classroom teachers have the specialized training?  If they don't, they still may be wonderful educators but won't have the expertise in the various educational methods.  

Note: If parents are sending their children to a Montessori school because the method is what interests them, asking about qualifications of staff is important  because the Montessori name can be used by anyone.

4. How long has staff been working at the school?

Staff retention is usually an indicator of a good school. Staff are treated well and supported by administration. You want well-rested and calm adults caring for your children. 

Educational Approach and Values

Ultimately you'll want to be sure that the school you choose shares the same values as you do. Some parents may not want to push their child to be toilet independent or feel strongly about their child not napping at school when a mandatory rest period is required. It's important to ask the questions below to ensure that everyone is on the same page before signing a contract. 

5. What’s your educational philosophy?

Is it Montessori, Play-Based, Reggio, Waldorf, etc.? What types of activities will your child be doing throughout the day? It's worth researching each one to understand what will work best for your family.  

6. How much time do the children spend outdoors? Do they go out in all weather?

Some schools/daycares go out in rain and snow and it’s up to parents to provide appropriate clothing. There are rules on what is too cold or too hot to be outdoors, but parents may disagree.

7. What is your policy on potty training/toilet independence?

For some child care programs and schools, toilet independence is a part of their daily curriculum and is required. A child might not have to be toilet independent to join the program but it is something the teachers will work on with child pretty quickly.

Think about how you feel about this and whether it's something you want the school to take the lead on.  If toilet independence is required by the start of school, do they have suggestions on how you can support your child at home? 

8. What is your nap policy?

If a child is at school/daycare all day and under the age of 3, there is a scheduled nap time. If your child isn’t tired, has difficulty sleeping or you would prefer that they not nap, how does the school manage this?  

Logistics

9. Ask for examples of menus, i.e. snacks and lunch.

Menu should have variety. It is also worth asking if the school will let you know if your child isn’t eating at school. Some schools send reports home at the end of each day while others do not. If you have concerns about your child's eating habits, you may want to ask this ahead of time rather than assuming you’ll be notified every day.

If your child has allergies to certain foods, how will that be accommodated? 

10. What is typical communication between parents and classroom teachers?

Do parents have opportunity to speak with teachers one on one throughout the year? It can be helpful to know the best way to communicate with your child's caregiver or teacher if any issues arise. 

If you have a question, can you ask the teacher at drop off or pick up?  Most teachers are busy during this time so ask the school how best to get a message to them.     

11. Ask to observe or tour the classroom.

Teachers should treat children with respect, kindness and care, and the environment should be prepared with developmentally appropriate activities, be clean, etc.

12. Ask to speak with other families at the school/references.

13. What is your policy around illness?

Children going to school or daycare for the first time will be exposed to a lot of new germs. There are certain rules around when a child can attend and when they have to stay home. Also, if the child develops a fever or other symptoms throughout the day, parents may be expected to pick them up quickly.

Many parents new to childcare are often surprised by how often their child is sent home. It's good to understand upfront how the school handles this. 

14. What is the schedule/routine of the day?

A good school/daycare should have one, i.e. work/play, snack, circle time, outdoor time, etc.

15. Approach to discipline. 

Do they do time outs? Time ins? 

Safety Questions

16. Is everyone CPR and First Aid trained?  

Does their training include infant and child CPR?

17. What is the student/teacher ratio?

There are laws on student/teacher ratio.  For example: In Ontario, the ratio for children in care younger than 18 months is 3 adults to 10 children.  

18. How is the school cleaned and sanitized?

All schools and child care centres should have policies and procedures related to sanitation.  

Other questions you might find relevant:

19. What holidays does the school celebrate?

Are they inclusive? Do they reflect the school community?

20. If your child speaks a language other than English at home, how will this be supported?

21. What is the special needs policy?









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