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Quality Child Care: How Do I Know It When I See It?

Rose Allen, Extension Educator – Family Relations; Reviewed by Reviewed by Ronald L. Pitzer, Family Sociologist and Professor – Family Social Science

Revised July 2013 by Kathleen A. Olson, Program Director — Partnering for School Success.

Finding out about all the options open to you is only the first step in selecting child care. The next step is to determine the quality of care in the child care centers or family child care homes you are looking at. This can be the most difficult part of the process. To make sure you are selecting quality care for your child, you should be able to answer yes to most, if not all, of the following questions.

Are caregivers caring for only as many children as they can handle?

If this is true, your children will be more likely to receive the attention they need and be in a safer environment.

Are children cared for in small groups?

Children in small groups are more cooperative, respond better to the caregiver, and are more likely to participate in activities.

Are caregivers well trained in all aspects of child care?

Caring for children requires special skills and knowledge. Trained caregivers will understand how to provide a safe, caring environment for your child.

Will children have the same person care for them over a period of time?

One of the greatest needs your child has is to know that every day the same person or people will be caring for him or her.

Will the physical environment around the children be safe, spacious, and pleasant?

Your child needs room for play time as well as quiet time. The space should also be safe and comfortable.

Will the care environment be nurturing and loving and provide enough interaction between caregiver and child?

Your child is a unique individual who has special needs. The caregiver should take the time to get to know your child and understand his or her own needs.

Will children be encouraged to engage in a variety of activities throughout the day that are appropriate to their age?

Children need different activities at different ages to help them develop. Look for toys, outdoor play space, and group as well as individual activities. Be cautious about too much television watching.

Is there a balance between structured activities and free time?

Children also need different kinds of structure at different ages. Younger children need the freedom to explore in an unstructured environment. Group activities are beneficial to older children. All children need a combination of freedom and structure in their day.

Are parents encouraged to participate in the activities at the child care center or family child care home?

Are you encouraged to visit your child at any time? Find out what is expected of you as the parent. Are there opportunities to meet other parents or ways you can help the provider with special activities?

Does the child care center director or family child care provider have a contract and clear set of rules that each family understands?

Make sure you read and sign all agreements and contracts. Most providers have rules and it is important that you go over them together in order to learn how the center or home operates.

Do both parents and provider understand what is expected of them in supporting each other’s efforts?

You both need to respect each other’s work. This is necessary so you can build a parent-provider partnership that will benefit your child.


Halle, T., Anderson, R., Blasberg, A. (2011, August). Quality of caregiver-child interaction for infants and toddlers (Q-CCIT): A review of the literature.

Related Resources

Halle, T., Anderson, R., Blasberg, A., Chrisler, A., & Simkin, S.  (2011). Quality of caregiver-child interaction for infants and toddlers (Q-CCIT): A review of the literature, OPRE 2011-25. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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