Tips on Choosing Child Care

Information about choosing child care.

Page updated on Aug 17, 2018 at 10:54 AM

Tips on Choosing Child Care
and a ChecklistChoosing Childcare and Checklist Image

When possible, allow yourself plenty of time and plan to visit several homes or centers. Take your child with you and observe his or her responses.

See the Brochure: Parents Guide to Child Care: EnglishArabicAmharicSpanish

Observe the Staff
Do they seem relaxed, patient, and comfortable with children? Are they well organized? Are they attentive to the children in their care? Do they share your thinking about things like discipline and activities? Do they welcome your questions?

Observe the Other Children
Are they involved in activities? Do they relate easily to the staff members? Are they treated as individuals? Do they seem comfortable and happy?

Observe the Indoor Space
Is it safe? Is it adequate? Is it bright and cheerful? Does it meet your standards for cleanliness? Are toys and equipment placed where children have free access to them? Is there a posted evacuation plan and a list of emergency numbers?

Observe the Outdoor Space
Is there enough room for children to run and play? Is the area safe and is outdoor play supervised? Is there climbing and other outdoor equipment suitable for the age of the children?

Ask About The Daily Routine
Children need a variety of activities in their day, including strenuous play as well as quiet times. They need time to rest. They need nutritious meals and snacks. A good child care program will include all of these. Take the time to watch and ask questions. Ask to see the posted activity schedule.

Ask About

  • Fees and payment schedules
  • Hours of operation, meals and snacks
  • Policies regarding holidays, vacations, and when children are sick
  • A contract or written agreement
  • A plan for parental involvement

After You Have Made a Choice
It is important to monitor your child's care. Don't hesitate to visit and observe your child at different times of the day. If you have a concern, discuss it first with the provider or center staff. Problems can often be resolved if parents and child care providers work together.



  • Treats children with respect and patience
  • Has realistic expectations for children of differing ages and interests
  • Takes time to discuss your child with you
  • Has previous experience or training in working with children
  • Practices good personal hygiene
  • Trained in first aid/CPR


  • Safe, clean indoor and outdoor areas and equipment
  • Well-ventilated, bright, cheery rooms
  • Clean kitchen area
  • Sanitary bathrooms and diaper changing areas
  • Furnishings, sinks, and toilets safely accessible to children
  • Comfortable temperatures summer and winter

Health and Safety

  • Cleaning supplies and medicines out of children's reach
  • First aid kit readily available
  • Emergency numbers posted by the telephone and emergency procedures clearly explained
  • Handwashing after toileting and before meals and snacks
  • Nutritious meals and snacks
  • Separate cribs for infants and cots or mats for others


  • Proper child-staff ratios
  • Organized but flexible program of activities
  • Plenty of creative, educational and play materials
  • Supervised rest time


  • Registration permit  from the city or a license from the State Department of Social Services
  • Written policies about fees, holidays, illness, and other considerations
  • Parents welcome to visit, discuss policies and participate in activities
  • Parent permitted to contact staff references or other families who use provider/center
  • Children who are happy

All family child care homes in Alexandria must be registered with the Early Childhood Division.  A valid Family Child Care Home Registration Permit looks like this example. The Permit must be posted inside the provider's home.  If you have any doubts about a provider please call 703.746.KIDS (5437).