Here are my top tips!
- Is there a sense of ‘family' in the family day care environment or is there just a room or area set up to look like a mini long day care centre?
- Would you feel ‘fenced in' if you spent your days here?
- What areas can the children access?
- Do the educator's own family members enter the care area?
- Are they encouraged to form relationships and interact with children and families in care?
- Do you feel welcome and comfortable in this space? Is there an outside area? Does it look safe to you as a parent?
- Are there spaces for children's belongings?
- Where do the children sleep and eat?
- Are there spaces for children to play by themselves and unwind but also come together in group play?
- What do you see on display?
- Is there evidence of the educator's qualifications, philosophy, first aid training, registration?
- Is there children's artwork or craft displayed to encourage a sense of belonging to this space?
- Is there information displayed for parents?
- Do you see evidence of parent communication or children's interactions and activities through displayed photos or other means?
- Do the children in care look happy and busy or grumpy and constantly seeking the educators attention?
- Can you see evidence of children being welcomed into the family home environment?
- If you see other parents are they engaged by the educator in a friendly and familiar way?
Regular readers will know that I value outdoor play very highly and so should you. If there isn't an emphasis on outdoor play and learning then ask yourself why.
Ask when they go outside and what they do there. The space doesn't need to be large like ours but even the tiniest of yards can offer a wealth of opportunity for messy play, gross motor fun and exploration of the environment.
Is the backyard a sea of plastic children's furniture? Nothing wrong with that approach but please ask how they use it and if the environment is changed around according to the children's ages and interests.
Opportunities for Play
- Can you see children experiencing play together in groups?
- Are they communicating with each other?
- Are they engaged and happy or constantly arguing?
- Are there opportunities for self expression and problem solving in a group environment?
- How does the educator handle conflict when it arises?
- Are there spaces for children to find their own place to play in a way that they wish?
- Can they find a quiet spot to work through their emotions or mood?
- Can you see evidence of independence and self help skills?
- Is there the opportunity to explore their interests?
- Can you see activities provided for all of the age ranges?
- Are the babies and toddlers challenged in the educational program too?
- Can you see photos of the children engaged in activities?
Invitations to Play
- Are there a range of resources?
- Can you see a mix of old and new toys and resources as well as preloved and op shop real life additions?
- Can you see evidence of recycling or upcycling of resources?
- Do the resources look age appropriate?
- Can you see natural/wooden toys throughout the house?
- Is there a focus on sustainability and the importance of children learning about the world around them and their environment?
- Are there gardens for the children to become involved in?
- Are there recycling practices in place?
- Are there animals in the environment? If so, how are they incorporated into the program of learning?
- Is there a recycling plan in place on the program?
Shiny plastic toys and climbing frames haven their place but can you see a mix of natural materials incorporated into the play spaces too?
Wood, rocks, shells, bark, sand, water…the list goes on. Whether outdoors or in I would be looking for a nice balance of quality resources, op shop treasures and natural elements in the environment. It shows resourcefulness, creativity, imagination and a love of the environment and all it has to offer to an educator and the children.
What can you see indoors and out? Would you like to play here?
Sensory/Messy Play Opportunities
- Can you see evidence of messy and sensory play?
- Ask if the children are encouraged to get messy and explore
- Ask if messy play is an important part of the program each week?
- The benefits of sensory and messy play in the early years is enormous…does the educator embrace this sort of play?
- Do the children look happy?
- Does the educator look happy?
- Does the household environment seem safe and utilsed well?
- Are the children encouraged to explore?
Love it. The whole lot is pretty much spot on. Btw I love your “bus”.
Jodie Clarke says
Thankyou for your kind comment…and yes we love our bus/train!!
A great list of questions here. Some wonderful learning experiences/play settings in your pictures.
Kim Mainville says
This is a great list! Not only for parents in search of daycare, but for providers to use as a checklist of sorts to really question themselves on what they are offering! I love it! great job!
Amy Winters says
Thanks for suggesting that we ask potential childcare centers about the opportunities the children are given for sensory, messy play and exploring. My husband and I are trying to choose a childcare center for our daughter, and it can be overwhelming with all of the options out there! I didn’t realize that sensory play was so important for a child’s early growth, so thanks for bringing that to my attention.