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8 Questions to Ask Before Day 1 of Daycare

back to work Feb 28, 2023

Getting ready for your return to work and baby's 1st day of daycare?

Here are our top questions to ask before day 1 to have a solid set of shared expectations with your childcare provider; so you can worry less while you're at work. 

  1. When does the day start and end?

Some centers (or classrooms) have "ideal transition" windows at the beginning and end of the day - to accommodate staffing, create a predictable schedule for the kids, etc.
Follow up question: Is there a penalty for being late? A late fee isn't uncommon; if you think that you're going to be cutting it close at the end of the day pick-up, it's good to understand the consequences. 

2.  How do transitions work? What’s the flow?

A hand-off flow might involve you sharing some info on your little one in the morning (when did they wake, when/what did they last eat) and getting a similar report at the end of the day. Maybe there's a whiteboard with activity plans/notes for the day. Maybe there's an assigned space for your little one's coat, boots, and nap blanket. Maybe you drop off inside but pick up from the outside space on nice days. 

3. What supplies need to be provided? Areas to consider:

  • Nap needs: crib, mattress, sheets, blanket, lovey 
  • Diapering & extra clothes (for weather and messes) 
  • Feeding: extra bottles, back-up formula, food (for over 6 months old)
  • Toys? Books? High chair? Anything on the "Please Do NOT Bring" list? 

Pro tip: have a 1 month supply stocked (with current and next size up) so that you're not running out frantically. And, confirm who will track the supply for when new items are needed (parent or caregiver).

4. How do you handle Sleep/Naps?

Confirm that the sleep space is safe (guidelines here). Understand how kids are put down for naps, monitored, if they are woken up or not - this should be different for babies v. older kids. Is sleep information tracked and shared with you? (if your baby is fussy in the evening, it’s helpful to know how they slept that day!)

5. How do you handle Diapers/Toileting?

Understand how often diapers are checked/changed, if there are restrictions on types of diapers. Is diaper information tracked and shared with you? (if your baby is fussy in the evening, it’s helpful to know if they’ve pooped that day!)

As appropriate, ask about toilet training expectations or support.

6. How do you handle Feeding?

This question has a lot of possible follow-up questions - to understand the process for Warming/Making up bottles, if bottles are cleaned (or not), and what happens with unfinished bottles. For babies 6 months and older, many parents want to know about any solid food provided at daycare. And for food brought from home, it’s important do understand any processes or preferences (do things need to be cut up in advance, only cold food v. anything needing to be warmed up, etc). 

And, like with sleep and diapering, I recommend asking if feeding information is tracked and shared with you. (if your baby is fussy in the evening - or if you’re tracking milk supply -  it’s helpful to know what they’ve eaten that day!)

7. What are the options for communication during the day?

Maybe pictures and updates are texted or emailed through the week. Maybe there’s an open invite to observe the classroom. Maybe staff only reach out to you if there is a question or concern.

8.When will you definitely call? What are the circumstances that we need to pick up?

Before asking this question, it’s a good idea to review the childcare center’s Health Policy; it hopefully answers this question in full. But if not, this is an important one to understand! While I hope you have a positive experience with your childcare, it’s unlikely your child will spend any significant time (weeks, months) without getting sick at school and needing to be picked up. We’ve literally all been there. 

If you want to discuss specific changes or needs for your baby regarding any of the topics above, sooner is better! I recommend writing your requests down - and asking for confirmation. That way, the childcare center has an opportunity to clarify any processes (and whether they can accommodate change requests or not), and agreements can be shared with all staff caring for your baby.

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