A fifth of all-American kids are born to working-moms and are put in the trust of daycare centers as their moms go to work. But, as a mom, you need to find a daycare that you trust to watch over your little one. With the thousands of centers at your disposal, it’s easy to make a mistake or use ‘eeny, meeny, miny, mo..” to help you select. This guide, however, will give you simple tips you can use to choose the best center for your child.

1.      Consider the type of daycare
The American Academy of Pediatrics classifies daycare centers in three main categories, chain centers, nonprofit centers, and independent for-profit centers. Chain centers have a wide variety of activities and programs, but they also have bigger numbers making them less flexible in meeting every child’s individual needs. They will also not open earlier and close later than their working hours.
Independent for-profit centers, on the other hand, have smaller programs, staff, and are dependent on the enrollment fee to run. They are quite excellent because they are built around one individual, but they may experience setbacks if not enough kids enroll or when the ownership changes. A nonprofit child care center is linked with community centers, universities, organizations, and churches. They allow discounts and put enrollment fees back into the center, which benefits the kids. They have bigger programs and activities. Weigh the three options and identify centers in your area that fit within each category.

2.      Have a concrete search plan
Location, convenience, and cost are the major factors parents use to determine if the center is worth their time or not. However, you must remember that your child will spend most of his or her day there, which makes the environment a strong contender. Read reviews about each child care center you are considering and note what other parents think about it. Look for genuine reviews as opposed to endorsements. Also, check if a national organization accredits the center because it’s evidence that the center has met voluntary standards for children. In most cases, the standards are higher than those of a licensed center.

3.      Visit the center
You may read a glowing review online, but as the saying goes, seeing is always believing. Visiting the daycare center will help you gauge the environment your child will be spending his/her days in. Check if the center is clean if kids seem happy, and the ratio of kids to caregivers. Also, prepare a list of comprehensive questions you will ask the staff around the center’s education philosophy, discipline, and emergency preparedness. Ask about staff turn-around, so you know if a caregiver will stay with your child for at least a year.

Even when everything checks out, trust your gut while deciding which center should care for your child. A center that everyone in town talks about might turn you off, and when that happens, trust your gut and keep searching. You are not married to a particular center, so make the switch if you need to.