As new parents, we had no idea that choosing a daycare center would be a huge decision that could impact so much of our lives.

Think about it: daycare is a place you go to twice a day (dropping off our child, and then picking up our child), and you’re entrusting caregivers and teachers with your baby!

Aside from physically going to daycare, there’s the people you’ll meet, the (hopefully) community of parents to get to know and the other children your infant or toddler might befriend. And on top of this, there are concerns and considerations like cost, safety, certifications, resources, staff and more.

In this list, check out what we thought about when choosing a daycare—and we looked at three, ultimately forming a #1 top choice in our minds due to some of my priorities. I hope it is helpful for you!

Cost and investment

Cost alone is what helps families decide on daycare. After all, if you were ever on the fence about having kids, maybe you considered (like I did) that childcare is one of the BIGGEST things to pay for when you go back to work.

For us, we toured three daycares that were roughly the same cost. We were so early into knowing what it was like to be a parent that we didn’t even ask questions like, “Is milk provided for children over 12 months, or do we have to send it?” “Are school lunches available included in costs, for when our infant continues as a toddler and eats full meals?”

We chose a daycare that has a middle-of-the-road cost for five days a week from 8:30 to 5. We knew when we signed up that “before-care” (before 8:30am) and “after-care” (after 5pm) would come at an extra cost, and we didn’t need that because we both worked from home.

We have friends who pay more, and friends who pay less. We’re all getting basically the same thing, give or take holiday closures, meals provided and activities on the calendar.

Helpful Tip

If budget is important to you, ask around in parents groups on Facebook, as well as within your network, for what others are paying for daycare, to get a full lay of the land. Don’t be shy!

Distance from your home (and location)

Because daycare is a place you have to walk, bike or drive to, every single day when your child attends, the location plays a BIG part in the decision for us, and a lot of parents.

Distance from home

Here’s where it gets tricky: We were renting in the town we had moved to from NYC, and when our baby was born, we looked at daycares within a 15-minute radius of our apartment. We knew eventually that we might buy a house, but we had no idea where. We kind of had to take a gamble.

We wound up (luckily) choosing the daycare that was an 11-minute drive away, and what we lucked out with was buying a house that was a 7-minute drive in the opposite direction from it. So, very fortunately, when we bought our house in another town, we actually wound up closer.

At the time, we had also considered a daycare in a different direction, as well as a daycare center that was walking distance from our apartment. We considered how nice that would’ve been: to walk our daughter in the stroller or baby carrier to daycare, so that she could get fresh air and see the neighborhood on the way. If only!

Location and parking

Some daycare centers are located in residential areas, while others are downtown. Dan toured a daycare center where one of my friends had her child in a class for babies. When Dan took the tour, he came home talking about how annoying the parking lot was.

“I’m not sure if we can be picky and choosy,” I remember saying. “It’s going to come down to price and where we can get let off a waitlist.”

“Seriously though,” Dan said. “This parking lot was no good.” He commented that we’d both be parking there twice a day, and the parking lot was off a main road, tight and badly-designed.

What this goes to show is that you are welcome to critique EVERYTHING when it comes to choosing daycare! It’s going to be a big part of your daily life (and at rush hour).

Sense of community

I am very happy with our current daycare because there’s a lot of community. It makes it easier to network with other parents and it ultimately makes new parents feel more welcome when it’s easier to talk to parents of children in other classes.

The “sense of community” at our daycare is so fantastic because the school is big, with classes for children 0-4 years. There are events for children, like music events on weekends, an annual school fair, outdoor weekend events and social events for parents on weeknights from time to time.

I have spoken with friends who have children at other daycares, and the harshest scenario I’ve heard of is daycare centers that don’t even share parent contact information with other parents, as to be the utmost concerned about privacy. In this way, parents have little way of being encouraged to socialize or become friends with one another, aside from brushing shoulders at pickup and drop-off.

We’ve been lucky to continually become friendly with more families, and have playdates early on with children in the class. This is the main reason why I’m so happy we chose the daycare that we did.


In speaking with the mom friends I’ve made, daycare facilities vary greatly. Two of my friends have their children at a “home daycare,” which means someone has turned their house into a daycare center, or has a home-style daycare, which is pretty niche and intimate.

Other daycare centers my friends have had their kids at may be state-of-the-art and brand new. This is nice, because these brand new facilities tend to be great with technology and security.

And some daycare centers may be kind of old and dingy, which to me is depressing and sad. This is why it’s so important to tour these centers, and to have a few of all the classrooms, in case only the “best” ones are shown during tours.

Our daycare is at a well-renowned preschool and early childhood center nearby, and it’s part of a larger facility that has a community center. The classrooms are big and bright, and there is an outdoor play area for “littles,” and a larger playground for the bigger kids like 3 and 4-year-olds. There are pet parakeets in the hallway, and a fish tank, and a soft baby gym where our daughter loves climbing on the slide.

Resources and funding

While it may be reflected in the cost alone of the daycare in which you are interested, some daycares are well-funded, and some are struggling. In fact, some even go out of business through the years.

It may be clear when you tour if the facility is well-funded: are the classrooms clean and do things look new, or are they battered and used and need to be replaced? Is there a playground that looks well-maintained, or do the play areas need some TLC?

Consider also if the daycare center is struggling to make ends meet, or if it has a plethora of ways it’s getting funding. Some daycares are run by nonprofits, and those are the ones that may ask you for donations from time to time. Keep this in mind!

Communication with parents

As we became “daycare parents” with a child in daycare, we found out that, “wow”: there are lots of things to know about how communication is done.

What I also found, as I’ve gone on and had lots of conversations about how different daycares manage communication with parents, is that some parents have really strong opinions about it! Some parents want to see photos of their child several times a day, while some parents don’t care. Some parents want to know everything their child has eaten in real time, while other parents are OK with an end-of-day-report.

If any of these policies are priority for you, look for a daycare center and ask these questions about children’s daily reports, how parents are contacted if a child is sick, if parents in the class are able to form chat groups to talk about updates and how daycare-wide notifications are sent out, whether regarding closures, safety, fire drills or events.

There’s so much to consider!


Safety is huge nowadays, especially when it comes to young children.

Parents have all types of preferences about safety in early childhood centers—myself included. Think about things like this:

  • Do you like those daycares that have a glass window where people can see them from the outside? It’s great for transparency (and marketing), but it means the world can kind of walk by and see your child.
  • Is there security at the entrance or can anyone walk in?
  • Are there locked doors, or two sets of locked doors? Do parents need any security apps to get in?
  • What are the policies around anyone taking your child home and how is it handled?

I found it helpful to ask “real parents” with kids at the daycare center about these things and find out first-hand how they felt about safety and security.

Ratings and reviews

Ratings and reviews might be easy to find, like on Yelp, Google or other sites for parents, or they may be hard to come by if a daycare center is new.

For me, the best thing to do is to ask real parents in real Facebook groups about their experiences or thoughts.

I spoke with parents who had children at two of the places we toured, and because I didn’t know any parents at the third, I was the least interested in that school (although it was the one that was walkable to our apartment at the time!).

Staff turnover

You are welcome to ask about staff turnover during tours, or you may find out about it via word of mouth from referrals or parent communities.

Staff turnover means that staff leave the daycare for reasons that could be any from ways to get paid better or leaving the job because it wasn’t a good place to work (and this is a bad sign). If you get to talk to any teachers when you tour, ask how long they have been working there.

What you want to look for is a daycare center that has an impressive staff retention rate, because this means the staff like to be there and they want to create a long-lasting relationship with the parents and the school.