A Parent’s Guide to Interviewing
Important Questions to Ask Your Preschool, Daycare, or Mother’s Day Out Program
Why your critical thinking matters.
The privilege of raising a child is beautiful, weighty, and the most significant impact one could ever make on the world. Those are strong words, and I mean them.
As a parent (including foster and adoptive parents and guardians), we are charged with a responsibility to explore all options and make the best choices possible for the people entrusted to us.
Birth through four-years-old is a critical time for development- never again will there be a time when brain development occurs as rapidly as it does during this time. Therefore, early childhood caregivers are all the more responsible for being knowledgable in their role- not only act as a parent’s workforce support. As parents, we can’t hire that way either. On the same token, we have to also care who is watching them- not jut what they will do. This guide will hopefully help you determine whether the caregiver or center you’re interviewing understands what it means to partner with you and your growing child in excellence. (If you think of any that I missed, leaving a comment would be so helpful!)
Before You Arrive at the Meeting…
Have a list of things that are important to you in your head. What are your top priorities? What are some deal breakers? Ask your friends who are a few years ahead of you in the parenting journey. What are they glad that their children had? What would they have done differently?
Look into them online. I’ll mention this again later in this post, but if they’re keeping children, especially in Texas, the law requires a formal license. If this is a daycare center, childcare home, or preschool program, they should be found by clicking here. When I’m posting this, we are not yet open for business, but you’ll be able to find us here soon!
A Guide to Interviewing Early Childhood Leaders
Unless you’re Johnny or Jenny on the spot, you may forget the 50 questions you’ve been stewing over as soon as you get into the meeting with the director or the key childcare provider. The purpose of this guide is to equip families with some starter questions. Bookmark this page to use, print it off and take it with you as you’re interviewing places, or copy and paste it into your phone so you have questions to ask on-hand. Or use this to go check in with the place your child is now to gain more information. Don’t be afraid to take notes! It encourages preschool directors to see parents doing their due diligence- and might help let them know that you mean business when it comes to your babies!
How would you describe your childcare philosophy and methodology?
Listen with your ears and heart. Does this align with your parenting vision for your child and family values?
What are your staff’s goals in terms of parent-teacher relationships?
The goal should be something close to a partnership with open communication.
What does communication look like between staff and parents?
There should be a procedure so when you pick your child up, you can review important information about meals, body functions (if they cannot tell you), how their day went, what they did, etc.
Are there times dedicated to specific dimensions of development? (Centers, activities, curriculum, etc.)
If they cannot explain the routine, they probably do not have one. Kids and grownups thrive with structure!
Who will be interacting with your child?
Who are the teachers? Is there a different teacher for music or art? Who will be present in the house or space? Janitors? Housekeepers? Others officing near by? Who has access to your child?
How do you handle disciplinary and behavioral problems?
This goes with the previous question. How is this monitored and followed through?
Do parents bring meals and snacks, or are they provided?
What kind of food do you serve? Where does it come from?
If your child has allergies, this would be a good time to ask how they handle that. Are the teachers trained for an epi-pen?
What do you do in moments of stress or when three children are crying at the same time?
What is your child to caregiver ratio?
What does a day in the life of your program look like?
You can see a day in the life of Honeycomb Schoolhouse here.
What are the educational and professional qualifications of the staff?
How often does staff have new training? How often do you gather for meetings?
What are tuition and fees?
What is your vaccination policy?
Is there a waitlist?
Is there a specific room or area dedicated to diaper changes? Where do the diapers go?
Are there cameras that I will have access to check in on my child throughout the day?
If there are cameras, are they placed in a way to guard children’s restroom/ diaper changing privacy?
When does the staff wash their hands?
It probably goes without saying, but knowing that there are specific times staff is required to wash their hands will help alleviate spreading of germs from one nose and face to another.
When do the children wash their hands?
At minimum: upon arrival, after a diaper change or using the restroom, before eating snacks or meals, after playing outside, after arts and crafts, before being pickup.
How often are toys sanitized?
Daily. Please say daily or twice daily. Or more if a toy has been “tasted” by a child.
What is the potty training procedure?
How does the program support children who are potty training? Do they have more than one commode available to the children? Do they allow kids to wear “rubber pants”?How long must a child be accident-free before they can come in “big kid” underclothes.
What is your sick child policy?
How do you take temperatures?
Do you have an emergency plan?
What kind of emergencies to you have a plan for, and how frequently do you do drills?
Is the staff CPR and First Aid certified for infants, children, and adults?
Are you registered and licensed by the state?
If they have more than three children in their care, ask to see their license from the state you’re in. Get their license number and check their record online for citations against the minimum standards. In Texas, it is illegal to keep more than three children in your care on a routine basis who are not related to you.
Do they take field trips?
Are there extra fees? Can you see the driving record of the person who will be driving your child?
What are the operational hours and holidays they’re closed for?
Ask about late pickup or early drop off, if you need this. Ask about late fees so you are informed.
Do you have references I can speak to?
Does the director seem passionate and educated in her role?
Does she seem genuinely confident in her employees?
Did they ask questions about your child or your family? (Or is this in the enrollment packet?)
Do the employees seem happy or exhausted?
Were you allowed access to the part of the facility where children are while children were there? (Hopefully your answer is “no.”)
Use all five senses. How does it smell? Do you hear pleasant sounds? Do you like what you see? Does it feel clean and comfortable or dirty and worn? Maybe you can’t taste the place, but maybe you can get a sense of the culture.
On the way out…
Grab the enrollment paperwork on your way out, and let this be the second phase of screening. You may also want to ask if they have an employee handbook that you can look through to know the team dynamics within their organization. (You are deciding on whether you will be leaving your child with them. Understanding the weight of this decision, this should not be an issue.) Look through their policies. Do you feel like they’ve covered all the information necessary? Is there anything in either document that you don’t agree with. If it is worth a second trip, write down additional questions to come back with for clarification.
I hope this helps parents make an educated decision on where they choose to leave their children! If I forgot anything, please do everyone a favor and leave it as a question in the comments!