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Daycare safety checklist: 10 precautions that should always be in place | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


Whether you’re on the hunt for the perfect daycare or think you’ve found “the one,” making sure a center ticks a number of crucial safety boxes is key — and we’re not just talking childproofing here (though that’s important!). From discipline tactics to the staff-to-student ratio, ensuring a daycare center is a safe place for kids physically, as well as emotionally, should be a non-negotiable before enrolling. 

“Before starting conversations with prospective child care centers, parents should do their research on local and state guidelines and requirements to make sure centers are, at a minimum, meeting them,” says Yesenia Sanchez, a KinderCare center director in Fresno, California for over 20 years. “From there, look into recommendations and guidelines from well-known national organizations, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which provide more diligent standards.”

Want to ensure daycare safety before enrolling? Make sure prospective centers meet the following criteria. 

1. Licensing standards are met

Nationally accredited centers will give your child everything they need to reach their full potential, according to Sanchez. “Think of accreditation as a big gold star in the world of early childhood education,” she explains. “Awarded by an independent organization, accredited centers meet rigorous standards in everything from teacher qualifications to curriculum to safety.” 

Sanchez recommends using the search tools provided by NAEYC or the Association for Early Learning Leaders to find accredited centers in your area. 

If a center isn’t accredited, make sure, at a minimum, they’re licensed by the state (paperwork should be prominently displayed at the facility). While a license doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality, according to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), it “sets minimum requirements and ensures that programs are monitored for compliance with these requirements.”

To find licensing regulations and licensing agency contact information in your area, use the search tool provided by the National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulations or search by your state.

“Think of accreditation as a big gold star in the world of early childhood education.”

— Yesenia Sanchez, a KinderCare center director in Fresno, California

2. Caregiver-to-child ratios are acceptable

Staff-to-student ratio recommendations can vary from state to state, so Sanchez advises researching guidance for your area or asking potential centers if they follow ratios recommended by NAEYC, which are generally lower. 

You can access the ACF’s general ratio recommendations, but keep in mind, it’s better to have fewer kids per adult. “The more adults compared to babies in each room creates a safer environment,” says Dr. Cassie Hudson, a pediatrician at Holston Medical Group in Bristol, Tennessee. “So, you want to make sure the facility is meeting your state’s criteria — at the very least. As children get older, the staff ratio could change from one staff member to 12 students. A larger ratio for older children is OK, knowing they can play more independently and don’t need as much individualized attention.”   

3. Staff is adequately trained

“Criminal background checks should always be a requirement to ensure trustworthy staff are hired at the center,” says Sanchez. Additionally, she notes, all teachers should be certified (and up to date) in CPR and first aid and have training in early childhood education or a related field. 

4. There’s an open-door policy

Parents should be wary of facilities that don’t encourage “visitation or observation of their child’s classroom,” according to Sanchez. 

“Parents should always feel comfortable visiting their child and should ask about visiting policies during their tour of the center,” notes Hudson. “Daycares should be open for parents to visit and be clear about timing, as it may depend on how many staff are available or different events going on throughout the day.”

“Criminal background checks should always be a requirement to ensure trustworthy staff are hired at the center.”

— Yesenia Sanchez

5. Safety and emergency plans are practiced regularly

Emergency plans, such as fire drills, tornado drills, lockdowns and earthquake drills, should be thorough and practiced regularly. “In addition to consistently having drills, clear and detailed protocols will ensure safe responses for a variety of emergencies,” notes Sanchez.

6. There’s a clear sick day policy in writing

Daycares are notoriously adorable petri dishes for germs, but parents should make sure “intervention measures are in place to keep all children in the classroom safe and healthy,” according to Sanchez. “This includes clear, written guidelines on when a child must stay home due to illness and a well-developed plan in place for a range of illnesses, particularly COVID,” she continues. “Any center should be able to clearly articulate their policies and offer guarantees that their policies are followed by all staff and families.”

Hudson also recommends reviewing the daycare center’s sick policy with your pediatrician during a well visit in order to make sure best practices are being employed. 

7. The facility is secure and spaces are childproofed

Hudson notes that daycare safety should start before you even set foot inside the facility, with a required passcode for entry or a staff member who lets you in (doors should not be open at all times) — and it shouldn’t end there. 

“When it comes to classroom safety, parents should look around and evaluate the space as if it were their home,” Hudson says. “If your child is an infant, make sure the cribs are out of reach of windows and blinds and children in highchairs or high seats are strapped in properly.”

“When it comes to classroom safety, parents should look around and evaluate the space as if it were their home.”

— Dr. Cassie Hudson, pediatrician

Other daycare safety musts to look for, according to Sanchez:

  • Furniture is low to the ground and secured to walls or floors. 
  • Medications and cleaning supplies are in locked cupboards.
  • Safety gates and window guards (except fire escapes) are used. 
  • Electrical outlets are capped. 
  • Playground equipment is sturdy and regularly tested to ensure safety.
  • Outdoor play areas have safe fall zones with soft landing areas.
  • All outside play areas should be enclosed with secure fencing.

8. There’s a health consultant relationship

Sanchez notes that few child care centers have a dedicated nurse or health consultant, but “all centers should have resources and contacts available for needs that may arise during the child’s day.” 

Hudson, who serves as the consultant for her children’s school, notes that while this is a “bonus,” it’s worth inquiring about before enrolling.   

“Beyond written plans and policies, parents should get updates about what occurred throughout the day.”

— Dr. Cassie Hudson

9. Discipline focuses on positives

“A young child’s ‘bad behavior’ is usually the result of the child trying to communicate a need and not being able to do so clearly — and the center should know this,” explains Sanchez, who recommends asking the daycare how they approach behavior in general, and what practices are in place to prevent potentially harmful situations, such as biting and kicking. 

“It’s important to have open communication and to fully understand how the center works with families to ensure there’s crossover between how parents handle challenging behaviors at home and how teachers handle them at school,” she says. In other words: You want the daycare discipline policy to be consistent with your parenting style. 

10. Lines of communication are open

One of the most important “safety” factors, according to Hudson? Clear lines of communication. “Beyond written plans and policies, parents should get updates about what occurred throughout the day,” she says. “Parents with infants should find out things like how much they ate, diaper counts and how much they slept. For older kids, make sure you have the option to discuss their behavior, how they are improving developmentally and the level they are learning at with the caregiver.”

For more safety tips, check out Care.com Safety.

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