Touring a Daycare? 7 Red Flags to Look Out For

As you search for the perfect daycare for your children, it’s good to have questions ready and look for certain red flags. And one of the best ways to narrow down the right daycare is to go on a tour. It is a great way to interact with the staff, ask all of your questions and see how the children are cared for. 

On any daycare tour, you should have prepared questions. You’ll want to take your time exploring the location and observe not only the interactions between the staff and the children, but also the facility itself. You should keep an eye out for red flags that a center might not be right for you and your family. While some things will be obvious when you walk in, others won’t be.

Below are seven daycare red flags to watch out for during your tour.

Red Flag 1:

Unsanitary or unsafe – You’ll want to look around and check for any unsafe or unsanitary conditions.

  • Do the toys look like they’re cleaned or wiped down often? Now, more than ever, in the time of COVID-19, it’s important any facility is kept clean and sanitized frequently.
  • Look up at the ceiling. Are any tiles stained? This could mean a leaky roof or mold. Something you won’t want your children around.
  • Check out the restroom while on the tour to see how clean it is. Look out for an area where diapers are changed. If you don’t see a separate location for a changing area, this could mean that diapers are changed in the playroom.
  • What does the play area look like? Are there any hazardous items children could accidentally get hurt touching or climbing on? Are there any dangerous toys?
  • How many security cameras are there? Are they in the right spot? Maybe there’s too many or not enough.

Red Flag 2:

Large groups of kids – Take note of how many kids are together and how many adults are with them. Depending on the age group of the children, there are regulations of the ratio of children to adults. If it looks like the groups of children are too large, the facility might be understaffed.

Red Flag 3:

Blocked exits – Check out not only the entrance and exits, but any fire exits. Is there anything blocking exits? In an emergency, would it be easy for children and the staff to get to the exits? If a bookshelf or toys are blocking the exits, it would be hard to leave quickly. While checking out the exits, look around for non-expired fire extinguishers, as well as if there are sprinklers in the ceiling.

Red Flag 4:

High turnover of employees – Ask how long staff members have been there. If you start hearing that employees don’t stay for very long, they could be treated poorly or the daycare is a bad work environment. If employees have been there for at least three years, it could mean it’s a good place to work (and play!).

Red Flag 5:

Bored children – Are the children enjoying themselves or do they look bored and uninterested? If so, there could be a lack of interaction with caregivers or the activities could not be age appropriate.

Red Flag 6:

Poor treatment – How are the caregivers interacting with the children? Are they aggravated or annoyed? Do they seem frustrated? Are they short in their responses to the children? Are the children left unattended? 

Red Flag 7:

Bad vibe – For whatever the reason, you just get a general bad vibe when you walk in. Go with your gut. If something is off, and you just can’t quite pinpoint it, that probably means the facility just isn’t right for you. Have they answered all of your questions to your satisfaction or are they skirting some issues you’ve brought up? After your tour, are they easy to get in touch with? If not, this could be a sign of what your relationship will be like with the facility in the future, which could be bad in an emergency.

BONUS: Mask etiquette – In the time of COVID-19, you’ll want to make sure the staff is properly wearing masks. In addition, you’ll want to make sure they are mandating children of certain ages are wearing masks, and that the facility has social distancing measures in place.

In the end, you want to leave a daycare facility tour feeling satisfied with the answers to all of your questions. And you want to feel confident that your children will be in good hands. If you have any doubt, it could mean that you need to keep searching for the perfect daycare.

Types of Daycare : Home Daycare vs Regular Daycare

With so many options, it’s important to understand what types of daycare makes the most sense for your family. If you’re starting to search for a daycare, then you know it can be daunting.

Daycares may be part of national or regional chains, and others are privately owned and operate smaller centers. For the most part, they break down into two main groups: Daycare Centers and Family Daycare. It’s important to understand the differences to select the best one for your child.

Here we break down the different types of daycare options available.

Daycare Center

A Daycare Center is a childcare facility where children are cared for in groups. They are an attractive option for parents because there are multiple caregivers, larger groups of children segmented by age, and are regulated by the state. Each state sets licensing standards they must meet. Daycare centers provide classroom-style structure and access to playgrounds and other activities.The structure and the activities available are often very important to parents who choose this option. 

Family Daycare

Family daycares are based in a provider’s home. Each state regulates the number of children family daycares accept. For example in New York, up to 16 children, ages 6 weeks to 12 years old can be cared for in a provider’s home. Family daycares are smaller than daycare centers and are attractive to parents who want their kids in a smaller environment more similar to their home. A single caregiver, providing more consistency for their children, is important to some parents. Family daycares are usually less expensive than daycare centers, but also more limited in resources. Fewer kids attend a family daycare than a regular daycare, and children are grouped regardless of age. For some parents, the flexible hours, smaller ratios, and lower costs are advantages to choosing an in-home daycare. 


Headstart programs are federally funded and are free for families that meet income requirements. Children up to age 5 are eligible to attend. Headstarts are not home-based, but instead operate out of facilities like schools, community agencies, and non-profit organizations.    

Making Your Choice

The type of daycare you choose will depend on your preferences.

  • How old are your children?
  • What is your budget? You can easily find prices for daycares in your area at Upfront.
  • Do you prefer smaller ratios or a classroom setting?
  • Will your children benefit from the familiarity of in-home care?

Take the time to interview daycare providers and ask questions such as:

  • What are your licensing requirements, and is your license up-to-date?
  • What educational curriculum or activities do you provide?
  • What is your adult to child ratio?
  • Are the staff or caretakers CPR trained?
  • Has each adult in the center or home passed a background check?

Think about your family needs, narrow your options, and interview providers. Observe how your child and the potential daycare giver interact. Does it seem like a good match? Make sure that you and your child are comfortable with the caregiver. Ultimately, choose the type of daycare that fits best with your family needs.

COVID-19 Childcare Guide

Whether it’s your first child or your fifth child, picking the right childcare program can be stressful. But throw in a pandemic like COVID-19, and it adds a whole new level of stress that you’d never thought you’d have to deal with. Below are some tips that will help guide you during the childcare program selection process.

What do you need to know about childcare and COVID-19?

According to the CDC, every childcare program should have a plan in place to protect staff, children and their families from the spread of COVID-19. 

As with most businesses, childcare staff should be encouraged to wash hands frequently and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly. They should be required to wear masks, and be able to help children over the age of 2 to wear masks as well.

Employees and children should stay home if they are sick. According to the CDC, each childcare center should have a plan in place if a staff member or child within the program becomes sick.

Remember, most children do not appear to be at a higher risk for COVID-19 than adults, based on evidence from the CDC.

Childcare programs should be taking preventative measures to ensure a safe and healthy environment for your children. Here are some things, according to the CDC, that you can expect at a facility:

  • Masks – everyone over the age of 2 should be wearing one.
  • Social distancing – whether inside or outside, the centers should be ensuring that children are maintaining a safe distance from each other. This also includes keeping children in the same groups or cohorts each day, to limit their interaction with others.
  • Extra cleaning – while any child care facility should be cleaned daily, there should be more cleaning and sanitizing throughout the day. This includes any toys or mats.
  • Limited visitors – any non-essential staff should be limited inside a building; the CDC also recommends postponing or canceling the use of volunteers.
  • Staggered drop-off and pick-up times. There might even be curbside arrivals to limit the amount of people in a facility.
  • Possible temperature or health screenings for your child.
  • More PPE (personal protective equipment) for staff.
  • More hygiene stations – either sinks for hand washing or hand sanitizer dispensers.

COVID-19 childcare guide : What questions should you ask?

You are bound to have 100 questions. And when you’re speaking with staff at a facility, you will think of 100 more. Here are a few to specifically ask about childcare during COVID-19.

  • How many staff members will be interacting with your child?
  • Will staff members be required to be routinely checked for COVID-19?
  • How will the facility handle any potential or confirmed cases of COVID-19?
  • What preventative measures are in place, such as physical barriers, cleaning, etc.?
  • Will the children be placed into the same groups each day? What does playtime look like?
  • What happens if a child becomes ill? Will they be isolated?
  • What sort of toys does the facility have? How often will they be cleaned?
  • If food is served, how will the children eat? What precautions are taken to prepare the food?
  • Will children be screened each day?
  • What are things your child can bring each day? What items should be left at home?

What precautions can you take?

This COVID-19 childcare guide is helpful despite the low number of COVID-19 cases in children, you should still take precautions to not only protect them, but also yourself, your family and others.

A few precautions you can take:

  • If your child is over the age of 2, teach them how to wear a mask and explain why it’s important to wear one. Try on different styles until you find one that is comfortable, and have them wear it for a while at home to get used to it for long periods of time.
  • Teach them how to properly wash their hands with soap and water. And explain when they should be washing their hands.
  • Monitor your child for any symptoms or any other illnesses. If they fall ill, you should be keeping them home.
  • Talk to your children before, during and after they spend the day at a childcare facility. Answer any questions they have about COVID-19 honestly, to the best of your knowledge.
  • Have a backup plan if your childcare facility needs to close unexpectedly.

When should you or your child get tested?

Should you get tested? Should your child get tested? Where do you get a test? Here are few tips and guidelines about testing.

  • If someone at your childcare facility has tested positive for COVID-19, contact your health care provider. It’s important to call before heading to a doctor, as they can assess your situation and advise what is the best course of action.
  • Monitor your symptoms. If you start to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, again, contact your health care provider.
  • You may have to isolate yourself, your child or anyone in your household if anyone at the facility has tested positive.
  • If it is recommended that you get a test, your health care provider can direct you where to find a location. Call ahead to find out the procedure, as each facility is different. Test results can come back anywhere from three days to several weeks. It’s important to make arrangements for child care, if you need to keep them home for an extended period of time.  


CDC guidance on child care during COVID-19 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/guidance-for-childcare.html

10 things to do if you have a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/10Things.pdf

Keeping children healthy during COVID-19 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/children.htm