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Quality Child Care Program Characteristics

” When children enter the world of child care they may well spend up to 12,000 hours in child care before they reach the age parents decide it is no longer necessary – 12,000 hours, more time than they will log in elementary and secondary education. In an all-day program, the quality of the child’s day is determined by the program; indeed the quality of the child’s childhood will be hugely influenced by his experience of child care people and places.”

– Jim Greenman. Places for Childhoods: Living in the Real World. Child Care Info Exchange, July 1992.

Research shows that child care quality is strongly related to:

  • The number of children for which one adult provides care (fewer is better).
  • The number of children in a group (fewer is better).
  • The education, experience, and training of the provider (the more specific the better).
  • The consistent presence of providers (low staff turnover in a center is better).

Programs that have attained quality recognition through Vermont’s STARS program are more likely to have these characteristics.  Programs that have not attained quality recognition may also have these characteristics.

When you visit a child care program, ask about these characteristics and spend enough time see what the program looks like in action. Below are some additional questions to consider.

  • Does the provider seem to like children and enjoy being around them?
  • Does the provider greet children and parents warmly?
  • Are children’s needs met in a timely manner even when things get busy?
  • Are the areas of the home used by children welcoming and friendly?
  • Do children have the opportunity for free play in which they choose their activities and explore their own interests?
  • Do children have access to books?  Does the provider read to children?
  • Does the provider have conversations with each child?

Watch what the children are doing:

  • Are they fighting or arguing or are they engaged in play?
  • Are there a variety of toys including dress-up clothes, playdough, dolls, trucks, blocks, paper, crayons?
  • Does the space look clean and hazard free?
  • Is the outdoor play equipment sturdy and well anchored on surface material that will break a fall?

Most importantly, notice how it feels:

  • Would you be happy here everyday?
  • Is this a place you will feel comfortable leaving your child?
  • Will you feel comfortable talking with the provider about things that are going as well things that are not?

Notice how your child is responding to the people and the place.

If you are not sure, visit again.  Feel free to call us to talk about what you’ve learned and how you feel.