Signs of a Good/Bad Childcare Center


One of the first truly difficult decisions many parents face is choosing the right childcare center for their little one, especially first-time parents whose experience with professional childcare is limited. Learning to spot the signs of a great day care is just as important as recognizing potential red flags, which can be a very real challenge for parents.

Recognizing the Signs of a Good Childcare Center


While programs and particulars may vary from one childcare center to the next, there are some commonalities shared by outstanding facilities. These identifiers can help parents understand what they should be looking for in a childcare center

  • Licensing – Each state and local government will have their own laws regarding the licensure of a childcare center, up to an including a lack of regulation in some states. While current licensure isn’t a guarantee of quality in itself, it does show a commitment to young clients and their parents. Look for NAEYC accreditation as a sign of excellence, as the standards for accreditation are quite stringent.

  • Cleanliness and Safety – Ideally, a childcare center will offer at least thirty-five square feet of indoor space per child. A great childcare center will also be clean, well lit and in compliance with basic safety rules. Indoor and outdoor spaces should be tidy, featuring toys and play equipment which are in good condition, and standard childproofing measures should be in place.

  • Established Curriculum – While children need plenty of time for free and exploratory play, a structured curriculum is also a strong sign of a quality childcare center. Not only should there be a reliable routine, but also a focus on helping kids learn and develop.

  • Commitment to Nutrition – Some childcare centers provide in-house meal preparation, while others require parents to bring food each day. In either situation, a great childcare center will have a commitment to nutrition and health which includes adequate protection for children with food allergies, and will actively encourage children to develop healthy eating habits.

  • Qualified Teaching and Caregiving Staff – Not only will a good daycare center feature a staff of fully trained and qualified caregivers, but also a proper ratio of teachers and staff to children.

Potential Warning Signs of a Bad Childcare Center


All childcare centers are not created equal, and there are some red flags which can help parents spot the lower-quality offerings in their area. Some of the more common signs of a bad childcare center are easily recognized, while others may be a bit more subtle.


  • Unsanitary Conditions – With several children playing and learning, a childcare center may be understandably cluttered and messy at the end of the day. While leftover paint from a craft project and scattered toys may be acceptable sometimes, unsanitary conditions are not. Overflowing garbage cans or diaper pails, dirty food prep areas and unclean bathrooms are all signs of a poorly managed childcare center.

  • Lacking Curriculum and Schedule – Kids need a dependable routine in order to thrive, and a sound curriculum in order to learn and develop. If activities seem largely unorganized and there is no curriculum in place, it could be a sign of a bad childcare center.

  • Under-Qualified Staff – While not all childcare center employees will have advanced degrees, they should at least be certified in CPR, first aid and subjected to thorough background checks as part of the hiring process. Asking about staff training and observing the way caregivers interact with kids is wise, and can help to identify a bad childcare center.

  • Poor Reputation – Even the strongest marketing plan will not be able to contend with a poor reputation, something a bad childcare center will often have trouble shaking. Complaints online or from other parents should be considered a major red flag for any parent considering a particular childcare center.

  • High Staff Turnover – Great caregivers won’t continue to work in a bad childcare center, and bad childcare centers often don’t value their employees. As a result, a high turnover rate is often considered a glaring red flag in the evaluation of a childcare center.

One thought on “Signs of a Good/Bad Childcare Center

  1. I like what this article recommends about looking for a care center with an established schedule and routine. I think this could be a good way of ensuring the kids learn structure and organization at an early age. I’ll have to keep this in mind when looking at different daycares for my kid.

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