By Cara Johnson-Bader

Choosing child care is one of the most important decisions you will ever make for your child. Research increasingly tells us that the first years of a child’s life are critical to shaping his or her future health and development. High-quality child care and education in the early years can make a positive difference for the future of your child. By making a thoughtful decision now, you can help your child develop the skills needed to be successful in school.

To help you make the best decision for your child, researchers have identified quality indicators with information on what to look for and ask about to find out if the program you are considering will be a safe, healthy, nurturing, learning environment for your child. Below is a handy checklist to assist you in finding the best program for your family.


• Are the teachers affectionate, responsive, and sensitive to the children?

• Does the school have a policy or philosophy on guidance and discipline?

Health & Safety and Physical Environment

• Are the children properly supervised at all times?

• Are policies and procedures in place to keep children safe (entrance security system, handwashing policies, administration of medication policy, etc.)?

• Are classrooms clean, safe, and hazard-free?

• Do the meals and snacks meet USDA Child and Adult Food Program guidelines?

Teacher Qualifications

• Do the teachers have experience in caring for children and a minimum of an early childhood credential or higher degree?

• Are the teachers expected to receive ongoing professional development and training?

• Does the school have long-term staff and teachers employed?


• Does the program have daily or weekly lesson plans that include a variety of activities – dramatic play, music, outdoor play, reading, science, technology, engineering, art, and math?

• Does the curriculum target physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and literacy and language development?

• Is there a balance between child-initiated and teacher-directed activities?

Child Assessment

• Does the curriculum include an assessment of the child’s development?

• Are parent-teacher conferences offered, allowing parents to visit with the child’s teacher in a focused way about the child’s development and progress and to develop shared plans for educating and caring for the child?

Licensing and Accreditation

• Does the school have a positive reputation in the community?

• In addition to state licensing, is the school accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)?

Family Involvement

• Are families welcome to visit at any time and encouraged to participate in activities?

• Do teachers use an electronic communication app to share information and photos with families on a daily basis?

Whatever decision your family makes about early child care and education, it is vital that your child’s first learning experiences be of the highest quality.

Cara Johnson-Bader is the Vice President of Marketing and Parent Experiences at New Horizon Academy and mother of two young boys. Learn more about New Horizon Academy at

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