How to recognize a good home daycare

By Andrea Howick & Lianne Castelino on September 09, 2013
According to Statistics Canada’s 2008 figures, 64 percent of Canadian households have both parents working, and that number is steadily on the rise. If your family falls into this category, you will likely be making childcare arrangements during your baby’s first or second year.

Many parents turn to in-home childcare for their daycare needs. Childcare in someone’s home offers many benefits:
  • fewer children than an institutional daycare
  • more flexible rates and pick-up times
  • warm home environment
  • opportunities for your child to develop social skills
  • no worries if your home is a mess (which might be a concern with a caregiver in your home)
  • usually less expensive than a nanny or an institutional daycare.

Home-based care falls into two categories: regulated and unregulated (also sometimes referred to as licensed and unlicensed). Daycares are regulated in each province by a designated ministry, such as education or children.

“A regulated home daycare will be attached to a larger body for greater accountability,” says Marni Flaherty, Board President of the Home Child Care Association of Ontario (HCCAO) and CEO of Today’s Family Early Learning and Childcare, a non-profi t childcare association that represents 70 home daycares in the Hamilton area. Unregulated home daycares must still comply with rules specifying the number of children allowed.

Today’s Family helps parents find full-time, part-time, shift (think overnight), weekend and emergency care. They also coach parents on what to look for when selecting a home daycare for their child.

Regardless of whether you are able to find a regulated home daycare through an agency, or you are considering the neighbourhood favourite who is unregulated, there are several things to look for and keep in mind.

Marni Flaherty of HCCAO has this advice for parents looking for home daycare:

  • Familiarize yourself with the rules around unregulated daycare. In Ontario, for instance, unregulated home daycares cannot care for more than fi ve unrelated children at a time. In Alberta, it’s six children, not including the childminder’s.
  • Ask for and check references. Happy parent customers are a good sign.
  • Look for a daycare provider with experience or education to do the job. Being a parent is just one qualifi cation, but not the only one.
  • Look for programs that take the children out a minimum of three to four times per week. The local library, drop-in centres, the park, recreation centres…the expectation is not to educate the children per se, but provide a stimulating screenfree environment.
  • Are children involved in preparing snacks and meals? This indicates the daycare is providing learning experiences in every aspect of care.
  • Ask to see the whole house. The caregiver might tell you the children never have access to certain parts of the house, such as the basement, but if you feel there are things in the basement you fi nd unsafe, you might not be comfortable leaving your child there.
  • Ask if the educator takes courses to learn best practices about child development, nutrition and other areas of childcare.
  • Don’t underestimate your gut instinct, it can tell you a lot about the daycare that might not be on your checklist. Parents can feel a lot of pressure with the back-to-work date looming, but the most important thing is to feel comfortable that your child will thrive in the home you have chosen.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2013.

By Andrea Howick & Lianne Castelino| September 09, 2013

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