Tools to Help You Choose
Choosing a child care setting for your infant, toddler or preschooler is a big decision. Understanding the key elements of quality in is an important first step in making an informed choice, but recognizing a quality setting isn’t always easy. Below are some simple tools you can use in finding a quality early care and education provider to meet your family’s needs.
There are many factors to consider when looking for a child care or preschool program for your child. First Things First encourages you to visit programs in person and use this checklist to consider the quality of the early learning programs you’re interested in. It includes questions to ask and things to look for when visiting a provider, including the classroom and outdoor environments, teacher/child interactions and other basic elements of quality child care and preschool settings. Things like:
- What are the qualifications of the director and teachers?
- Is the teacher at eye level with the kids when they are interacting?
- Are there books and other materials to encourage learning within the children’s reach?
- How are families kept informed about their child’s progress?
- Do babies spend part of their play time on their tummies?
Things to do BEFORE you visit a child care provider:
Quality begins with basic health and safety. Check the status of the provider’s license or certification.
Child care centers and home-based providers who serve five or more children for compensation are licensed and monitored by the Arizona Department of Health Services. (Settings where parents are on the premises are excluded). To find out if such a program’s license is in good standing, visit the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Providers on tribal lands or military bases may have their own licensing or certification requirements. Ask the provider for more information.
Find out if the provider participates in Quality First.
Quality First participants are committed to improving the quality of early learning they provide for the children in their care. Use our search tool to find out if the program you’re considering is enrolled.
Make a telephone call to the program director or child care home provider.
Some things to ask about:
- Hours of operation (evenings, weekends, holidays)
- Costs and available financial assistance and discounts
- Transportation for children needing part-time care
- Policies regarding sick children and emergencies
If you’re interested in learning more, let them know you’d like to drop in to visit the site in person.
Quality providers will welcome a visit from you and your child during normal hours of operation. You will want to see the children interacting with teachers and caregivers, so ask about particular times of day to avoid, such as early morning, late afternoon or nap time.
Find Quality First in your area
Currently more than 900 child care centers, homes and preschool programs in communities across Arizona participate in Quality First. Use this search tool to find those near you. These programs have made a commitment to quality improvement. With support from a team of early childhood experts, they are making improvements in areas that research shows help young children thrive.