Child care – Observation checklist

Visit the child care settings that you are seriously considering for your child. As you observe, consider the following questions:

  • Are there enough adults to meet the children’s needs?
  • Do the caregivers seem to enjoy caring for the children? Are there joyful interactions between the children and caregivers?
  • Do the adults and the children often talk with each other? Are children encouraged to talk with each other?
  • Do the children in the program seem happy? When a child cries or acts out, how does the caregiver respond?
  • Is the noise level in the child care areas comfortable?
  • Is the center or home bright, cheerful, clean, safe and well ventilated? Is all equipment clean, safe and in good working order?
  • Is there a posted plan of activities being followed that includes large muscle play (ie, running, climbing), quiet play with toys the child chooses, time for reading and talking, rest, and snacks and meals?
  • Is the indoor space large enough? Look for 50 square feet, measured wall-to-wall, per child.
  • Is there a sleeping or quiet area large enough for all the children to rest during nap time? (There should be at least 3 feet of space between children unless each has a separate partitioned sleeping compartment.) Are there individual cribs, beds, cots or mats to sleep on? Do sleeping children stay within view of caregivers? Do caregivers place infants to sleep on their backs? Are cribs free of blankets, toys or other objects that could pose a hazard?
  • Does each child have a place for her own belongings?
  • Is there a clean diaper-changing area for infants and toddlers? Is a sink within the caregiver’s reach near the diaper-changing area?
  • Are infants always fed in an upright position and, until they can sit by themselves for feeding, held by an adult? (No bottles should be allowed in bed or propped.)
  • Is the food nutritious, well prepared, suitable for the age group and served in an appetizing way? Do you see posted menus, or are menus given to parents in advance? Do the menus match the food that is served?
  • Are there enough safe toys easily within reach of children? Are the toys suited to the age group?
  • Are dangerous toys and equipment such as baby walkers not used?
  • Are toys that are mouthed by infants or toddlers sanitized before other children are allowed to play with them?
  • Is there protective surfacing under all indoor and outdoor climbing equipment? Indoor climbing equipment requires the same types of impact-absorbing materials and fall zones as equipment installed outdoors.
  • Are the outside play area and equipment free of sharp edges, pinch points, rocks, uneven surfaces and ditches? Is the area free of hazards such as high climbing equipment, tall slides, merry-go-rounds, trampolines, unprotected seesaws, and swings with wooden or plastic swing seats?
  • Is equipment sized and planned for use by the age group using it and inaccessible to those who are too young or too little to use it safely? Is the equipment properly installed, well maintained and in good working order?
  • Is there well-maintained impact-absorbing material such as soft sand, wood chips, smooth gravel or specially manufactured rubber mats under and extending at least 6 feet out from equipment?
  • Is the outside play area completely surrounded by the building and fencing?
  • Are the toilets and sinks clean and easy to reach? Can children reach clean towels, liquid soap and toilet paper?
  • Do Caregivers and children wash their hands at the following times:
    • Upon arrival for the day?
    • When moving from one child care group to another?
    • Before and after eating, handling food or feeding a child?
    • Before giving medication to a child?
    • Before playing in water that is used by more than one person?
    • After playing in sandboxes?
    • After changing a diaper, using the toilet or helping a child use the toilet?
    • After handling any sort of bodily fluids, such as those from noses, mouths, cuts or sores?
    • After handling pets or other animals?
    • After cleaning or handling garbage?
  • Does the facility use disposable paper towels to ensure that each child uses only his own towel?
  • Are there sinks in each room (in centers), with separate sinks for food preparation and hand washing?
  • Is the center or home free of secondhand tobacco smoke?

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics (http://www.aap.org)

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