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Choosing a day care: Check for safety

What to look for when choosing a day care.

You have a list of what you're looking for in a day care: a warm and supportive environment, plenty of outdoor play space, lots of fun activities.

But safety also has an important place on your list. So, while you're checking out child care spots, pay special attention to:

The space

The day care should be clean and in good repair. Take a close look at:

  • Surfaces. Find out how often surfaces are sanitized and what products are used.
  • Window coverings. Ideally, window coverings should be cordless. If there are corded window coverings, make sure the cords are tied up and out of the way.
  • Doors. See if kids can move from room to room without going through swinging, folding or heavy doors.
  • Stairs. They should have safety gates at the top and bottom.
  • Indoor play areas. Floor areas where kids play should be clean and free of small objects that might cause choking.
  • Playgrounds. The ground should be covered with wood chips, mulch or shredded rubber. Play equipment should be in good condition. Check to see if it's the right size and type for the age of the kids who use it.

The equipment

Cribs and high chairs are two important things to take note of:

  • Cribs. All cribs need to meet current safety standards, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. You'll also want to make sure babies are put to sleep on their backs with no soft bedding.
  • High chairs. High chairs should have safety straps, to prevent slipping and falls.

People and practices

A safety check should also include a look at the people who will care for your child and the safety practices they follow. Ask about:

  • First aid, CPR and general health training. How often do the staff have to participate in health and safety training? Are staff trained to give medications, if needed? Does everyone wash their hands properly? What are the rules about immunizations?
  • Emergency procedures. Is there a written plan for what to do in case of emergency? What happens if a child is sick, injured or lost?
  • Recalled products. Does the day care keep a list of recalled products posted? Is it updated and checked regularly?
  • Educational background of staff. Is everyone trained to work with kids? What credentials do the staff hold? Are they involved in ongoing professional education?
  • References. Can you obtain references for the center? Do caregivers have references that can be checked?
  • Criminal background checks. Have proper criminal background checks been completed for all the people your child will come in contact with? This should include volunteers, drivers and maintenance workers. In family care homes, check to see that all adults your child may encounter have had background checks.


Another aspect of safety is in numbers. It's recommended, and in some states required, that child care centers have a certain number of caregivers for a specific number of kids. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there should be one caregiver per:

  • Three infants up to 12 months old.
  • Four children 13 to 35 months old.
  • Seven to eight preschoolers ages 3 to 5 years.

There are also recommended limits on the size of groups. It's safest to have kids in groups of no more than:

  • Six infants up to 12 months.
  • Eight children 13 to 35 months old. 
  • 14 to 16 preschoolers ages 3 to 5 years.

To learn more about choosing a safe day care, visit the Child Care Aware website at

Reviewed 2/10/2023

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This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual's particular health plan.