Choosing the Right Childcare for Your Family

Back-to-school season is around the corner. For new parents and parents of young children, that may mean it is time to choose a childcare. Picking childcare can be overwhelming – it can be expensive, hard to find an opening, and every parent wants the best experience for their child. To help parents approach the decision, we asked an expert – Bea Pfeiffer, FamilyWise’s Childcare Services Manager – for advice.  

Bea Pfeiffer, First Step Childcare Center Program Services Manager

Here are some of Bea’s tips for selecting an early childhood education center or childcare for your child: 

  • Look at Parent Aware information and ratings. Childcare providers can choose to go through a rigorous process to receive a Parent Aware rating (scores from 1 to 4). Parent Aware scoring is based on a variety of factors (curriculum and staff training, to name a few) so you can trust ratings as a good overall indicator. 
  • Review Department of Human Services childcare licensing information. This gives parents and caregivers an opportunity to view any violations, such as having a dangerous environment, inadequate staff training, or lack of staff or food options, that may have occurred at licensed childcare settings. 
  • Take a tour and talk to currently enrolled families. Bea strongly recommends taking a tour during a busy time of day. “It doesn’t do any good to see a tour during naptime,” she says. You can get a better feel of the dynamics of a place during busy times like the beginning and end of the day. If you do a tour around drop-off or pick-up times, you could ask parents of enrolled children about their experiences. As Bea shared, “I can say all the awesome things about First Step, but I like to stand back and let current families talk to parents.”  
  • Ask Questions. Often when parents tour FamilyWise’s First Step Early Childhood Education Center, their biggest questions relate to the price, the size of the space, and the ratio of caregivers to children. Those questions are a good place to start. It can also be helpful to ask in-depth questions about what the average day would look like for your child. To view a list of questions to consider asking, click here. 
  • Different childcare options will have varying approaches and curriculums. Because of this, it’s important to ask questions about what their curriculum looks like and how it adapts to suit the needs of the class. At FamilyWise, our Lead Preschool Teacher uses a curriculum that gets kids ready for kindergarten while also making space for child-led approaches. For example, she will ask the preschoolers (or “friends”) what they want to learn each month. “Dinosaurs come up a lot,” says Bea with a laugh. Teachers will also incorporate learning based on what is happening in kids’ lives — “If a friend has a new baby in their family, we’ll incorporate things like baby dolls and extra books about new babies in the classroom.”  
  • Once a parent or caregiver selects childcare, even if they are really excited about it, the transition can be challenging. “I always tell parents – it’s always harder for parents than kids.” says Bea. In her experience, kids generally adapt pretty quickly. If either the child or the parent is having a harder time transitioning, Bea recommends starting with half-days for the first week. First Step has an open-door policy – parents are welcome to come in anytime. Bea tells parents, “If you feel like you need to come, it’s okay.” Often the transition is made easier by the BrightWheel app that First Step uses. It’s a two-way communications platform where parents can expect to receive regular photos and text updates about their child’s day, from breakfast to handwashing. “The app has really helped parents feel comfortable and engaged,” says Bea. There are a variety of apps that childcares may use to communicate with parents and caregivers throughout the day; if a parent would like a high level of communication, selecting a childcare that uses an app might be preferable.  


While selecting a childcare for your kid is a big decision, it isn’t one set in stone. As Bea shared, “I tell parents to give us a try. Ninety-nine percent of the time they stay with us. If it isn’t a fit, it’s okay. It’s all about the little people being happy. That’s my goal.”