Looking for childcare can be stressful for parents. Learn the right interview questions to ask, plus what to consider before making your decision.
I had one week to find a nanny for the twins.
Now, I’m not a procrastinator. In fact, quite the opposite: I started my search for a nanny several months before I planned to go back to work.
But just one week before that nanny was set to start, she called to decline the job.
Yeah… not easy on the nerves.
I found myself scrambling to find childcare, somehow fitting in interviews as well setting aside a few days for the nanny to shadow me.
Thankfully, I did find a wonderful nanny, someone who stayed with us up until the twins went to preschool. I even helped her find her next job, which she still has today. In the end, it worked out.
But goodness knows I had my fair share of the stress of finding childcare. I know it’s not always easy getting things in order. I know what it’s like to wrap your head around the fact that someone you likely don’t know will care for your child.
Whether you choose a nanny, daycare center, au pair, or in-home care, you have many options to consider.
Questions to ask when you’re looking for childcare
One of the most important parts of finding the right childcare provider for you is to ask questions. Don’t hold back on awkward, blunt, or direct questions, as this will only cause problems down the line.
Instead, be open and forthcoming with what you expect, so that you’re both on the same page. At the same time, be just as willing to answer any questions they may have of you, so you can truly aim for the best partnership possible.
Below, I listed all the questions you should ask each type of childcare provider, as well as things to consider as you make your choices.
Questions to ask potential nannies or au pairs
- When did you start caring for children?
- How many children have you cared for in the past? Make sure the nanny has experience taking care of kids the same age as yours all by herself.
- How and why did you end your previous jobs?
- What do you like best about being a nanny, and what is the hardest part?
- What do you plan to do with my child during the day?
- Have you taken childcare or child development classes?
- How did you handle a time when you disagreed with a parent?
- How would you handle sick days? With the nanny as your sole childcare provider, consider what to do if she’s not available. Think about the sick and vacation time policy you want to offer, and create a back-up plan for those days when she isn’t available.
- Is your schedule flexible if we need you to come in earlier or later?
- Are you trained in CPR or first-aid?
- Are you available to drive or take my child to activities and play dates? Since your child won’t be around other children, see if she can meet other moms and nannies for play dates so he can also play with other children.
- Are you open to light housekeeping duties?
- What is your rate?
Things to consider when hiring a nanny
- Consider what to do about providing lunch. Some families are open to their nannies helping themselves to their food, while others would rather the nanny pack their own lunch. Discuss this with your nanny during the interview.
- Be clear about your expectations regarding when and how often you’d like her to use her phone, watch television, or socialize with other caregivers during work hours. For instance, maybe you’d like her to only use her phone for personal reasons while the baby is napping.
- Be clear about whether it’s okay for her to occasionally bring her children to your home (if she has children).
Things to consider about hiring an au pair
- You’ll be opening your home to a stranger. Unlike a nanny who comes to your home for several hours, an au pair will be living with you. Make sure you’re comfortable with welcoming a stranger into your home.
- You might also have language and cultural barriers to consider. Things that may seem obvious to you may not translate or seem so obvious to someone from a different country.
- Even though an au pair is living with you, you still need to limit her working hours to about eight a day, and offer two-day breaks during the month.
Things to consider about choosing family as childcare providers
- Think about your relationship with your family member and how an employer/employee relationship will affect it. Some parents might be less comfortable being frank and open with family as they would with someone they hired. Other times, they’ll get frustrated if family members override their instructions or don’t listen.
- As with a nanny and an au pair, see how much social interaction your child will get with a family member. Will your family member be able to take him to play dates or story times?
- Think about what you’ll do if your family member is sick or unavailable.
Questions to ask daycare centers and in-home daycare
- Is the center licensed? Until when?
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you (or your staff) trained in CPR or first-aid? Do you have a background in childhood development?
- What is the daily curriculum?
- What is the staff-to-child ratio? Newborns should have no more than a one-to-three ratio. That means one adult should take care of no more than three infants at a time.
- What are your hours? Is there flexibility in the schedule?
- When are you closed, such as for the holidays?
- What is your policy if children are sick? Health should be a huge priority for daycare centers. Ask what they do if children are sick.
- How often are toys and common areas cleaned? Ask how often they wash hands and keep the facility, toys, and materials clean and maintained.
- What happens if you’re sick? If she’s the primary childcare provider, such as an in-home daycare, how will she maintain a reasonable teacher-to-child ratio if she is unavailable?
- Can parents visit unannounced?
- How did you handle a time when you disagreed with a parent?
- Do your staff members get breaks? What do you do for breaks?
- What is your staff turnover rate? You want your child to have stable childcare and trusted adults who will care for him for an extended time.
- How large is the group my child will be in?
- Will infants be in a separate room from older children?
- What are your thoughts on screen time?
- Do you feed babies on demand or on a schedule?
- What supplies or food should parents pack?
- How do you store food and other belongings?
- What is your disaster plan?
- What is your nap schedule? Where do the children sleep?
- For in-home daycare, do your personal family and friends visit during working hours? Make sure no one else is allowed to supervise the children unless they’re licensed to, including any of her own children or family members.
- What are your fees?
Things to consider when choosing a daycare
- When visiting the facility, see if the children seem happy. Do they look well-supervised and orderly? Do the staff cuddle and comfort babies? What is their tone of voice?
- Does the location seem safe? Are toys and equipment up-to-date?
- For an in-home daycare, ask whether she will focus solely on the children, or if she expects to do household tasks at the same time (however minor they may be).
Want a convenient worksheet to print out for each interview and visit? Join my newsletter and download my Childcare Interview Questions printables below! Plus, you’ll also get worksheets with questions to ask the references your nanny or daycare center provides. Download them right here—at no cost to you:
Finding and selecting childcare can be difficult. That’s why it’s important to gather as much child care information and discuss these topics upfront instead of waiting for issues to come up down the line.
And remember, what works for one family may not always work for another. Ask the questions that can help you make the decision that’s right for you and your needs.
With the childcare interview questions above, you now know what to ask to help make that decision—and hopefully with more than a week to do it.
Get more tips:
- Raising Children on a Tight Budget
- 10 Frugal Tips for Moms that Actually Save You Money
- Life with a Newborn: Expectation vs Reality
- Pregnancy To Do List: What to Prepare in the Third Trimester
Tell me in the comments: What are a few other questions you think parents needing childcare should ask when they’re looking for childcare?