6 steps to keep kids safe + secure in day care

How do you find a reputable, credible, licensed center that’s affordable for your lifestyle?

6 steps to keep kids safe + secure in day care

In 2015, the unimaginable loss of baby Karl Towndrow, a 3-month-old boy who was found unresponsive on his first day at daycare, broke our hearts. The news that he died during his midday nap at an unlicensed Soho childcare facility in New York City sent our minds racing, too, about how we make decisions around who takes care of our children when we aren’t there.

For most of us, choosing a day care is not only an emotional decision, but also a logistic one. How do you find a reputable, credible, licensed center that you can afford?

We pulled together tips + best practices from leading childcare + youth education organizations to help you to find the best childcare solution for your family. Here are the 6 steps to take.

1. Start planning.


  • In order to help make a daunting task less stressful, it is best to start early. Give yourself three to six months to find the right childcare option for your family, before your maternity leave. You don’t want to waste your precious cuddle time researching options online or touring centers.
  • Set up a meeting with someone from your local Child Care Resource and Referral [CCR&R] agency. This expert can help you navigate your options. Make sure to ask them if you qualify for any child care financial assistance programs.
  • Ask family members, friends and neighbors for recommendations or advice.
  • Make a list of all the important qualities you want your dream childcare center to have.

2. Check licensing, accreditation and qualifications.

3. Consider logistics.

  • Location: Do you want your child to be at a center near home, near where you work, near your partner’s workplace?
  • Hours: Do you need hours super early in the morning? Late at night? Overnight? Weekend hours?
  • Fees: What is the cost per child? Per additional child? How are payments made? Do they offer any financial assistance?
  • Staffing: What is the ratio of adults per children in each room? Who is the lead in each room? What are the credentials one must have to be the lead of the room? What happens when a staff member is out due to illness or time off?
  • Supervision: Will your child be supervised at all times including nap time, outdoor play, meal times, etc.?
  • Schedule and activities: Does each room follow a schedule? Are activities appropriate for each age range?

4. Study the environment + safety.

  • Does the center have a good overall reputation? Ask around.
  • Does the center offer a clean, sanitary and tidy environment for your little one? Is it up on its health and safety licensing?
  • Make sure all staff is CPR certified.
  • Is there a health professional (nurse, doctor, etc.) available if necessary?
  • Will the childcare provider communicate with you on a regular basis, providing feedback on how your child is doing?
  • Will they be taking your child anywhere outside of the childcare center campus, e.g. on walks or field trips? Are you okay with that? Ask the people who run the center whether they have proper carseats and seat belts, and be sure to see this equipment with your own eyes.
  • Ask how they handle emergencies.

5. Learn the philosophies.

  • Do you know the childcare center’s ideals and values? You want to have a partner-type relationship with your child’s day care provider, and it’s important to share the same core values.
  • How do they handle discipline? Does this align with the way your family does things?
  • Does the center welcome parents visiting? Is this important to you?

6. Once you choose your childcare center, stay involved. Here are top tips from Child Care Aware:

  • Have parent-caregiver meetings regularly, and ask questions.
  • Offer to volunteer time when needed, like participating in cleanup days and fixing broken toys.
  • Be there for your child’s birthday party.
  • Visit your child at childcare and read a book aloud.
  • Join in special events, like field trips, career day and holiday celebrations.
  • Remember, even if you can’t get time off from work during the day, you can still check in at drop-off and pickup times. Ask the caregiver how things are going and how your child is doing.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

    You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

    Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

    As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

    Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

    Keep reading Show less

    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.


    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

    Keep reading Show less