Loving Childcare: A 12 Step Program

12 steps to loving childcare


I originally wrote this 12-step program a little more than a year ago, having gone through some daycare transitions.  At the time, I felt like – after moving from a different state and going through two daycares in several months – we were at peace (and dare I say ‘in love’)  with our “school” again.  It took a while, and I thought maybe some other childcare/preschool parents can benefit from our experiences, especially as it’s not the easiest process to find a place that both you and your children love, with people you can trust.



  1. Location matters:  I once got some great advice to choose a childcare facility closer to my home than my office.  That way, your child’s friends will likely live close by and go to ‘big kid’ school with them too!  Smart!  Choosing a doctor and dentist closer to home, too, makes life easier on everybody.  Less time in the car = more time snuggling and healing.  BONUS if you can find one that works smoothly with your commute.
  2. Picky Picky:  There are at least twenty zillion types of childcare facilities out there.  This Virginia Department of Social Services’ guide offers useful information to help you decide.  Back in the day, I found the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ guide invaluable.  Much of the information would be useful to any parent – regardless of state.  Also, state licensing agencies post reports against childcare facilities – so check those too, but keep in mind not all infractions are very serious. (NOTE: Each state as their own version of this.)
  3. The Name Game:  We wanted our childcare to help our children grow emotionally, socially and intellectually.  In our book, that is ‘school’ and calling it ‘school’ did two things:  It set up our expectation for the childcare and our children and framed it in such a way that my fears about it being glorified babysitting or that it was going to replace our parenting were short lived.
  4. Bye Bye Benjamins:  Childcare is painfully expensive, but your money is used to pay teachers who care for and teach your children every day.  I want them to get a livable wage and benefits for doing so!  I write the check every week; we pretend we never had that money to begin with, and we keep on truckin’!  This too shall pass.
  5. Enjoy the Ride:  Maximize your ride time with the kids in the car.  Think about how you’d want them to remember these times with mom or dad on the way to school.  Listening to NPR or a kids’ song CD?  You talking on your cell phone, or talking to them about their dreams or the day ahead?  Make it fun and memorable!
  6. A Phone call Away:  Put your childcare’s phone number in your ‘favorites.’  You can call your childcare any time for any reason and see how your child is doing.  Don’t abuse this privilege, but do call if it makes you feel better.
  7. Your Presence is a Present:  If you can, be there for special occasions or ‘just because.’  I’ve gone to school to have lunch with my daughter, hang out during ice cream time, see her play soccer and even though me being there ruined the picture, I made sure I was there for Santa pictures at school.  Be there for the moments that matter to you.
  8. Teacher’s Pal:  Know, love and honor your child’s teachers.  Learn stuff about them as a person.  Love them for what they do for your child.  Honor their place in your family’s world.  Tell them how much you appreciate them.  This relationship is so important and special.
  9. Be In the Know:  Know how your child spends his or her day.  It always makes me feel more connected to my son if I can imagine what he’s doing right now.  Keep the menu handy; check the daily lesson plan; talk with your child about what happened at school; reinforce the day’s lesson at home.  Be part of it all!
  10. Parent-to-Parent: Befriend other parents at the childcare.  Friend them on Facebook!  Get email addresses!  Arrange play dates, get-togethers, etc.  Chances are you’ll be seeing each other routinely for years to come.  Do it better together!
  11. See something, say something:  Or “do the right thing.”  If your childcare is doing something you don’t agree with, or you see something you think may endanger the children, say something right away to the director.  If they don’t or can’t respond, report it to your state authorities.  The children’s health and safety trumps everything.  Always.
  12. The Big Switch:  If something doesn’t work out, that’s okay.  People understand.  We decided to switch childcare facilities after 6 weeks.  Deciding was the easy part.  Breaking up was the hard part (!).  Make a list of pros and cons, and then leave it up to your gut feelings.  If it’s better for the children and better for your family, it will always be the right decision for you


  • Jo says:

    We love our daycare so much that we made our schedule work around hers (she’s closed on Fridays). I’m not sure if other people run into this issue, but when we first started there our daughter was a few months old so we never thought to ask about things that would apply to an older child. Now Riley’s 3 and dealing with different needs. Wish I would have put those questions on my list. Luckily it all worked out.

    Also, would love some suggestions on connecting with the other daycare parents. My husband usually does the drop off and pick up and his schedule is earlier than the other parents meaning he never runs into them. How do other parents connect when you don’t actually see each other?
    Jo recently posted..Day in the Life – Winter 2013My Profile
    Twitter: JolizieD

    • Mary Beth says:

      That’s a great question. We got lucky I guess and would run into people in the community when they had their kids with them, and connect that way. When the birthday parties start, you’ll meet them. Or – just take initiative and have a play date at your house! Then all connect on Facebook or email or whatever to stay in touch.
      Mary Beth recently posted..In Defense of Government WorkersMy Profile
      Twitter: bloombing

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