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For Families and Employers!

Over the years, Nannies Toronto Inc. staff has met and worked in partnership with many families. Our role as resource has many facets. Click here if you would like us to find you the right nanny/caregiver. We share information about specific child-related topics, source books, articles and videos about specific topics, find community agencies that assist families and act as ‘sounding boards’ for families on our waiting list or who call us with questions about how to look for alternative high quality child care, temporary or permanent.
We hope the information you find here will help you as you start looking for a high quality Caregiver arrangement for your child and your loved ones.

Choosing Child Care
What Is High Quality Child Care?
The Process of Finding High Quality Child Care
When to Start Looking for Child Care
Types of Child Care
Choosing Child Care: A Checklist
Nannies and Babysitters
Interview Questions for Nannies or Babysitters
Questions for Child Care Centres
Choosing home-based child care
The Physical Environment
Snacks and Meals
The Rest: The Affective Environment and The Caregiver

Choosing Child Care

Who cares for children? What is best for children? There is no ideal circumstance. What is good for one child may not be for another. One parent may thrive at home with a young infant. Another (for example, one with a colicky infant) might find the same thing terrifying. Some parents can easily make choices that match their demands. Others cannot.
That said, child care is a fact of life. If you are a parent and you have a job, chances are, you need child care.
In earlier times when parents worked, grandparents were often nearby to help with the children. Today, this is more of an anomaly. Grandparents and other close family members frequently live far away. Often, even if they do live in the vicinity, they are not available during working hours.
If you do have a relative that is available for child care, what may seem an ideal situation has a few pitfalls to consider. It´s true that a grandmother or cousin will love your child. She or he may even cost less than a non-relative. It´s also true that because she is doing you a favour you may feel like you can´t tell this person what to do. Complaints often result in bitterness and hurt feelings. If things don´t work out at all, non-relatives are easier to fire.
Some families choose child care because of family circumstances. Others want the benefits of high quality early childhood education programmes for their children. Whatever the motivation for choosing child care one fact remains, just as high quality child care is good for children, poor quality child care can be harmful.
Your child will spend a lot a time in whatever child care arrangement you make. If your child is in care for eight or nine hours a day, s/he will spend more than two thousand hours there each year. Considering that the first six years of a child´s life are so crucially important to all areas of his or her development, you´re entrusting a lot to someone else.
Whatever the reasons you are looking for child care remember you are in charge. The child is yours – so is the responsibility. There is no child care fairy who will grant your wish for a perfect solution. There are good examples of all types of child care. There are also horrible ones. The kind of child care arrangement you make is much less important than its quality. Again, good care for children is good, poor care can be detrimental.
Finding high quality child care is hard, exhausting, time-consuming work, but it is also essential; it does make a difference. Knowledge is the key so before you start to search, you must know a few things. For instance… What is high quality child care? Does it really exist? How will I recognize it when I see it? What if I´m not sure?


What Is High Quality Child Care?

High quality child care is good for young children. It is also good for parents who are working or studying. If you do not have confidence in your child care arrangements, your time away from your child will be stressful. You will worry more about your child and you will be less productive at work or in your studies. Investing the time to find good child care that works for you and your child is worthwhile.
There is a lot of controversy about what makes high quality child care. The list that follows, outlines the criteria that must be met for care to be considered of high quality.

  • High quality child care must meet the needs of the family
  • High quality child care provides for the health and safety of the children.
  • The environment is safe.
  • The children are supervised always by a caregiver who knows about child safety and first aid.
  • Nutritious meals and snacks are served.
  • The caregiver follows sanitary practices that maintain a healthy environment for the child(ren).
  • High quality caregivers understand how children learn and develop.
  • They recognize and value the uniqueness of individual children.
  • They know how to create a balance of activities for the child(ren).
  • They understand that a child needs a somewhat flexible schedule of both active and quiet times.
  • They know that a child may differ greatly from one day to the next – needing a change of pace from time-to-time.
  • They understand that children need to be able to choose from a variety of activities that interest them.
  • A high quality caregiver – whether nanny, grandparent, home provider or early childhood educator – can read a child´s behaviour and knows how to provide for that need.
  • Parents are the most important adults in a child´s life. High quality caregivers will know this and reinforce this fact in all their dealings with the family.
  • High quality caregivers have positive relationships with the children. The way caregivers respond to children´s physical and emotional needs shows they respect and like them.
  • High quality care givers use positive behaviour management and guidance techniques. The overall sound of play should be cheerful, not necessarily quiet, but pleasant. The very nature of children and relationships means that it won´t always be happy, but happy sounds and cheerfulness should predominate.
  • High quality caregivers spend time with children.
  • More time is spent with the children, at their level – for instance at low tables, on the floor, etc. – than doing ‘adult things’ like paperwork.

Note: Even after you find a suitable arrangement for your child you must continue to monitor it vigilantly. You want and need the arrangement to work, so you can work. Don´t be tempted to ignore a ‘gut feeling’.
Nanny, sitter, regulated home provider, non-regulated home provider, nursery school, child care centre, lab school: What does it all mean? What type of child care is best for your child? That depends, to a certain extent, on your situation. Work demands, financial considerations, and availability are significant. Your needs, your child´s needs and luck are factors too.


The Process of Finding High Quality Child

Part I: Decide what your needs are
As a start, consider the following:

  • What locations are best for us?
  • What hours do I need care?
  • What arrangements would suit my child? Consider his or her temperament, character, personality, age.
  • What can you afford to pay?
  • Is there any financial assistance available?
  • Do I qualify?
  • Does my employer or union offer work place child care? Are there any provisions for consulting or referral services?
  • Find out what government agency in your area, regulates child care.
  • Ask this agency how you can obtain information about regulations and licensing information for child care in your area.
  • Read and understand the regulations.
  • Two caveats
  • Regulations are only minimal standards. They represent the bare minimum that providers and their programs must meet.
  • A license does not guarantee quality, nor does it guarantee compliance with regulations. High quality programs and caregivers offer more than the minimum required.
  • Compile a list of potential child care providers.
  • Ask relatives, friends, neighbours for referrals.
  • Contact community organizations, referral services, public health departments, churches, community resource centres, ethnic organizations, the Yellow Pages, newspaper ads, supermarket bulletin boards, etc.

Part 2: Making Contact

  • Shorten your list by eliminating centres or caregivers that do not meet your families´ needs.
  • Phone each. Conduct a preliminary phone interview – discussing your needs, their availability, etc.
  • Schedule visits with possible candidates or programs.
  • Try to see or meet at least three child care possibilities. The more you see, the better you will feel about the choices you ultimately make.
  • If arrangements are for out-of-home care….Make copies of the checklists. Use one for each place you visit.
  • If arrangements are for an in-home nanny or babysitter…..Make copies of the interview questions for Nannies and Babysitters for each person you interview.
  • Visit each possibility.
  • Observe the caregiver and his or her relationship with children.
  • Interview the Supervisor/Director.
  • Observe the environment both physical and affective.
  • Ask for references: parents who currently use or have recently used the child care arrangements.
  • Call the references.
  • If you think you are interested in any of the arrangements, ask if they can accommodate your child.
  • If there is a waiting list, it might be a good idea to add your child´s name. There may be a minimal charge for this. Ask for details.

Part 3: Making a Decision
Now comes the hard part – deciding which choices to eliminate, which to explore further.
Eliminate any caregiver or centre that:

  • gives you a bad or even an uneasy feeling
  • doesn´t have qualified teachers
  • has too many children for the number of adults
  • doesn´t allow parents to visit whenever they choose
  • seems unsafe
  • uses any form of physical discipline or verbally abuses children
  • (for regulated care) doesn´t meet the minimal, legislated requirements
  • is dirty…Messy is normal for places with young children. Dirty is not acceptable. Consider the place to be dirty if teachers and children are not washing their hands or the kitchen and bathroom facilities show accumulated filth.

Look closely at all possibilities that remain. Rank them in order of your preference by considering the following:

  • The information you´ve gathered.
  • Your feelings, which made you feel most comfortable?
  • How you think your child would fare in each situation?
  • Do you think s/he would be comfortable?
  • Which location is most convenient?
  • The results of reference checks.
  • Can you afford it?
  • Anything else that matters to you.

Use whichever method allows you to decide. For example, listing pros and cons, talking to friends, mulling it over for a time. Revisit and/or re-interview any possibilities that interest you.
When you have decided …. ask about availability, then put your name on a waiting list, or arrange to start your child.
Remember, you still have a lot of work ahead of you. Choosing child care and making arrangements are not the end of the task at hand. You are now a consumer of child care and as such you must continue to monitor the arrangements. Continuous communication and evaluation of your child´s care are now your ongoing responsibility.


When to Start Looking for Child Care

Circumstances are so different for every family that a definitive answer to this question is not possible. In an ideal world, every working parent would know their child care needs and have a high quality solution in place before the birth of his or her child.
The reality is that every parent embarks on his or her search for child care on a timetable that depends on a variety of circumstances including

  • when you plan to go to work
  • how old your child is
  • whether you have other children
  • how much you can afford to pay
  • whether you are eligible for a subsidy

Some parents find a solution almost immediately. Others flounder for a long time before finding what they need. Timing and luck play a role too. The main point to remember is – it´s almost never too early!
Whether you have a lot of time to plan your child care arrangements, or are faced with making an immediate decision, there are several things you must keep in mind.

What do you want?
The child care arrangement you make must work for you. Child care that mirrors your personal philosophy will be more of an extension of your family. This means you will feel a certain degree of comfort and your child will probably become comfortable more quickly.
We find that the more comfortable parents are with their arrangements, the easier it is for the children to become comfortable with the care arrangement. Although parents don´t overtly communicate their unease, young children are sensitive to their ambivalence and readily pick up parents´ fears and feelings of guilt. To help alleviate this, you should do whatever you must to become comfortable with the arrangements you choose. Time you invest before leaving your child in any kind of surrogate care is time well spent. Getting to know the person/people who will look after your child will help you when you leave your child.

Are you ready?
Whatever the reason for your search, the process of finding high quality child care can be daunting. By investing the time and effort to choose a high quality arrangement now, you will give your child a head start on becoming a more productive adult.
The task at hand may be difficult. Parents´ feelings of guilt and frustration can often compound the difficulties of a task that would intimidate child care experts – who don´t all agree on every aspect of quality. Nonetheless, parents are the ones best suited to choosing and evaluating what is best for their family.

Use the information in the sections that follow as a guideline. Use your own judgment and feelings when you look at your options. Make yourself as knowledgeable as you can. Well-informed parents advocate for high quality child care. Don´t give up. There is a solution: you just have to find it.

Note: If nothing meets your approval, take a close look at your own feelings. Perhaps, you are not ready to join the world of child care consumers. Can you make other arrangements? Perhaps you can delay the start of work, work from home, work part time, your partner can stay home, etc.


Types of Child Care

To help simplify your search for child care, the standard types are defined below.

Nannies and Sitters
The child is cared for in his or her own home, the nanny or sitter goes to the child´s home the nanny/sitter may be trained or untrained s/he may be a relative or a non-relative s/he may ‘live in’ the house with your family – usually called a nanny – or can ‘live out’ of your house – usually called a sitter.

Unregulated Family Day Care – or Home Day Care – Providers
The child is cared for in the provider´s home, the child goes to the home care provider´s home the caregiver may be trained or untrained s/he may be a relative or a non-relative the child may be the only one in care, or there may be more children

Regulated or Licensed Family Day Care – or Home Day Care – Providers
The care is provided in someone else´s home caregiver may be trained or untrained
S/he may be a relative or a non-relative the child may be the only one in care, or there may be more children the caregiver and the home care is provided in, are registered, licensed, sponsored or otherwise approved as an official home-based child care usually sponsored by an agency. The agency supervises the home care providers and provides support to them that operates on either a commercial or a non-profit basis

Nursery Schools – Child care for groups of children
Typically half-day programmes for preschool-aged children, operating between two and five days per week operated by non-profit and commercial enterprises generally licensed and regulated. Regulations vary from place-to-place, some governments do not require licenses for nursery programmes that operate less than four hours per day. They may have trained and/or untrained staff possibly cooperative, requiring parents to volunteer their time.

Child Care – or Day Care – Centres – Child care for groups of children
Offer full day child care; some offer full-week only, others, part-week too; operated on either a non-profit or commercial basis licensed and regulated.
Regulations usually address the building itself, programme, staff-child ratios, staff qualifications, group sizes, age groupings, supervision of children, discipline, health safety and nutrition standards, and more generally have, at minimum, some trained caregivers – licensing requirements vary, some have all trained staff, others only a portion – possibly cooperative. requiring parents to volunteer their time.

Lab Schools
Might be nursery schools, child care centres and even home-based child care similar to the above operated by a college, university or other educational institution used by post secondary students for research and practical experience often conduct and participate in research including child development, learning, parenting, family studies. Whether a nanny, sitter, home-based care or centre-based care best meets your family´s needs, the key is high quality. The type of care matters far less than the quality of the care.

Early childhood programs, whether home-based on centre-based, vary in philosophy, and style. Routines also vary from place-to-place. All programs for young children should take into account a child´s social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Programs differ, however, in how they accomplish these goals. Some are teacher-directed – usually a highly structured day, with activities planned and organized by the teachers. Others are mostly child-centred. Children in these programs make more choices, have more open time, and schedules are generally more flexible. Some programs have elements of both.

When making choices about any kind of child care, you should pay attention to the adult(s) who will care for your child. Do you think the caregiver´s style(s) will mesh with your own? Will it mesh with your child´s? These points will definitely affect your decision.

The sections that follow give some ideas about ‘how, when and where’ you should start on your child care quest. They should help you organize a high quality child care arrangement for your child.


Choosing Child Care: A Checklist

The questions provided can be used to help you focus on the myriad of information you must take in when visiting child care centres, or visiting home providers.

If you are visiting a home provider, some questions will need to be modified. If you are interviewing a caregiver who will come into your home, use ‘The Interview Questions for Nannies and Babysitters.’

It is your choice whether you will ask questions or observe the adults and environment first. The lists can be used in either order. Some people will want to interview the caregiver, and/or
Supervisor/Director first, then observe. Others are happier to view the people and environment first, ask questions later. The choice is yours.


Nannies and Babysitters

The reality in most of North America is that nannies or babysitters are caring for more children than organized home-based or centre-based child care centres. This is true for many reasons. There is generally less disruption to the child(ren) since they stay in their own home and don’t have to be transported elsewhere.

It is, on the surface, quite convenient for parents. A sick child, who would not be allowed into an organized child care, poses less of a problem at home. Nannies and sitters have more flexible hours, and some even do light housework and cooking.

There are disadvantages too. Cost is a factor, most notably for families with one child. Nannies are generally more expensive than other kinds of arrangements. No one supervises nannies or sitters. You aren’t home, so it’s hard for you to know what’s happening if your child can’t tell you. Choose carefully, and develop strategies that allow you to feel comfortable leaving your child in the care of a nanny or sitter.


Interview Questions for Nannies or Babysitters

    • What kind of work experience have you had?
    • Ask her about each job on his or her resume. Tell me about the children? What were they like?
    • What did you like about that job? What didn’t you like?
    • Why did you leave? Look for periods of non-employment…..ask about them. What is your educational background?
    • Does s/he have any training in child development or early childhood education? What subjects did s/he like best in school?
    • This will give you an idea about his or her abilities. Does s/he have current first aid certificate?
    • Is s/he trained in infant and child CPR?
    • Is she currently certified? What ages do you prefer working with? Why?
    • Are there any ages you don’t enjoy? Why? Ask this even if the answer is ‘no’.
    • Why did you choose this field?
    • How long do you think you will work in child care?
    • What is your idea about a typical day for my child?
    • What kinds of things would you do with him or her?
    • What would you make him or her for lunch?
    • For snacks?
    • What are you favourite things to do?
    • With children?
    • When you’re on your own?
    • Do you smoke?
    • Do you drive?

Do you like him or her so far. If yes, proceed with the next section of situations. If no, or if you are unsure this is a good place to stop. Since you will be entrusting so much responsibility to this person, being unsure is enough to eliminate the candidate now. Trust your instincts.

Think of some typical or hypothetical situations that could occur with your child. Ask how s/he would handle the scenarios. This will give you information about whether your personal philosophy is compatible with his or hers. Here are some samples.

What would you do if……

      • my child had a toileting accident?
      • my child suddenly spiked a high fever?
      • refused to go for his or her nap?
      • s/he wanted to fingerpaint with his or her pudding on the high chair tray?
      • my baby wouldn’t stop crying?
      • my child kicked your shin?
      • Eliminate any of the above and/or add your own.

Lastly, give him or her a chance to ask you any questions s/he may have. If s/he doesn’t ask you any questions about the child(ren), scratch him or her from your list.


Questions for Child Care Centres

It is usually a good idea to start with concrete, easily-answered questions about the organization, and its policies and procedures. As you feel more comfortable with interview process, you can go into more detail. Add any additional questions you have, based on your own situation.

    • Are you licensed?
    • What ages of children do you serve?
    • Are the children separated? How? Into what age groupings?
    • How many children are there now?
    • What is the maximum number you take?
    • Who works with the children?
    • How many teachers are with each group?
    • What are their qualifications?
    • How long have they been employed here?
    • How many staff have current first aid certificates?
    • How may have current CPR qualifications?
    • What kind of professional development activities do staff participate in?
    • What are your hours?
    • How much will child care cost?
    • Are there any additional fees/costs? Registration fees, field trip costs.
    • What are your arrangements for collecting payment?
    • Is fee assistance available? How do I apply?
    • Do I pay when my child is sick?
    • What about when we are on vacation?
    • What holiday or other closings do you observe?
    • Will I be charged a fee for those closings?
    • Do you give tax receipts?
    • Describe your policy regarding sick children?
    • What meals and/or snacks do you provide?
    • What types of food are served?
    • How are food allergies addressed?
    • Do I need to provide any food or supplies?
    • What will the daily schedule be for my child?
    • Do the children watch any television or videos? If yes….
    • What programs or videos?
    • For how long?
    • How often?
    • What kinds of activities will my child participate in?
      • science
      • art
      • cooking
      • language
    • Is there any free-play time?
    • How will your program help stimulate my child’s creativity and thinking skills?
    • How will it help my child develop his or her social skills?
    • What types of things will challenge his or her physical development?
    • Do the children go outside?
    • How often?
    • Where do they go?
    • Do the children have a nap time?
    • Where do the children nap?
    • What do they nap on?
    • Does each child have his or her own cot/crib/mat?
    • Does each child have his or her own bedding?
    • Do I provide it?
    • My child has a special sleep-time toy. How will you work with this?
    • What if I don’t want my child to nap for the whole time? How will you handle this?
    • What is your philosophy on discipline?
    • How do you set limits? There should, at a minimum, be NO physical punishment and/or verbal abuse!
    • What methods do you use for toilet training?
    • Do you go on any field trips?
    • How will I be notified about these?
    • How will my child be transported?
    • What will happen if there is an emergency when my child is with you?

Add your own questions……..


Choosing home-based child care

Observation Checklist for home-based or centre-based child care

You can use this list as a basis for your observations. It’s probably best to use it after you get the ‘lay of the land.’ After you’ve had a tour of the facility – or home-care environment – ask if you can stay and watch on your own. Use the checklist as you wander around and watch what happens.

Most likely, you will not be able to see everything. Mark the questions that are most important to you. Make note of any questions you have for the supervisor – or ask a caregiver if possible. Though caregivers are working with the children, there is often an opportunity for a quick chat. Try to strike a balance between observation and interrogation.

Observing is not just a visual task. It also involves listening. Do interactions sound the same whether you’re in sight or out of view?

Soon after you finish your visit, jot down your general impressions about the centre on the back of one page. Also make note of any questions you’d like answered.


The Physical Environment

Although the people in a child care setting are most important, it is probably easier to start your observation with the physical environment.

    • Does the space seem bright and well ventilated?
    • Does it seem safe?
    • Are there smoke detectors?
    • Is there a fire extinguisher?
    • Is there a first aid kit?
    • Do you see a phone with emergency telephone numbers posted?
    • Are there gates across stairs? Are the gates safe?
    • Do electrical outlets have safety plug covers?
    • Are medicines and cleaners etc., safely out of a child’s reach and/or locked away?
    • If there are second story –or higher – windows… do they have guards or are they permanently secured?
    • Are bathrooms clean?
    • Is the water too hot? It should not be so hot as to burn young skin.
    • Do the children and adults wash their hands?
    • Are diapering areas separate from food/eating areas?
    • Do adults wash hands before food preparation?
      • After diaper changing?
      • After tending to a child’s nasal discharge?
    • Does the environment seem child-oriented?
    • Do the toys and equipment seem geared for the ages of the children in them?
    • Are they clean and in good repair?
    • Do the toys and materials encourage children to make choices?
    • Are they accessible to children on open shelves?
    • Is there variety in the activities?
      • for group play?
      • for individual play?
      • for quiet play?
      • for noisy play?
    • Do you see evidence of a variety of learning areas?
      • art
      • block play
      • sand/water play
      • science and exploration
      • housekeeping/dramatic play
      • quiet play
      • manipulative play – puzzles, beads, construction toys.
      • music/movement
      • games
    • Is there a safe place for outdoor play?
    • Does it seem to suit the ages of the children?
    • Is there variety in the equipment provided out-of-doors?

Add your own items.


Snacks and Meals

  • Is there a menu that shows what children eat for meals and snacks?
  • Is the food nutritious?
  • Is the general ambiance inviting and calm?
  • Are teachers sitting with the children?
  • Do they model proper eating habits and encourage discussion?
  • Are children encouraged to help themselves? Do they help clean up?


The Rest: The Affective Environment and The Caregiver

Probably the single-most important factor in high quality child care is the adults. The way caregivers treat children is very important!

So too, is the way they respond to parents and co-workers. The way a child feels about him/herself influences his overall development. A child’s sense of him/herself and his or her self-esteem are nurtured by adults who treat children with respect and affection.

  • Are the children greeted warmly?
  • Are parents also greeted?
  • Is there a comfortable sharing of information between parent and caregiver?
  • Do children seem comfortable, happy, involved, and interested in what they are doing?
  • Is the noise level acceptable?
  • Is the noise the result of happily playing children?
  • Are educators working with the children at their level – squatting or sitting with the children?
  • Do they look children in the eyes when talking with them?
  • Does the caregiver seem to enjoy the children?
  • Does s/he listen to, and treat, each as an individual?
  • Are children’s questions answered?Are caregivers guiding, supporting and helping children, as opposed
  • to telling them what to do.
  • Do they ask open-ended questions? Ones that don’t just need one-word answers.
  • Is there evidence that adults value the uniqueness of each child? Is this communicated to the children?
  • Are crying infants picked up?
  • Do caregivers hold, cuddle and talk to infants?
  • Do children, who are hurt or have hurt feelings, promptly receive soothing and comfort?
  • Do you hear the educators talk about feelings?
  • Are children encouraged to share their feelings?
  • If there is more than one caregiver, do they seem to enjoy each other’s company?
  • Are communications between them natural and positive?
  • Do they appear to work together and trust each other?



  • Are adult voices mostly warm and gentle?
  • Does there seem to be a sense of trust between the children and caregivers?
  • Are limits set positively and clearly?
  • Is guidance provided, in a firm, gentle manner that doesn’t humiliate?
  • Are choices offered, problem-solving encouraged, and logical consequences used?
  • Do you see the caregiver heading off trouble before it starts?
  • Do children make choices about what they will do?
  • Are they encouraged to do as much for themselves as possible?
  • Are children who are not participating in a group activity or finished snack doing something on their own, as opposed to having to
  • For a group of children….Do the children spend little time idly waiting for others, for example, lined up for the toilet, waiting at a snack table?



  • Do you get the feeling children, teachers, and parents are confident and relaxed?
  • Is the general ambiance pleasant?