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Choosing Child Care

If your family needs child care, there are different types to choose from. Read on for the different types of child care.

A family day home is care provided in the private home of a caregiver:

  • It may or may not be approved by a family day home agency.

  • If it is approved, it is monitored and must meet government standards for many things including number of children, space, health, safety, nutrition, toys, and equipment.

Licensed child care programs provide care in a centre for more than seven children:

  • They include day care, group family child care, out-of-school care, innovative, and preschool programs.

  • Day cares are monitored to make sure they meet government standards for many things, including staff training, number of children and staff, activities, safety, fire safety, and health.

  • They may or may not provide care for infants.

What to look for in child care

Choosing child care is a very important decision. You want to find a safe, healthy environment that will support all areas of your child’s development. You will feel more comfortable with your child care decisions if you know that your child is safe with warm, caring adults.

Look for child care that has the best interest of your child as its goal and:

  • is clean, safe and secure.

  • has books, toys, and activities for different ages.

  • has enough adults to care for the number of children in the centre or home.

  • provides a variety of safe play spaces (indoor, outdoor, active, and quiet).

  • follows a flexible, yet predictable routine.

  • provides healthy meals and snacks.

  • includes and respects different languages and cultures.

Choosing child care

  • When choosing child care, trust your feelings. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right for you and your child.

  • It’s a good idea to start looking for child care well before you need it. Give yourself lots of time to explore your options. Meet with your child care provider ahead of time and discuss any specific needs and considerations. Children with special needs can do very well in a child care environment that provides high-quality care. Feeling comfortable with your child’s caregivers makes it easier to work together as a team.

  • Make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date. Children may have more infections during the first year in child care. Talk to the child care provider about their policy for children staying home when they are ill. 

Making child care decisions

Choosing Child Care is an online quality checklist with questions to ask when interviewing child care providers -

Child Care Look Up Tool provides information about specific child care options -

Adjusting to child care

You can help your child adjust to child care by providing warmth and structure.

Provide warmth

  • Spend time at the child care centre or day home with your child as he explores his new surroundings.

  • Give him time to feel secure in his new routine.

  • Act confident (even if you may not feel it). This helps your child know that he will be safe and okay.

Provide structure

  • Say “good-bye” and tell him when you’ll return before you leave. Leaving without telling him can damage the trust you’ve built with him.

  • Acknowledge his feelings. You may want to say, “I know you’ll miss me. I’ll miss you too. I will be back.”

  • Tell him that you came back just as you said you would when you return to pick him up. This will remind him that you do what you say.

  • Have him take something familiar to child care, such as a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or family picture.


There may be times when you need someone else to care for your child. It may be a relative, friend, or someone from your community.

You will want to choose someone you can trust and someone who:

  • is old enough and knows how to look after a child.

  • has First-Aid or babysitting training.

  • can handle an emergency.

  • doesn’t smoke or won’t smoke around your child.

Spend time with new caregivers before they care for your child. Leave phone numbers, parents’ full names and addresses, as well as any other emergency contact information in a place that is easy to find. Make sure you show your caregiver where this is kept.

Supervision is the best prevention

Never leave your baby unsupervised with other young children - whether they are siblings or a friend’s children.

This information contains excerpts from Alberta Health Services’ Healthy Parents, Healthy Children print and online resources. For more information on topics related to pregnancy and being a parent, and for information on where you can pick up free print copies of the Healthy Parents, Healthy Children resources, go to

The Healthy Parents, Healthy Children team is a part of the larger Healthy Children and Families’ team at Alberta Health Services. Find them on Facebook at Healthy Parents, Healthy Children or follow on Twitter @AHS_HPHC. For questions or comments, contact

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