What is quality care?

Quality makes all the difference. Finding quality child care takes time, research and hard work. But it is well worth it since your child’s well being is at stake.

In a quality program, each child feels accepted, understood, supported and respected by the adults, enjoys positive relationships with the other children and generally finds the activities interesting, engaging, and satisfying.

These are some indicators of quality in child care, identified as being critical to the well-being of children:

  • An environment that focuses on health, safety and good hygiene
  • Good nutrition
  • A well-maintained environment set up for children
  • Staff who are sensitive and responsive to children
  • Opportunities for active play, especially outside
  • Opportunities for quiet play and rest
  • Opportunities for developing motor, social, language and cognitive skills through play
  • Positive interactions with adults
  • Practices that support positive interaction amongst children
  • Facilitation of emotional growth
  • Participation of, support for and communication with parents
  • Respect for diversity and difference, gender equality and inclusion of children with disabilities 
  • High quality child care is also understood to have
  • Broad learning and development goals for children
  • An approach that allows children to be children. This means learning through play and experiencing a wide range of artistic, cultural, cognitive, social and physical activities.

Five steps to finding quality care

  • Look at your needs
  • Find out what’s available
  • Assess the environment and program
  • Assess the caregivers
  • Wrapping up the details

For more information on these steps see the CUPW guide Five steps to finding quality child care.

What to look for – a checklist

  • License or approval certificate – in a regulated setting, this will be posted in a visible place
  • Are the children’s needs being met?
  • Is the home safe?
  • Is the home friendly and warm?
  • Do the snacks and meals meet Canada’s Food Guide recommendations?
  • Are the children physically active, inside or outside, every day?
  • Is there a variety of activities that are appropriate for your child’s age and stage of development?
  • Are there quiet activities throughout the day or nap time for those who need it?
  • Does the child care provider speak to the child(ren) in a positive manner and maintain positive guiding techniques?
  • Does the child care provider discuss the child’s day with parents, including any successes or problems?
  • Does the child care provider have up-to-date first aid training and does s/he practice daily health and safety issues?
  • Is the child care provider knowledgeable about child development?
  • Is there evidence of the child care provider enhancing their knowledge through a means of professional development?
  • Is the child care provider supported by a licensed family child care agency or some other form support?
  • Can the child care provider give you references from others who have experience in child care with her/him?

Are the parents and child care provider’s needs being met?

  • Do the parents have ongoing input in their child’s care?
  • Are the parents welcome at any time?
  • Is there a substitute child care provider? Can the parent meet the substitute? What are the qualifications of the substitute?
  • Does the child care provider offer a written agreement outlining the child care arrangements?
  • Do the parents and the child care provider share updated information that enhances the quality of child care?

Finding Quality Child Care

There is a more detailed checklist available on the Finding Quality Childcare website. The website is intended to provide resources for Canadian parents in understanding and accessing high-quality child care to meet their, and their children’s needs. (The Finding Quality Child Care website was developed by the Childcare Resource and Research Unit (CRRU) and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)).

Watch the video from the Finding Quality Childcare website, Quality child care in focus: What parents should look for