Congressional School Blog

The Three Keys to Finding the Right Day Care

A guide to comparing and sorting through child care options.

Written in Collaboration with Stephanie Hecker, Early Childhood Coordinator



Choosing child care is one of the biggest decisions that you will make for your young one in the first few years of their life. Unfortunately, it isn't always the easiest decision. You turn to Google and find that not only are there a lot of location options, but there are different types of childcare. There are different approaches. There are different wait lists. There are different costs. There are different services covered by those costs. 

So how do you start? The keys to choosing the right day care are to prioritize the important factors, ask the right questions, and in the end, follow your instincts.   


7ea030ea9554a681707273d559caa48e    b2a70090c42d90332407ec2b371e7cb6    0399ee7e0c2e3b384cff436b7079d9f9    bfd9ab3ebd48f752b445a70a73cf0528


Prioritizing the Important Factors

Each child care program you research is going to have different elements that make it appealing. Look at the list below. Take a moment and rank these in order of importance. Actually write it out and force yourself to put them in order. Is the location the most important aspect of your search? Or would you be willing to sacrifice going a little out of your way if it meant there was more outdoor space for your child to play in? Or if their hours of operation better fit your needs?

By having a tangible list to see what's most important to you, it will be easier for you to rank programs. Compare each option to your list to see which line up most.

If you want to take it a step further, you could try assigning a point value system with the most important factors receiving more points. Tally the points and add them up to see which comes on top.

  • Location - Where are they located and how far out of your way is it?
  • Facilities - Are the rooms engaging with colors, toys, and activities? Do the rooms, hallways, and bathrooms seem clean? What about their outdoor areas? Are there any?
  • Cost - What's the range that you are hoping to pay? What do you want included in that cost?
  • Ratios - How many teachers do they have compared to the number of children? Will your child be lost in the crowd or will they be known and appreciated as an individual?
  • Hours of Availability - What hours do they provide care? What holidays are they closed?
  • Approach - Do they provide more than just babysitting? Are the children learning and being encouraged to explore the world around them?
  • Teacher Experience and Turn Over - What background do the teachers have? Are there people who have been there a long time?


Looking for Child Care in Northern Virginia?
Consider Congressional School's
Early Childhood Program—over 30 years of experience. Learn more and schedule a tour.



Ask the Right Questions

We encourage you to tour (either in person or virtually) the centers you are considering. If the center is not currently offering tours, ask to set up a time to talk with the director or admission representative. You're going to want to ask questions and clarify information before making a decision. 
And, it is important to ask the right questions. We've compiled a list for you to take a look at and use as a guide. You may have certain things on your mind and forget to ask about others. Take our list. Add to it. And we hope that it helps. 
We also recommend that you ask the same questions at each place you interview. That way you are able to directly compare answers to determine which ones most fit your needs.
Follow Your Instincts
We know this one is vague, but it needs to be said. In the end, after all of your comparisons and lists, listen to your heart. Follow your instincts. When you visit a child care provider, what feeling do you get there? Are people warm and inviting? Does it feel safe? Does it seem like you could connect well and partner with the teachers? Do they seem willing to partner with you? Is it a place where your child would be nurtured, given attention, and would look forward to going to each day?
Your child is worth the search and being confident in your decision. 
In the end, you want a place that feels like a home away from home. You want people who feel like extended family. You want what's best fo your child. Keep searching. You'll find it!







Stephanie Hecker

Early Childhood Coordinator

Learn More