Choosing quality child care for your family is a very important decision. You want to find a safe, healthy environment that supports the social, physical, intellectual, creative and emotional development of your children. Below are tips to finding quality child care, as well as where you can find child care in Alberta.
You can read the Choosing Child Care: A Guide to Licensed and Approved Child Care in Alberta to help begin your search.
Types of child care
There are many types of licensed child care options available:
- day care programs that serve infants, toddlers and pre-school-aged children
- family day homes offer care in a private residence for up to 6 children, including the caregiver’s own children, with one caregiver
- group family child care programs offer care in a private residence and have between 7 and 10 children with 2 caregivers
- out-of-school-care programs operate before and after school, during lunch hours and sometimes when school is closed
- pre-school programs offer child care for 4 or less hours per day for pre-school aged children
People who offer child care out of their homes, that have not been approved to operate under the provincial family day home category, are considered private babysitters. These programs can offer private babysitting to up to 6 children, not including their own, at any given time. There are no government oversights on private babysitting arrangement, nor are they monitored by the Government of Alberta.
Find child care
To find a child care program you can:
- ask friends and neighbours for references
- contact your local Children's Services office for a list of child care programs
- use our online tool to find a program
- find daycare centres in Alberta that have a maximum fee of $25 per day
Things to consider
Your child’s needs
You know your child best. Think about where he or she will be most comfortable. List your needs. For example, if your child needs a lot of quiet time a large, busy centre may not be the best choice. Some things to consider are:
- your child’s age
- the types of activities your child enjoys
- the number and ages of children your child enjoys being with
- any food allergies or food preferences that must be accommodated
Also, each program will have different approach to how they offer child care and may provide different services, such as snacks or meals.
Other things to consider are:
- your work hours
Visit a child care facility
Visiting a child care facility allows you to ask questions and to see first-hand the kind of care offered. To help you ask the right questions, use the child care checklist and phone interview planner at the end of the Choosing Child Care guide.
When you are visiting a child care facility, there are a number of things you should be looking for.
Activities and facility
- Are the facility and equipment clean and in good condition?
- Is space arranged for children to freely choose activities?
- Are toys and equipment in reach of all children?
- Do toys and equipment suit the ages and sizes of all children?
- Are there enough toys for the number of children?
- Is there a program listing daily activities?
- Can children choose from a variety of activities?
- Do activities suit the ages of the children?
- Do children appear relaxed and involved in activities?
- Is there room for outdoor play?
- Does food for all children meet the standards in Canada’s Food Guide or Alberta’s Nutritional Food Guidelines?
- Do caregivers sit with children during meals?
Health and safety
- Do staff and children wash their hands before and after diapering or toileting?
- Are medications stored in a locked container, out of reach of children?
- Is all indoor and outdoor equipment clean and safe?
- Do staff have training in child care first aid?
Child care staff and providers
- How may staff per child are present?
- What is the training of staff?
- Are staff engaged and involved with children?
- Do staff calmly reassure children who are upset?
In Alberta, all licensed and approved child care programs must meet a minimum set of provincial standards. Alberta Child Care Accreditation establishes standards that exceed those in the provincial standards. An accreditation agency works with child care programs that want to become accredited, evaluates these programs and grants accredited status only to those that achieve and maintain the accreditation standards. To find out which child care programs in Alberta are accredited, you can use:
Choosing an approved family day home
There are many benefits for children and their families to using approved family day homes, such as:
- children are cared for in a home-based environment
- children of the same family but of different age groups may be placed together
- family day home agencies provide support for parents in finding a family day home provider that best suits their needs
- inspections are regularly conducted by the Government of Alberta and the family day home agency
- a maximum of 6 children in care supports safety and supervision of children
Child care for children with special needs
Children with special needs can receive support from the Inclusive Child Care Program in approved child care centres, family day homes and preschools.
Inclusive Child Care Programs create flexibility to meet the individual needs of children with special needs or disabilities within these child care settings. Support may include training for child care staff, consultation on programming or inclusion, resource and referral information and/or funding for additional staff.
For information about the availability of this service in your community, contact your local Children's Services office.
See more information about Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD).
Help with child care fees
If you need help paying for child care fees, you can find information on funding eligibility through the Child Care Subsidy Program.