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Finding a Safe Day Care Center

Safety Savvy

All centers must meet minimum standards for licensing, but some exceed them. One sign of quality is a center that has voluntarily sought and earned accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the nation's largest organization for early childhood professionals. For a list of accredited centers in your area, visit NAEYC's Web site at www.nayec.org, or call 800-424-2460, ext. 601.

A Safety Checklist

When you tour a center, notice whether it has the kinds of safety features that you read about in Safety in the Nursery, Child-Proofing the Bathroom, Child-Proofing the Living Room/Family Room, and Child-Proofing the Kitchen.

Some important features to look for include:

  • Smoke alarms, CO detectors, and fire extinguishers
  • Safety covers on electrical outlets
  • Furniture with no sharp corners
  • Window covering cords that can't be reached by kids
  • Hinged child gates at stairways
  • Safe storage areas that keep cleaning supplies, medications, and other potentially toxic substances out of reach.
  • Tap water no hotter than 120°F
  • Equipment that is clean and well maintained
  • Soft surfaces under outdoor play equipment

Notice whether the toys are age-appropriate, clean, and in good condition. Make sure there are no small toys or parts that could choke children.

If your child is an infant, see if babies are put to sleep on their backs, and if the cribs with napping babies are free of soft bedding and toys. Check whether highchairs and infant seats have safety straps and that they are used consistently. Infants should be fed while sitting up.

Centers should have written policies regarding discipline. Ask to see a copy, and discuss with the director any questions you have.

Watch Out!

Some day care centers in cities don't have room for play equipment, so they use public playgrounds nearby. It's quite likely that some of this equipment is too big for pre-schoolers. Visit the playground when the day care center kids are there so you can see how well the caregivers restrict them to age-appropriate play structures. Also check the condition of the equipment and surfaces underneath.


A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about half the injuries occurring in day care centers happen on the playground. Give this area close scrutiny, noticing especially whether there is cushioning material under the equipment (such as wood chips or mulch, sand, or a rubberized surface). Falls, most often from climbing equipment, are by far the most common cause of injury.

Notice whether the play equipment is well maintained and is appropriate for the age groups using it. Also notice whether the playground is free of broken glass, loose rocks, and poisonous plants. If there is a sandbox, it should be kept covered when not in use to prevent animals from turning it into a litter box.

As you observe children on the playground, notice whether the center has rules for playing safely and if the rules are enforced consistently. A child who shoves others can cause serious harm to his classmates if left unchecked.

Ideally, the playground should have some shade in the summer. Even so, you should put sunscreen on your children or send in hats and other protective clothing.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety © 2000 by Miriam Bacher Settle, Ph.D., and Susan Crites Price. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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