Choosing a Home Daycare: Selecting the best physical envirnoment

You are looking for a home daycare for your child.  What’s more precious than your own child?  Therefore, what’s more important than finding the best daycare environment for your child.  You want a place where your child will be safe and happy. Let’s take a look at the physical environment of a home daycare.

What are the important elements to look for in a home daycare environment? Your child will be spending their days in this physical space and therefore their environment will have an influence on how they act, on what they do, and how they feel, both individually and towards others.  Here are a few factors to take into consideration when you are assessing this physical space:

Natural light
Visual Stimulation
Room set-up



The daycare space  needs to be big enough to hold the number of children that it will occupy it.  Remember children will be moving around in that space, not sitting quietly in a chair the way adults do.  Children need space to engage in their games and interact with their toys.  Often when parents tour a home daycare the other children are not present. In this case you need to picture several  children in the space and then assess if the space feels roomy or crowded.  Young children need guidance on how to function harmoniously in a limited space.  The larger the space the easier it will be for your child to transition from their home envirnoment to a busy daycare environment with other children. In this case, bigger is better.


Natural Light

Children’s internal biorhythms respond to natural light.  Natural light connects children to the outside world and to the passing of time in a day.  In my experience, I have found children to be calmer and happier when they are exposed to natural light during the day.  Lots of windows and fresh air balance a child’s moods and help regulate their energy level.

Not only is natural light helpful but so is a picture window that gives children a view of the outside world.  Children are very connected to nature and they love to watch the birds in a backyard tree or observe the wind rustling the leaves.  Young children also enjoy watching the comings and goings of daily activity on a street.  Trucks and delivery vans interest both genders and the garbage truck, believe it or not, is quite often a thrilling sight to see,… in a childrens world.


Visual Stimulation

If you have ever entered a store or indoor amusement park and felt the effects of too much visual stimulation then you understand the negative impact it can have on your ability to focus.  Adults know what visual stimuli to focus on and what to ignore.  They can ignore the multitude of signs and different patterns or colours on the walls. They can ignore many objects as their brain classifies the objects as not important and direct their gaze on a person who is speaking.

Children have very little practice (if any) organizing visual stimuli into ‘important’ and ‘not important’ categories.  When everything is new, everything has the same level of fasination and amazment.  Therefore, it is very difficult for young children to focus on an activity or a person when their is a lot of visual stimulation in their envirnoment.

I’m not suggesting blank white walls, but I am suggesting that you view your child’s daycare environment through the eyes of a new person on this planet.  Are there a ton of bright colours? Is the room naturally organized into different areas that is obvious to a non-reading newcomer?  What is on the walls?  Are they plastered with stimuli or in a more neutral shade of colour?  Is there a multitude of objects hanging from the ceiling?  What is the general visual impression when you enter the room?  Whatever YOU feel upon entering the room, will be magnified 100% by your child.


Room Set-up

A room that is well set up allows a group of children to play together, in pairs or alone without disturbing other people in the same room.  Look for an area where the whole group can come together comfortablly to share stories or songs.  Look for an area where children can move around, climb, dance, jump, and roll.

Does the room have a spot where children have the space to spread out a game or build a tall tower.  Are the shelves and pictures at a child’s height or an adults?  Can a child help themselves to toys or puzzles.  Is there a small table or area where they can play with a toy independently?  Look for a secluded spot where a child can be quiet and look at a book if they wish.

Take note of the major traffic paths in the room and observe how the caregiver has handled them.  Children will be frustrated if their block town is constantly being stepped on by the other children playing dress-up.

Observe where the children will eat and sleep.  Will they be tempted by toys beside them?  How is the noise level and how dark can it become for those children who need a darkened room for rest.  Where is the washroom and can a caregiver adequately monitor the room while helping a child in the washroom? Where will the children eat their meals,  and can the children be engaged in an activity  while the caregiver prepares and cleans up meals?



All toys were not created equal. Almost any toy has a wow factor of about 5 minutes.  Therfore, when you tour a home daycare there is a very good chance that your child will enjoy playing with the new unfamiliar toys during the first visit.  What about a year from then?  Ask the caregiver if she rotates her toys to keep them fresh and interesting.  Many caregivers will put out fewer toys at a time and then rotated batches of toys every few weeks.  This approach helps prevent the novelty of newness from wearing off.

Some toys ‘entertain’ children.  They have buttons to push and they make sounds or motions.  These types of toys generally do not have staying power because the way to interact with these toys is limited to the perscribed entertainment.  Think of a ball.  Can you imagine all the different things games you can do with a ball?  Different children will interact differently with a ball and it will still work for any game.  Children at different ages will play with a ball in a variety of formats and they will all be successful.

Toys like balls are classified as ‘open-ended’ toys.  The toy is formed in such a way to suggest an activity for the child and then the  child’s imagination “keeps the ball rolling”.  The toy doesn’t entertain the child, the child uses the toy to entertain themselves.  The toy can be used for one game one day and something different the next day.  Many of the simple timeless toys fall into the open-ended catergory such as balls, blocks, animal figurines, trucks, dolls and dress-up clothes.

Look for toys in the room that would appeal to your child’s intersts.  Ask the caregiver if she has a range of toys for different age groups.  Hopefully your child will stay at this home daycare and therefore toys that interest your child today may not hold their interest in a year from now.  Look for toys of good quality materials.  Plastic toys are everywhere but also look for toys made of natural materials.  A toy make of wood or natural fiber has a different feel to it and brings with it, a bit of magic.