July 14, 2024

Where do I start?

Ask friends and relatives
Parents who use a program for their own children are a great source of information. But someone else's recommendation is only a starting point. You still need to see the program with your own eyes and form your own opinion--what's good for another child and family may not work for your child and you.

Get a Listing of All Licensed Early Care and Education Programs: 


to view the MECA listing of local early education and care programs
The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care maintains an on-line database of all licensed child care providers in Massachusetts. 
to search for an EEC listing of licensed early care and
education programs in Milton.

 Information and Referral Services 
Child care resource and referral agencies (CCR&R's) help parents find child care to meet their needs. They can get you started with information on what's available in your area, whether you want to know about a center-based program or care in an individual's home. R&R staff cannot tell you what programs are best, but they can give you the names of legally operating programs matching your requirements in terms of location, ages served, hours of operation, and other basics.

Community Care for Kids works with parents, child care providers, and community members to ensure that families have access to child care that meets their needs. The program serves 20 cities and towns on the South Shore. 
Call CCK at (617) 471-6473
Community Care for Kids provides services to families of all income levels.
Information and Referral Counselors can help you:

 - Obtain a list of licensed child care providers
 - Learn how to recognize a quality program
 - Receive information about appropriate resources for your special needs
 - Participate in parent training and education opportunities
 - Receive referrals to other social services

Milton Area Family Child Care Association  (MAFCCA) maintains information about the availability of family child care providers who are members of the MAFCCA. For information, call 617-696-7210 or 617-282-8596.

Important things to consider when looking for early education and care:

You want your child to be safe and happy, loved and cared for, learning a lot each day! You need to find a place where...

You and your child feel welcome
  • You are greeted personally and feel welcome when you visit.
  • Each child receives warm, individual attention.
Children and adults get along well
  • Children look happy.
  • Children play and talk together as well as with the adults.
  • Adults seem to enjoy being with the children.
  • Adults talk to and play with the babies as well as the older children.
  • Children have continuity in their relationships, remaining with the same teacher or caregiver (and children) over the course of the day and for many months or years.
Safety and health are priorities
  • The facility looks clean and well cared for.
  • Outdoor play equipment is sturdy and well anchored on proper surfacing material.
  • Children are under adult supervision at all times.
  • Equipment and play materials are clean, safe, and in good repair.
  • Staff are able to describe clear health/safety procedures as well as policies for handling emergencies.
  • Snacks and meals are nutritious.
Play and learning are valued
  • Children have periods of time without interruption to become deeply engaged in play.
  • Adults observe children's changing needs and interests and build them into their planning.
  • Adults extend children's thinking and learning through questions and comments.
  • Children have many opportunities to make choices throughout the day.
  • Books, blocks, puzzles, props for dramatic play, and other materials are kept where children can get them.
  • Adults daily read to children in groups and individually.
  • Sand, water, clay, art supplies, and other open-ended materials are available to children on a regular basis.
  • Children spend little or no time watching television or videos and never watch anything but high quality educational programming.
Staff are well-trained and dedicated
  • Staff are knowledgable about how children develop and learn.
  • Staff are involved in professional development on an ongoing basis.
  • The director has a strong early childhood background, describes the program clearly, and willingly answers any questions.
  • Staff turnover is low--usually a sign that the program values good staff and works to keep them.
  • Staff communicate with families daily to meet children's changing needs.

Call Around
You're a busy parent. To save time and energy, begin your search by calling for essential information. Remember, teachers and caregivers are busy too. It's usually best to call centers in the early afternoon (during the children's naptime) and family child care providers in the evening. Before you call, plan what you want to ask. Here are some basic questions.
  • Where is the program located?
  • What is the age range of the children in the program?
  • How are children of different ages, needs, and abilities grouped? (For example, some programs choose to combine age groups, such as infants and toddlers, while others use narrower age groupings.)
  • How many children are in each group? How many adults work with a group?
  • Is the program licensed?
  • Is the program accredited? (See NAEYC or NAFCC Accredited Program information below).
  • What are the qualifications of the director and staff?
  • What is the program cost?
You'll probably have other questions of your own. For family child care homes, you may want to ask additional questions such as "Are there pets?" and "Do any household members smoke?" If the program seems to meet your basic needs, check to see if there are openings at the time your child needs to start. It's a good idea to talk to several programs before deciding which ones to visit--and to plan on visiting several programs before making a choice.

Visit Programs
Going to see the program while the children are there is very important. Seeing what happens between staff and children is the best way to know if the program will work for you and your child. Put yourself in your child's place and consider what you see from his or her point of view. Ask yourself, "Will he be happy and involved here?" In scheduling a visit, arrange to stay for an hour or two to really get a sense of what goes on. This list of things to look for and ask about will help you make good use of your visit.

Count noses!

The number of adults and children is important because it helps determine how much attention your child will get. There should be at least one adult for every
  • three infants (1 to 15 months)
  • four toddlers (15 months to 2.9 years)
  • nine or ten preschoolers (2.9 to 7 years)
You also need to think about the total size of the group your child would be in. Two dozen toddlers in one group, for example, is too many--even if four or five caregivers are on the scene. Young children thrive on a more intimate setting where they can get to know the adults and other children well. A good rule of thumb is a group size roughly twice the number of children per adult. For instance, with the younger toddlers (five or fewer children per adult), a group size of ten children with two adults is reasonable.

What does an "Accredited Program" mean for you and your child?
Accredited early childhood programs voluntarily measure up to national standards of quality established by the professional organizations for early childhood educators: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC - for center-based programs) or National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC - for family child care providers). Going beyond minimum licensing standards, accredited programs make a commitment to excellence.

Staff in NAEYC- or NAFCC-accredited programs take part in ongoing training. They are more likely to understand children's needs at different ages, plan appropriate activities, interact with children in warm and stimulating ways, and provide positive guidance for children rather than harsh discipline.

Parents who use NAEYC- and NAFCC-accredited programs are pleased with them. These programs undergo in-depth self-study, independent observation by professional experts, and review by a national committee. Approval is for a three-year period, subject to review for reaccreditation.

For more information about NAEYC accreditation and a list of Milton^s accredited center-based early childhood programs contact The National Association for the Education of Young Children.

For more information about NAFCC accreditation, contact The National Association for Family Child Care.

from "Choosing a Good Early Childhood Program" from NAEYC 1998