A guide for parents in Canada

Dos and don’ts


Act as soon as possible

As soon as possible after finding out you are pregnant (or move, or decide to return to work or school):

  • Check out the options in your area for regulated child care and put your name on multiple waiting lists. You may not be able to visit a centre at this point but make sure you’re on waiting lists.
  • Look into public financial support (subsidy) for child care, as well as if, when and how you can apply for it. Find out if there’s a subsidy waiting list, and if there is, put your name on it if you think you may be eligible.

Become an expert

  • Use multiple sources (government, academic, public, online) to find out about various types of child care and their benefits and drawbacks.
  • Make sure that you are as well informed as possible about child care options in your province/territory, and in your local area.

Make visits to various child care options

  • (When the time comes), make appointments to visit to observe interactions, programming and the indoor and outdoor physical environment to get an overall impression of how a centre or family child care home operates.
  • Visit a number of different child care options – compare and contrast what you see and hear.
  • Assess the educators’/caregivers’ responsiveness, warmth and knowledge. Ask about their specific training for working with young children.
  • Assess health and safety carefully, as well as whether children are happy, well-occupied and engaged in the program.
  • Ask about all elements of the child care service and the child care day.

Be well prepared

  • Take a list of questions and things to look for to your child care visits.
  • Look online at provincially/territorially-provided websites featuring regulated providers’ licensing records (or request them from the provincial government - these are usually public information but may not be publicly displayed).
  • Talk to other parent-users of a child care option under consideration but make sure not to take anyone else’s opinion at face value.

Keep in mind....

  • A license—although it’s a necessary starting point—does not guarantee high quality. 
  • Although in most of Canada you are more-or-less on your own when it comes to finding, assessing and paying for high-quality child care, it doesn’t have to be this way—and shouldn’t be.

The United Nations defines good quality child care as a child’s right, and a woman’s right. You’re one of many many parents in the same situation, so talk to others about changing the child care situation for Canadian families.


  • Wait until you need child care to begin to look.
  • Rely heavily on personal information found on the internet such as reviews, parent opinion or providers’ testimony or advertising. That is, use the internet, but use it judiciously, for example to access provincial licensing information online.
  • Don’t take someone else’s word for it about a particular child care arrangement, and don’t rely solely on your own instincts. Get more than one perspective and be as widely informed as possible.
  • Assume that a child care centre or family home setting is of high quality just because it is licensed.
  • Assume that shiny new toys or an aesthetically pleasing environment necessarily means that the child care is high quality. Although equipment and physical environment are important, these are no substitute for well-trained staff and a good working environment.
  • Hesitate to ask questions about policies, supervision, procedures, health and safety, staff training/education, group sizes, programming, curriculum and philosophy.