Choosing Quality Child Care

Choosing Quality Childcare

Daycare teacher playing with students

Welcome!

This page is a resource for parents who need to find out more about the wonderful world of childcare. Nebraska Extension, The Learning Child (TLC) team is here to help!

The website is designed to help you and your family find several resources to make the best choice for your family. While no two childcare programs are the same, it may be helpful to identify what values, elements, and standards are important and relevant to you and your family regarding the care and education for your young children. Click on the following sections below to learn more information.

What are my first steps?

In Nebraska, anyone who provides child care to four or more children from different families must be licensed as a child care provider. For a roster listing all Licensed Home, Child Care, and Preschool Programs in the State of Nebraska, please click here.

Whether in a home, child care, or a preschool program, you can begin by exploring what arrangements will be best for you, your children, and your family and what options are available in your area. Some programs have a waitlist, so it’s a good idea to select a few options and call to schedule a visit. 

Be sure to print out the checklist below and bring it with you as it can be a helpful guide.

Download the Checklist

What does good quality care look like?

Good quality childcare is based in five sections. Click the links below learn more about what, how, and why each of these areas play an important role in the overall quality of a childcare program.


How do I know my child is safe, healthy and learning?

  • You feel welcome as soon as you walk into a child care program. Providers assist your child with the transition of a new environment and new faces.
  • The program’s curriculum should be developmentally appropriate for the various ages represented. Children are learning through safe exploration and play using interesting and stimulating materials.
  • Childcare professionals are knowledgeable about child development, assessment, developmentally appropriate practices and first aid.
  • Families are viewed as important members of the childcare program community. They are provided with updates on their child regularly. Communication between the program and the family is received in a variety of ways and the program is culturally responsive.
  • The childcare program is community oriented and utilizes local resources.
  • The program has appropriately sized furnishings and equipment which are kept clean and in good repair.
  • The program is licensed by the appropriate state agencies and administrators/owners follow all state policies and laws regarding childcare.

Resources: Is This the Right Place for My Child? 38 Research-Based Indicators of Quality Child CareThe Essentials: Providing High-Quality Family Child CareWhat Does a High-Quality Preschool Program Look Like?

Children and caregiver playing at daycare
Father walking his daughter into daycare

Why does it matter?

The early years in your child’s life are some of the most important years, so why not nurture them with high-quality care.

  • High-quality care has been linked to progress in school, higher career earnings as well as a decrease in negative behavior such as getting in trouble with the law.
  • Approximately 90% of a child’s brain development occurs within the first five years of life. This foundation is vital for success in future learning, behavior and health.
  • Programs can support and nurture a child’s early care and education experience by supporting professional development and making a commitment to program improvement. If you are interested in learning more about Step Up to Quality, a Nebraska resource that helps both families and child care providers learn more about implementing and selecting quality care please visit their website.

Resources: http://buffettinstitute.nebraska.edu/about-the-early-years, https://stepuptoquality.ne.gov/

What is DAP?

Each early childhood teacher makes many decisions throughout the day to best support children’s learning and development. Intentionality or being intentional when interacting with children is the core of developmentally appropriate practice (DAP). Teachers should create goals for children on an individual basis and ensure that the activity is both challenging and manageable for the child. In order for early childhood teachers to set these important goals they must have knowledge about child development, meeting the individual needs of each child, and respecting the cultural contexts of a child’s home and community. Learning needs should be relevant and respectful for the child and in partnership with families.

Resource: Copple, C. & Bredekamp, S. eds. 2009. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. 3d ed. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Children and caregiver playing at daycare