Appendix C: Guidelines for Observing in Family Childcare

Family child care is the most common form of child care in this country. Family child care providers are independent, self-employed business people who care for several children in their home. Many students are more familiar with a child care center which is a place that is set up specifically to provide child care. Child care centers include day nurseries, preschool or nursery school groups, preschool child play groups, parent cooperatives, drop-in child care centers, and group child care homes. In Massachusetts, licensed family child care providers and child care centers must meet minimum standards for health, safety, staff qualifications, and adult-child ratio.

Child Care Comparison Chart

Licensed Family Child Care Home Licensed Child Care Centers
Advantages ·       Provides care in a home-like setting.

·       May offer more opportunities for a child to interact with children of other ages.

·       Has some formal training, including first aid and CPR, to provide a safe, healthy learning environment for children.

·       Must have a doctor or nurse who is available to consult about health questions.

·       May be more willing to provide a flexible schedule.

·       Must have another adult “on-call” in case of emergencies.

·       Has more than one adult to care for your child.

·       Is able to provide care even when there are staff emergencies. (If a teacher is sick, another teacher or substitute will be there to care for your child.)

·       Provides more opportunities for a child to interact with other children.

·       Has staff who have formal training in child development and early education, as well as first aid and CPR. Many child care centers require teachers to be certified (which shows that a teacher has completed college courses).

Potential Disadvantages ·       May work alone, unobserved by others.

·       If working alone, may have more difficulty handling emergencies.

·       May experience stress and tiredness from long hours and isolation.

·       May not be available for child care when he/she is sick or has family emergencies.

·       May feel large and impersonal.

·       May have shift changes during the day which could mean:

  • your child may have to adjust to two or more teachers each day.
  • there may be communication gaps between teachers and parents.

·       May require more conformity (children must follow rules) and routine (stricter schedules) than home-based care.

Source page 6:  University of Hawaii (n.d.) Choosing Child Care. Center on the Family:   Honolulu, HI.

It may be challenging to observe in a family childcare home (FCC) due to three factors:

  1. FCC homes often include children across multiple age levels.
  2. FCC homes often serve low numbers of children.
  3. FCC homes can challenge observers’ objectivity. We often have stronger preferences on what home environments should look like.

The checklist below may be helpful in focusing on the important elements to look for in terms of quality.

Indoor Space

The indoor space must be kept clean, safely maintained, well-ventilated, well-lit and of sufficient size for the children served, and must encourage play and learning.

  • Is there enough indoor space for the total number of children? (150 square feet for 1-2 children, 225 for 3-6 children, 35 square feet per child for 7-10 children.)
  •  Exits.
    • Are there at least two, separate hazard free exits?
    •  If the program is in a basement, are there two means of egress directly to the outside? (One means of egress may be the stairs to the first floor.)
    •  Are there exit signs posted in rooms that have direct access to the outdoors?
    •  If the program is above a third floor level, is there evidence that you are able to evacuate children in a safe and timely manner?
  • Are there working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed?
  • Is the child care space, inside and out, free of peeling/flaking paint and/or
  • Are the windows accessible to children securely screened, barricaded, or opened from the top?
  • Are all potentially hazardous materials are not accessible to children: These may include such things as:

Kitchen: cleaning materials, sharp knives and tools, plastic bags, plastic wrap boxes with serrated edges, aluminum foil, matches/lighters, thumbtacks, batteries, “junk drawer”

Playroom/Toy room: small toys, choking hazards, toys clean/disinfected
Bathroom: cleaning materials including aerosols, razors, mouthwash, shampoos, cosmetics, and medications, electrical appliances (toothbrushes, curling irons, shavers, hair dryers) are not plugged in near sink
Bedrooms: cosmetics, perfumes, deodorants, loose change, water beds

Heating Sources –Are all radiators, hot water pipes, coal/wood stoves, gas-on-gas stoves (used for heating), pellet stoves and fireplaces been barricaded or made inaccessible to children? PLEASE NOTE PORTABLE SPACE HEATERS ARE PROHIBITED.

  • Is the room temperature in rooms occupied by children maintained at a minimum of 65 degrees?
  • Are the equipment, materials and furnishings, toys and games appropriate to the ages and needs of children enrolled?
  • Are the equipment, materials and furnishings, toys and games sturdy, safely constructed and installed, non-tippable, flame retardant, easily cleaned and free from lead paint, protruding nails, rust, or other hazards.

Napping or Rest Time

  • Are there sufficient and appropriate napping items for the number of children in care such as a mat, cot, sofa, porta-crib, or playpen, cribs, beds?
  • Is there adequate space as required by regulation between each napping item?
  • Is there sufficient lighting for quiet activities for children who don’t sleep and supervision?
  •  Are infants placed on their backs for sleeping?
  •  Do infants have a designated napping item and are the infants napped in an individual crib, portacrib, playpen or bassinet?
  • Are the crib mattresses fitted with clean coverings and do not contain head entrapments?
  • Are cribs, porta-cribs, playpens or bassinets used for sleeping infants under 12 months free from comforters, stuffed animals or other soft, padded materials?


  • Is there a diapering area that is separate from facilities and areas used for food preparation and food service?
  •  Is there a supply of clean, dry diapers adequate to meet the needs of the children?
  • Is the common changing table or diapering surface used for any other purpose?
  • Is the changing surface smooth, intact, impervious to water and easily cleaned? Is the changing surface protected with a covering that is of adequate size to prevent the child from coming in contact with the changing surface?


  • Are all unused electrical outlets within the reach of children, younger than school age children, made inaccessible by use of a safety device or covering that prevents access to the receptacle openings?
  • Do the stairways have handrails?
    Are all stairways well-lit and hazard free?
  • Are all indoor and outdoor open stairways of four stairs or more (used by children younger than school age) protected so that children cannot fall through the open side?
  • Are there gates for all stairways if there are children under the age of three
  • First Aid materials: Are there the following in one location: adhesive tape, instant cold pack, gauze pads, gauze roller bandages, non-latex disposable gloves, band aids, thermometer, tweezers and scissors, and CPR mouth guard. Do you also have the emergency cards information if taking the children off the premises? If you go off the premises, Are there a seat belt cutter in your vehicle?
  • Pets: Are the pets appropriate for the children in care?
    • Are all pets free from disease and parasites and licensed and/or vaccinated as required by law?
    •  Are all pets kept in a safe and sanitary manner?
    • Are all litter boxes inaccessible to children?
    • If there are reptiles, are they inaccessible to children?
  • Firearms: If there are firearms in the home:
    • Are they kept unloaded?
    • Are they kept either in a locked cabinet or equipped with a trigger lock and stored in a safe and secure place inaccessible to children?
    • Is ammunition stored separately from the firearms and inaccessible to children?
    • Have families been notified in writing of the existence of a firearm in the home?
    • Was EEC notified of the existence of a firearm?

Is the the following information posted in an area easily visible to parents, educators and visitors?

  • “Call 911” reminder, telephone number and address of the program, telephone number of the Poison Control Center, name and telephone number of the emergency back-up person.
  • A list of all emergency or lifesaving medications, including but not limited to epinephrine auto injectors, inhalers and anti-seizure medications, that specifies to which child they belong.
  • A list of allergies and/or other emergency medical information provided by the parent for each child.
  • A current EEC License and, if applicable, Assistant Certificates or Approvals.

Outside Play Space

  •  Is there an outdoor play area, or access to an outdoor play area, of at least 75 square feet per child who is outside at any one time?
  • Is the outdoor space hazard free?
  • The outdoor space must not have direct access to any of the following:
    •  A busy street
    •  Potentially hazardous materials: yard tools, chemicals, ladders, lawn mowers, junk, animal feces
    • If there is a gas grill, does it have an appropriate cover?
    • Standing water including lakes, rivers, brooks, wetlands, drainage ditches
    • Are the play structures, sandboxes, outside toys clean and free of hazards such as splinters or exposed screws?
    • Any other hazard near or in the play space (rail road tracks, steep drop-offs, etc.)
  • Is the outdoor play space appropriate for the age group served?
  • Does the space provide for both direct sunlight and shade?
  • Is the outdoor space covered with dangerously harsh, abrasive or toxic materials?
  • Any playground equipment installed after January 2010 and all playground equipment in homes first licensed after January 2010, must have playground use zones that are covered with an adequate depth of an impact absorbing material in accordance with EEC policy. Pea gravel and wood chip nuggets must not be used in areas used by infants and toddlers. Does this pertain to your outdoor play area?
  • Is  there a deck that is used by children? If yes, is it hazard free? (see regulations for detailed information)

Swimming pools

  • If a pool is used, is there an adult present who is immediately available and aware of the pump location and able to turn it off?
  • If utilizing a wading pool, is it emptied immediately after each use and sanitized between uses?
  • Is the pool used by child care children treated, cleaned, maintained and supervised according to sound health and safety practices and state and local guidelines and regulations?
  • Is there a second adult on the premises available to assist in the event of an emergency?
  • Are hot tubs, whether indoors or outdoors, inaccessible to children?

Oral Health

  • Do children brush their teeth at the program?
    Are toothbrushes labeled with names and dates?
    Where are the toothbrushes stored? Are they open to the air with the bristles not touching?

Progress Reports

  •  Are progress reports used with families?
  • How does the provider document ongoing observations of children?
  • Are there any assessment tools used?


  • What types of daily activities are planned for your program?
  • How does the environment and the materials used reflect the needs of individual children’s developmental goals (age appropriate)?
  • Are the materials accessible to the children to make choices?
  • Are there individual places for children’s belongings?
  • Is there opportunities for 60 minutes of physical activity planned for each day?

Family Involvement

  • Is there a plan to conduct enrollment meetings, and promote on-going parent communications and conferences?

Checklist adapted from the Department of Early Education and Care (2013) Self Assessment Tool.

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