08/08/2013 04:58 EDT | Updated 10/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Ontario education ministry's tips for parents when selecting a daycare

TORONTO - A family has launched a multi-million-dollar lawsuit over the death of their two-year-old daughter at an unlicensed home daycare north of Toronto.

Ontario's Ministry of Education has some pointers for parents selecting a daycare for their child. The first step, the ministry says, is to consider your needs, such as how many hours you will need your child to be there, its location and if you are looking for a home-based program or a child-care centre.

The ministry suggests parents call child-care providers to find out more about the programs they offer. Asking questions can help parents narrow down their options and select a few daycares to visit.

Here is a list of the ministry's suggested questions to ask agencies and providers:

— How does the agency choose providers?

— What happens when providers are sick or on vacation?

— Do providers have special training?

— What is the agency's philosophy or approach when working with providers?

— What kind of activities do providers do with the children? Are there opportunities to experience art, music, group and individual play and indoor and outdoor play?

— What hours of care are available? Are they flexible?

— How many children are at each location?

— What age groups are at each location?

— How soon is care available?

— What is the cost of care? Are there any additional charges? Is there a charge when children are sick or away on holiday? Is there an application fee?

— Is transportation provided if children have to travel a distance to and from school?

— Is a fee subsidy available?

— What are your hours?

— How many children do you care for (including your own)?

— What are the ages of the children you have in care?

— Who else lives in the home and may or may not have access to your child?

— What training do you have?

— What areas of the home will the children have access to?

— What kinds of meals and snacks are provided? Are they nutritious?

— How do you deal with children's misbehaviour? Offer "what if" scenarios. For example, what if a child hits another child? What if a child throws a tantrum over a toy another child is playing with?

— Do you toilet train children and how do you approach the training?

— Do you show television shows or movies to the children? How much time do the children spend watching television or movies each day?

— How many staff members care for each group? How many children are in a group?

— Are staff registered as early childhood educators with the College of Early Childhood Educators?

— Can the centre accommodate the special needs of children?

— Are parents encouraged to drop in?

— Do you have a waiting list?

— What is your philosophy or approach to working with children?

When parents decide which daycares they want to visit, they may want to schedule it during the day when they can see the centre in action, the ministry says.

Once there, the ministry recommends watching the children and staff and how they interact and looking at the physical setting, including the condition of the building, play equipment available, and indoor and outdoor space.