While parents are at work, the last thing they need to do is worry about whether or not their child is safe, having fun, and learning. The seemingly daunting task of choosing the right child care center for your family can be slightly easier if parents know what to look for and know what questions to ask. The single most important piece to the intricate puzzle is simply INSTINCT. Parents must feel at ease when visiting for the first time.

Fortunately, there are many quality child care centers throughout the country that are regulated by state agencies and inspected regularly, but that doesn't necessarily mean that any child care center will do for your individual needs and desires.

Here are a few tips when looking for a child care center to fit your family's needs and wants:

Look at the Children - Are they smiling? Are they engaged? Are they comfortable with their environment? Are their faces clean? Are they interacting with one another? The children will tell us so many things just by watching them.

Clean, Safe, and Stimulating Environment - Your senses are very useful in choosing child care programs. Look around at the overall picture. Does the building smell clean? Do the rooms appear clean and safe? Is there a cleaning schedule posted anywhere? Is the kitchen clean? Are there any visible, obvious safety concerns?

Continuing Programs - Does the program have a good transition from class to class? Do they offer a Pre-K program? Do they offer Before and/or After School Programs? Holiday Program? Summer Program?

Licensing - Is the License prominently posted? What type of License does the center hold?

Education - What type of education program is utilized by the center? How will the curriculum help prepare the child for Kindergarten and beyond?

Loving and Caring Staff - Administration, teachers, counselors, and other support staff should be huggers, rockers, comforters, high-fivers, etc. It should be apparent when walking in whether the staff discovers ways to expand upon children's play to help them learn new skills and develop into sociable, comfortable, and curious children. Look at the way they speak to the children. Do they get down to the children's level? Are they on the floor playing with the children? Are they holding children? Are they speaking to children with compassion?

These are just a few of the things that you should look for in looking for a child care center for your family. There are plenty of resources online! The most important tool is a parent's gut feeling. Visit multiple centers unannounced and choose the center that you and your family FEEL most comfortable with.