Clean, Safe, and Happy
The house where your baby will spend lots of time in the near future should be clean. The kitchen and the bathroom should be sanitary. Also, unless you are standing right next to the diaper pail, you should not detect a strong odor of urine anywhere.
Look carefully at the area in which the children spend most of their time (most likely the living or family room). Is it light and airy? Is the furniture comfortable for small children? Since babies and young children play a lot on the floor, carpeting should be vacuumed frequently, especially if there are pets. The house should also be childproofed, with clearly visible gates on the staircases, latches on kitchen cabinets, and covers on visible electrical outlets.
Is there an outdoor play space? Is it safe and fenced off? If the provider does not have an outdoor play space, ask her where she takes the children for outdoor play.
Finally, the children should look happy and the atmosphere should be calm. The daycare provider should seem relaxed, not tense, when she is dealing with the children.
Don't expect as many toys as you might find at a daycare center, but the provider should have at least a few age-appropriate, safe toys that encourage creativity and motor development, for both the infants and the older children. The provider may also allow you to bring over some of your child's own favorite toys and leave them there.
Finally, check at least three references — ideally, parents of children she cares for or has cared for in the past. If they don't seem enthusiastic about her, keep looking.
In a good family daycare situation, your child will spend her day in a homey atmosphere and will benefit socially by having other children to play with. If you stay with the daycare provider over the long term, your child may come to regard her as a second mom and be treated as part of the family.
In many areas of the country, family daycare is also relatively inexpensive and a more economical option than are daycare centers. As with a daycare center, though, you sacrifice a certain amount of convenience when you take your children outside your home for child care.