How to Win the Day Care Lotto


Competition for the best day care can be fierce, and why wouldn’t it be? We all want the best for our children, and next to being with us full-time, we want them to have the safest, cleanest daycare with the best reputation. The problem is all those other parents who want the exact same thing.

When my first son was born, we were fortunate enough to have my husband stay home with him full-time until he was 9 months old. We knew we’d go with a child care center, as opposed to an in-home day care or an individual, but we didn’t even start looking until he was 6 months old. The best day care center told us most parents get on their waiting list right when they see two lines on the pregnancy test, and they still may not get in by the end of mom’s maternity leave. But fortunately, I hit it off with the receptionist (a.k.a. the lifeblood of the entire operation), and she told me how to move up on the wait list:

  • Get on the list. You have to actually be on the list if you want to move up. Select your top three centers and get on all the wait lists ASAP. Ask how long it might be before your name comes up, so you have an idea of which centers might actually work for your back-to-work timeline.
  • Pour some sugar on. Be super sweet and polite every time you speak to the person answering the phone. That person is most likely the Keeper of The List. You do not want to annoy the List Keeper, so don’t call during the morning drop-off or evening pick-up rush, and don’t call right before lunch. Never, ever be demanding or pushy.
  • Set up a calling schedule. People who call frequently to “make sure they’re still on the list” get preference and start moving up the list. If calling every day gets you some push-back like you’re annoying people, maybe call only once or twice a week.
  • Show up in person. It won’t hurt to show up and help the List Keeper put an in-person association to your name. It’s great to show up around 10 a.m. when everything’s generally quiet (also a good time to call), and tell the Keeper you just wanted to drop in because you work nearby and you’re just so excited at the prospect of having your bambino in the best facility in town.

As you get close to delivery, it wouldn’t hurt to ask your new best friend if you could go ahead and fill out the paperwork and put down a deposit to hold your baby’s spot. Hey, those people on top of the list could have the spot if they did the same thing, but if they’re not around and you are… guess who’s winning the waitlist lotto?


About Author

Becky Dolgener

A seasoned writer and editor, Becky Dolgener is the Executive Editor and a contributing writer for Strategy Magazine. With a BS in Speech Communication, she has more than 12 years' experience in business, communications, and marketing, as well as special interests in wellness, DIY, budget-friendly living, and child wellness.

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