The Best Time of the Year To Enroll in Daycare

May 16, 2024

Getting the timing right is key when looking for quality daycare. You want to have plenty of room to meet any enrollment due date and keep your options open. Below, you’ll learn when is the best time to enroll in a daycare — and discover how Wonderschool can help. 

Understanding Daycare Enrollment Cycles

It’s not unusual for daycares to have open enrollment year-round. However, the high demand for quality programs often means there’s a waitlist. That means it’s never too soon when it comes to starting daycare research. 

Typical Enrollment Seasons

It’s common for families to enroll in late spring, summer, or January after the winter holidays. Most daycares have their own unique enrollment processes, but enrollment season may align with the academic year. A frequent start date is the beginning of September.

Rolling Admissions

Rolling deadlines are common at daycare centers, allowing you to apply year-round or within a large window. It’s beneficial because you won’t feel the pressure of a looming deadline, but this style leads to longer waitlists. Since this is already an issue in the daycare space, it’s best to pick a time to enroll your child and start looking months in advance. 

The Best Times to Enroll

Though some daycares offer year-round enrollment, there are better times than others to enroll. 

Early Year Enrollment

Enrolling in January or February after the holiday season is a popular but also strategic choice. This is a time when families more easily relocate, which may open spots on daycare waitlists. If you’re serious about starting daycare in January or shortly after, you’ll want to begin that search long before the new year.

Mid-year Opportunities

If you have a daycare program in mind and know their schedule, you can time enrollment with graduations. Typically, in daycare programs, children graduate to different age groups, leading to openings for younger children. This also happens if a child is aging out of daycare and starting school in the fall. 

Fall Rush

Since daycare can align with the school year schedule, fall is a competitive enrollment time. If you’re looking for child care in the fall, begin your search months in advance around the spring or summer season. 

You can check in with your local and digital networks using Wonderschool’s Parenthoods community. This forum lets you connect with parents who have similar daycare experiences so you can learn more about enrollment first-hand.

How Seasonality Impacts Daycare Availability

Though daycare enrollment is specific to each program and region, certain periods of time offer more opportunities. When you look at these patterns, your family’s schedule, or potentially your parental leave ending, you’re more likely to get a spot. 

Impact of Local School Calendars

If you have older children, sync daycare start dates with older siblings’ school schedules. This way, all of your children have child care simultaneously. It helps if you’re working or planning on returning to work after a maternity or paternity leave. 

Holiday and Vacation Considerations

Popular holiday and vacation times can lead to staff shortages. While the summer could bring openings, it could also, for some programs, limit availability. This is another reason you should plan, research, and connect with fellow parents on Wonderschool

Pre-Planning for Daycare Enrollment

The pre-planning for daycare enrollment is almost as important as the enrollment process itself. When you allow time to research and determine the best course of action for your family, you reduce stress and ensure a more fruitful outcome. 

Early Planning and Research

Determine your desired start date for daycare, and then start looking online for care and tapping your local network. Once you have a list of candidates, check them out in person, learn their enrollment process and timeline, and ask questions. Important questions are daycare start and end times, communication processes, fees, penalties, and staff qualifications. Keep this list of questions and considerations handy for any child care tours.

Waiting Lists and How to Navigate Them

Popular daycares can have a waitlist. If you discover that one or several top picks have a waitlist, get on them all to increase your chances. Later, you can determine which is the better fit for you and your child. It’s also important to understand how the waitlist works — is it a first-come, first-served system or dependent on your child’s stage of development?

When you’re placed on a waitlist, you should receive regular updates. It’s a good idea to stay on top of communication with these daycare centers. This will keep you informed, and it’ll give you insight into how they run the program. 

Flexible Options for Urgent Needs

Since finding daycare takes time and popular programs have waitlists, there are alternative options when you need immediate care. You can discover highly-trained and trusted professionals near you. 

Temporary Care Solutions

If you need your child to start daycare but can’t seem to find the right fit, temporary childcare is out there. This comes in the form of family members, local community centres, trusted community members, or nannies. You can even split the time between a nanny, a family member and/or part-time care at a community center. 

Alternative Care Models

While you’re considering temporary care, explore alternative care as a solution. Less traditional models, like childcare cooperatives or family daycare networks, let you find local care at a better price. However, you may have to participate as a care provider as well.

Find the Best Daycare Options and Enroll Today With Wonderschool

Finding the right daycare for you and your child is an important journey that requires foresight and flexibility. Daycare offers child care while you’re working and helps your child develop social skills and school readiness. While there are strategies and timelines you can follow to guide you on this journey, unexpected things might pop up. 

With Wonderschool, you have a community at your fingertips that can answer the important, time-sensitive, and sometimes complicated question: when is the best time to enroll in a daycare? You can connect with fellow parents on Wonderschool’s Parenthoods community and gain wisdom from those who’ve conquered the quest. Plus, you can use the child care finder to unlock the perfect daycare in your area. 

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