Every parent has a different idea of what type of childcare provider they want their child to be in.
There is a wide range of early childhood education and care services available to Australian families, and for first-time parents, the choice can be confusing.
As a parent, one of the most significant decisions you'll have to make in the first few years of your child's life is where and what type of care they'll receive.
Whether you want to go back to work, need the extra time to recharge yourself, or perhaps you'd like to expand your child's personal development, it's an important step.
But with so many child care options to choose from, which one is suitable for your family?
To assist you in understanding the types of child care available, we have listed below some of the more commonly used child care options, along with a brief description.
What Is Child Care?
Child care or early childhood education is a blanket term that covers all early childhood education and care services for children aged 0 – 5 years before formal school begins.
This is an opportunity to provide children with the necessary foundation blocks to develop their educational and social skills in a safe environment while supporting parents to continue working.
Throughout Australia, there has been a steady improvement in children's language and cognitive skills starting school.
By continuing to focus on preschool attendance, our children will feel better prepared for school.
Child Care In Australia
Every child deserves the best in life, as well as access to the highest quality education. This is why, in July 2018, the Australian Government made the most significant change to the early childhood and child care system in 40 years.
This much-needed reform aims to provide parents with more choice and flexibility to work, as well as more affordable options.
Fortunately, the recent Early Childhood and Child Care Summary reports that there is already an increase in those using child care services, with close to a million families across Australia with at least one child in approved child care. The average weekly hours of child care has increased. Since implementing the Child Care Subsidy, there has been an improvement in affordability across the country of more than 10%.
Who Runs Child Care
Different kinds of organisations set up child care centres. They could be:
- a committee of volunteer parents
- workplaces or universities
- community organisations or local councils
- private businesses.
You can also find gyms or aquatic centres, community facilities, and some retailers that offer care while parents use their facilities.
Types Of Child Care Programs
There are different types of child care for different situations:
- Long daycare (often called Early Learning Centres) is available for children whose families are working or studying or need regular time off.
- Occasional care helps parents with fewer legal needs, like needing two hours for an appointment or rest.
- Family daycare is based in a carer's home with a minimal number of other children.
- In-home care is when the carer cares for your child in your own home. This is usually called a nanny or au pair.
Some centres offer both long daycare and occasional care, but not all do.
Although child care refers to all types of care for children in Australia, there are many options, each unique feature and advantage.
Whether you need one hour a day, one day a week, five days a week, or even overnight care — there's a child care program to suit every family, including extended daycare, family daycare, preschool, kindergarten, early learning, playschool, private child care, home daycare, occasional care, and disability child care.
Below we'll take a detailed look at each of these child care options so that you have a better understanding of which one to choose.
Child Care Centre Or Long Day Care
Care for children under school age, on-premises especially built or adapted for early childhood education and care services.
Private operators, local councils, community organisations, employers and non-profit organisations may run extended daycare centres.
Extended daycare centres provide all-day or part-time care for working families and offer developmental programs within their care programs.
Meals are usually provided, and some extended daycare centres offer care for limited numbers of primary school children before and after school and during school holidays.
Extended daycare — sometimes referred to as centre-based care — is especially useful for parents who work full-time jobs. This professional service can look after children for long hours, Monday – Friday.
Due to the flexibility of this arrangement, parents can drop their children off at the centre before they go to work and pick them up afterwards so that their working day is not affected.
What Is Long Day Care / Long Day Care Definition
Long daycare is provided by approved child care centres, which means they meet the standards of the National Quality Framework.
They're run by private companies, local councils, community organisations, individuals, non-profit organisations or employers for their staff.
Generally, the building has been specifically designed for child care, and children are usually grouped into rooms according to their age and development stage.
These child care centres are run by a mix of professional and other staff and generally have an early education component to their programme.
They usually operate between 7:30 am and 6:00 pm, and many offer meals throughout the day.
Long Day Care Providers
With so many quality long daycare providers across Australia, you're spoilt for choice, but this also means much information to digest.
However, if you fill out your details and requirements here, we will send you a personalised list of extended daycare centres in your area that suit your needs.
Family Day Care
A network of experienced carers and educators provide care and developmental activities in their own homes for other children.
Family daycare is primarily for children who have not yet started school. However, they also provide care for school children up to 12 years old.
Care is flexible and can be tailored to suit each family's needs, including care outside regular working hours and, if needed, overnight care.
A Family Day Care service is a network of trained and registered educators who provide care for other people's children in their own homes.
It's an excellent option for parents who would like a more intimate care experience for their children.
Educators have been carefully selected, and they are supervised under the Education and Care Services National Regulations. In addition, all educators receive regular compliance checks.
What Is Family Day Care?
There's often a strong focus on providing experiences in the way of local excursions, such as trips to the shops or park.
This provides valuable opportunities for children to explore the wider community.
Due to the flexibility that family day care brings, educators may offer their service outside of standard hours, including evenings, before/after school, during school holidays and in some cases, overnight and weekends.
Family Day Care Requirements
Registered family day care educators can care for up to seven children at any one time, with no more than four children under school age.
Educators must also have the following skills: first aid certificate, working with children check, home safety inspection, public liability insurance, and willingness to ensure their home and garden meet WH&S regulations and obtain proper working equipment for education and play.
To effectively monitor these family daycare requirements, educators work with an approved service that regularly monitors the children's individual development and provides support.
Family Day Care Scheme
Family day care schemes work in partnership with multiple family daycare centres, providing them with helpful support and training.
Essentially, it's a management group that assists centres with various elements, such as licencing and keeping them on track with family daycare regulations.
These schemes are in place to ensure that advice is always on hand so that family daycare centres run smoothly and safely.
Family Day Care NSW
The NSW Family Day Care Association provides a hub of support, training and compliance to the network of Family Day Care services across New South Wales.
These are made up of over 8000 educators who dedicate themselves to the education and enrichment of young children in their care.
All educators are assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard to ensure your child is safe and given appropriate opportunities to learn and develop.
Family Day Care Providers/centres
With so many quality family daycare centres across Australia, it can be tricky to narrow the choice down to suit your exact needs.
However, if you fill out your details and requirements here, we can send you a personalised list of family daycare centres in your area.
Pre-school / Kindergarten / Prep
Pre-school is a planned educational program for children in the years before a child commences school. Children are usually between 3 and 5 years of age.
Pre-school may occur in a range of settings, including a purpose-built building, in a community setting, a school, as part of a long daycare centre or a mobile or visiting service.
Pre-school generally runs between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm, similar to school hours, although this may vary by state and by service, so check with the provider.
The terms kindergarten or prepare are also used in some states.
What Is Preschool?
In Australia, preschool — also known as kindergarten — is the year before children go to school.
Government legislation does not require your child to go to preschool, but it's a great way to prepare them for school, both socially and academically.
Research shows that children who participate in a quality early childhood education program for at least 600 hours in the year before school are more likely to arrive at school with the social, emotional and cognitive skills they need to engage in learning actively.
Preschool can be attended within a long daycare centre or family daycare program, which is perfect if you're already attending one that your child enjoys.
On the other hand, it can also be a standalone service provided by the department of education.
Standalone preschools open and close in line with public school terms – many operate between 9.00 am and 3.00 pm, and others have separate morning and afternoon sessions.
What Is Kindergarten/prep School?
Prep school — also known as kindergarten, transition, reception or pre-primary — starts at around the age of five or six years, with minor variations between the states.
Prep is the first year of primary school education in Australia — it starts in January and finishes in December.
Education in Australia is primarily the responsibility of each state and territory, so it's essential to find the exact starting age for your location. View your child's starting age here.
Preschool and Kindergarten Rebate
The Child Care Subsidy was introduced in July 2018 as the primary way for the Government to assist families with their child care fees, including long daycare, family care and preschool options.
This is generally paid directly to service providers, who then pass it on to families through fee reductions.
Families make a co-contribution to their child care fees and pay the provider the difference between the fee charged and the subsidy amount.
The amount of Child Care Subsidy you can receive depends on your circumstances. Still, three factors are considered: your combined annual family income, an activity level for both parents and which type of child care service you're using.
Preschool and Kindergarten Providers/centres
With so many quality preschool options across Australia, whether you prefer an extended daycare setting, family daycare option or standalone preschool, you are spoilt for choice.
However, if you fill out your details and requirements here, we can send you a personalised list of preschools in your area that suit your needs.
Early Learning / Playschool Family Day Care
What Is Playschool?
Playschool — also known as playgroup — allows parents and carers to get together with their young children (usually babies, toddlers and preschool-aged children) for a couple of hours each week.
Here they connect, learn through play and most importantly, have fun.
If you want to help your preschooler make new friends while learning critical social skills, a playschool is worth looking into.
What Happens at Playschool?
Held at various community venues, playgroup activities may involve craft, indoor and outdoor play and morning tea.
This allows families to learn new ideas for playing at home, make new friends, and share their experiences in a relaxed environment.
In a playschool, children have the opportunity to practice their social skills in a safe, familiar setting.
On the other hand, adults gain friendship and support from people who understand precisely what they're going through.
What Is the Difference Between Playschool and Preschool?
There is a thin line of difference between playschool and a preschool.
In a play school, the primary focus is to keep the child active and having fun, whereas a preschool's focus is on the child's holistic mental development.
Playschools do not follow any particular programme, whereas a preschool follows the Early Years Learning Framework.
Early Learning and Playschool Providers/centres
Across Australia, you'll find thousands of local playgroups.
You can find the Playgroup Australia organisation in your state or fill out your details and requirements here so we can send you a personalised list of playschools in your area to suit your needs.
Before / After School Care Or Outside School Hours Care
Supervised care and recreation for school-age children:
- Before and after school
- On pupil-free days
- During school holidays (vacation care)
OSHC is usually associated with schools and caters to primary school children.
Most OSHC services are operated by community and private organisations. Typical hours for OSHC services are:
- Before school 7.00 – 9.00 am
- After school 3.00 – 6.00 pm
- Vacation 7.00 am – 6.00 pm each weekday
Occasional, Flexible Or Casual Care Services
Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care Services provide short periods of care for children under school age.
Families can access Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care on either a regular or casual basis for various reasons, including shift or part-time work, respite care, crisis and emergency care, shopping or attending appointments.
Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care allows people the flexibility to leave their children in an early childhood learning environment to socialise and interact with other children while they undertake different tasks.
Community organisations, non-profit organisations and local councils may run Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care centres.
A flexible form of child care provides quality early childhood education and care in the family home by a qualified In-Home Care educator.
This type of government-subsidised child care is for families that can't access other mainstream child care options (centre-based daycare, family day care or outside school hours care) because they:
- Work non-standard or variable hours, or
- Are you geographically isolated, or
- Have a challenging and complex family needs.
Families must demonstrate that other approved child care services aren't available or appropriate and be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy.
In-Home Care Support Agencies assess families' eligibility for an In-Home Care place and help them find care that meets their needs.
Employed by the family on either a live-in or live-out basis to undertake all tasks related to the care of children.
Duties are generally restricted to child care and the domestic tasks related to child care.
A nanny may or may not have had any formal training though they often have a good deal of experience. A nanny's working week ranges from forty to sixty hours.
A nanny employed by two families to undertake tasks related to the care of children.
If you are interested in having a nanny care for your child but are reluctant due to the expense, sharing a nanny with another family may be the solution.
A foreign national in Australia for up to a year for cultural exchange purposes and experience Australian life.
Lives as part of the host family and receives a small allowance/salary in exchange for child care and household duties. Mayor may not have previous child care experience.
A mother's help has little or no previous experience of caring for children.
They generally have career aspirations in child care, and this is one way of gaining experience while they undertake a formal study.
A mother's help will assist the parent(s) with child care and housekeeping duties. These duties should be carried out under the supervision of the parent.
Provides supervisory, custodial care of children on an irregular full time or part-time basis.
Private Child Care And Family Day Care
Families and the community can often be uncertain of the differences between commercial (for-profit) and community-owned (not-for-profit) education and care services.
What Is the Difference Between Community Owned Vs Private Child Care?
Community-owned education and care services are "owned" by parent committees, community groups or not-for-profit organisations rather than individuals.
They are run on a not-for-profit, break-even basis by voluntary parent and community committees of management.
Usually schools, local Government, church groups or tertiary institutions.
On the other hand, private child care operators make a profit.
According to IBISWorld's report on the industry, the child care services industry made almost $1 billion in profits last year, or more than one-eighth of what the Government put into it in fee subsidies.
The child care sector is becoming an increasingly significant business, with about half of all child care services (including out of school hours care and family daycare operations) provided by for-profit companies.
Private Child Care Centres
Increases in demand for child care places over the past few years has captured the interest of private equity firms, which sees them buying large groups of centres, especially in the long daycare sector, such as the Guardian Early Learning Group.
In terms of future growth, recent planning data shows a surge in planning applications for newly-owned, privately operated, extended day care services across Australia.
Therefore, you can expect to find the highest child care prices in privately owned centres, but you'll still be able to claim from the new Child Care Subsidy if you're eligible.
- Day nurseries.
- Early Years Teams.
- Home childcarers.
- Playgroups and crèches.
Childcare providers are very attached to the official designation of their profession. We should use the term "childcare provider" or "home daycare provider" with the same strictness as we use the term "doctor!" Just note that some childcare providers really prefer that you don't call him or her a "nanny".