What are the things to look out for when searching for the ideal childcare centre for your child?
Choosing a childcare centre is one of the most important decisions you will make for your child! It is hard to know where to start, but here are some things you should consider when looking for the proper care.
Choosing A Quality Child Care Service For Your Child And Family
Choosing and getting ready for early childhood education and care service can be an exciting and overwhelming time for you and your child, considering many options are out there. So, the earlier you start preparing, the better.
Every parent wants what is best for their child, and choosing the right daycare centre is one of them!
Before you make your decision, you should weigh out all the different options when it comes to selecting the perfect daycare for your child.
Choose An Option That Suits Your Needs
Start with thinking about your child care options before you need them, including the days and hours you might need them for.
There are various types of early childhood education and care services, and you can choose the one that suits your lifestyle best.
Most are regulated under the National Quality Framework (NQF), including:
- Family daycare
- Long daycare
- Outside school hours care
Other services like occasional care, crèches, mobile services and some school holiday care programs are not regulated under the NQF but may be regulated under other state legislation.
If you're not sure if a service is regulated or not, it's best to ask the favour.
Most services have a waiting list, so it's a good idea to put down your child's name for more than one place to better your chances of finding a service you are happy with.
Choosing the right childcare centre is a massive deal, but you can make the process a little less stressful and scary by doing a small amount of research.
So before you step foot in a childcare centre, it is essential to consider some of the following factors.
There's no point in choosing a childcare centre that will take you forever to get to. So instead, investigate centres close to home, work or somewhere right smack bang in the middle of home and work.
Is little Marvin the life and soul of the party or more of a quiet, thoughtful type?
Some centres may only have four bubs in a room, while others have 12, so think about what size centre will best meet your child's personality.
If you start work at 7 am, but your childcare centre doesn't open till 8 am, your boss will be happy. However, before checking out a potential centre, make sure its operating hours suit your family.
How much can you afford to spend on childcare? Finding out whether nappies, food and sunscreen are included in the fees can save a lot of added stress further down the track.
So the childcare centre down the street has a pretty snazzy website, but we all know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
It also features lots of nifty advice for parents using childcare for the first time.
Most centres offer a period where the child settles into care with short visits building up to a more extended period before you have to start work or study.
This is a great way to help your child make the transition from being home with mummy all day to spending their day with other adults and children.
All the regulated services across Australia are required to meet high national standards to ensure your child is safe and is given opportunities for learning and development regularly.
These services are given quality ratings to help families choose the best service for their child and family.
These ratings are for the services that are regulated under the NQF.
There are seven quality areas which services are rated against under the National Quality Standard:
- Educational program and practice
- Children's health and safety
- Physical environment
- Staffing arrangements
- Relationships with children
- Collaborative Partnerships with families and communities
- Governance and Leadership
For each of the seven areas, most of the services will be rated either:
- Significant Improvement Required
- Working Towards NQS
- Meeting NQS
- Exceeding NQS
Services can also be given an overall "Excellent" rating when they exceed all seven quality areas.
Finding A Service
Research shows quality early education and care leads to better health, education and employment outcomes later in life.
So, you need to know if the child care service your child will be attending provides quality experiences that will cater for your child's overall growth and development.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
After you've done your research, don't just pick the centre that looks best on paper – organises a visit for you, your partner and your child.
A tour will give you an idea of how the centre works, what the staff are like and how easily your rugrat will fit in. Here are some things to look out for a while you're on your tour.
As a parent, you'll no doubt know that there's a big difference between messy and dirty so pay attention to the cleanliness of the centre's central areas including the kitchen.
If the educators in the centre are busy checking their Facebook newsfeed instead of playing with the kids in their care, it might be wise to skip the rest of the tour.
A sign of a good centre is seeing educators who are engaged in meaningful interactions with the children.
Some people might be into the minimalist look, but when it comes to childcare, a range of well-maintained, safe and educational equipment is a plus.
Most childcare centres have a weekly menu that would even put some of the country's best chefs to shame.
Have a peek at the centre's current menu to make sure your child's dietary needs will be met while you're stuck at your desk eating a soggy ham sandwich.
Is the centre welcoming, and does it embrace what's important to your family? If you're not feeling the vibe, move on.
Don't fret if you always think of a great question to ask two hours after the opportunity has passed.
A great way to get all the information you need is to make a list of questions to take with you.
Not sure where to start? Ask the right questions.
- What hours do you operate?
- What times can I drop off and pick up my child?
- Do you close throughout the year, and how long for, e.g. Christmas or Easter time?
- Will I be able to visit my child or call them at any time?
- Will I be charged fees for public holidays or when my child is not there?
- Do you provide things like nappies and meals, or do I need to bring them from home?
- What is the ratio of staff to children?
- What skills, qualifications and experience do the staff have?
- Has your service been quality rated and what was the rating?
- What ages do you care for? This is important because you might need to think about future child care options if they only provide care for children aged from birth to five.
- How will I know that my child's learning and development will be encouraged?
- What are your internal policies and procedures?
- Will I be eligible for any subsidies or other financial assistance?
- You can also refer to Starting Blocks' resource on what to see and ask for at your service.
Stop Feeling Guilty
Choosing to put your child into childcare for the first time is not something to feel guilty about.
It might be good for your child's development and confidence. In reality, while you're slaving away at work, your mini-me will probably be too busy eating delicious food, making new friends and having fun to have time to miss you!
Considerations When Choosing The Right Daycare Centre For Your Child
Making sure your little one is in an environment where they can thrive is crucial.
You want to make sure the daycare you select has a strong centre curriculum and will be teaching your child important life-long lessons.
Check if the curriculum is devised in alignment with the National Quality Framework aims to:
- Stimulate curiosity and critical thinking in the classroom
- Promote positive learning through engaging activities
- Empower child independence through intentional teaching
- Honour individual talents and abilities in each child
- Assess different learning styles
- Encourage cooperation, peer work and team spirit.
- Nurturing environment
Making sure the environment your child is in is nurturing and safe is one of the most important considerations, as they will be in this space for long hours and days.
Children should feel empowered in their environment and should be able to develop a trusting and respectful relationship with educators and peers.
The daycare centre you choose for your child should also be convenient for you to attend.
The location should be close to home or work to ensure you can effectively organise your daily routine conveniently.
For added support, you can choose a long daycare centre which will provide you with the flexibility to work around your busy schedule.
Childcare centres should also incorporate healthy eating and physical activities in their education programs.
This helps children learn the importance of healthy eating and establishes a frequent exercise routine for them.
Easy And Open Communication
High-quality early learning centres should also make sure they are communicating with parents and caretakers.
Ensuring they are updated on their child's learning and other milestones achieved throughout the day allows them to stay in the loop. So make sure that you stay connected with your child throughout the day. Also, make sure you can ask questions, comment and create a meaningful relationship with the child care's educators.
Centre Location And Value
Please make a list of all of the childcare centres in your local area and contact each to obtain their annual fees and any additional costs.
Additional costs might include catering, special events or even waiting list fees. Don't decide on price alone, but take into account proximity to your home and workplace.
Would it be more convenient to have a centre closer to where you live or work?
Educator Training, Qualifications And Staffing Levels
Assessing the training and education level of the staff is an excellent place to start when comparing childcare centres.
Does the centre have a good mix of experienced senior childcare professionals and the energy and enthusiasm of trained newcomers to the industry?
The National Quality Framework sets minimum standard requirements for early childhood teaching qualifications.
It would help if you also asked about the educator-to-child ratio to understand how many children will be in the group and how many carers will be looking after them.
Healthy Children's Menus And Allergy Awareness Programs
Healthy menus equal healthy minds. So as children take on the big step of attending childcare or preschool, they must be enjoying healthy meals that keep their energy levels steady.
A growing number of childcare centres offer healthy eating initiatives, including in-house chefs, kitchen gardens, and edible gardening programs.
Food allergies are also an increasing concern for parents of young children, so it's important to have educated kitchen staff who understand food allergies and have in place a management plan for food allergies and anaphylaxis.
Stimulating Curriculum And Engagement Programs
The Early Years Learning Framework guides childcare providers on the principles, practices, and outcomes that support and enhance early learning from birth to age five and the transition period into school.
This framework is used to construct the curriculum and engagement programs at childcare centres and preschools.
These programs should encourage children to learn, interact and develop through child-centred play and learning activities, and call centres have their unique differences.
Ask about the program inclusions to learn more, and choose a program that reflects your child's family values and interests, needs, and personality.
Modern Infrastructure And Up-to-date Childcare Management Technology
Professional, caring, and engaging staff are more important than having the latest play equipment, but take note of the age and condition of the central infrastructure.
You'll want to look for a centre that is well equipped with safe and modern infrastructure and learning resources.
Notably, the childcare centre should be tech-savvy and link into a nationwide software network for childcare centres—with an approved software provider.
Investigate The Curriculum
The curriculum is the primary tool educators use to support your child's learning and development, so be sure to investigate the centre's curriculum.
Choose learning centres with a curriculum that focuses on play-based learning by igniting the children's curiosity in the world and encouraging a lifelong love of learning.
These centres have a clear and detailed curriculum to ensure that the children are learning to build the foundations for learning later in life.
They are also designed to ensure each child is supported to reach critical milestones as they grow and develop. You can find out more by going to their website.
Be mindful that the curriculum needs to change as your child gets older and focus on helping your child transition to the following setting. For example, your child may be staying at the early learning centre for preschool, so it needs to have a curriculum that caters to developing skills that are required for kindergarten.
Does It Feel Safe And Welcoming?
Every centre should be warm and welcoming. As you walk into the centre, it should be clean, calm and have resources readily available for children such as sandpits and building blocks, so as a parent, you get a sense that it's a place where your child can grow and develop.
Feeling welcome and safe will not only help your child feel more settled and relaxed, but it will also mean you as a family can feel confident that your children are safe, happy and having fun.
The centre must have a clear nutrition policy. This is particularly critical for long-day centres where your child will be eating a significant number of meals.
A good eating approach will ensure that your child learns the building blocks for healthy eating habits throughout their life.
Watch For Quality Interactions
The key to a child's success is the quality of interaction between the educators and the children.
When you go on a tour of a centre, observe how the educators interact with the children. How are they talking with the children? Are they engaging with them in a fun and helpful way?
High-quality interactions enable children to feel supported as they learn and develop. Like all of us, when we feel safe and cared for, we respond positively.
Trust Your Instincts
One of the most important things to do as a parent when choosing childcare or an early learning centre for your child is trust your instincts.
You know your child better than anyone and understand what will best work for your child, so feel confident in your decision.
Checking if the centre has a Quality Assurance Accreditation status is an excellent place to start when filtering through options in the initial stages.
The importance of selecting good childcare will give your child long-term benefits. So, if you search for high quality, safe, clean and nurturing childcare with state-of-the-art facilities and quality educational programs - choose Young Academics. We are here for your child.
- A positive environment, where the children appear happy, content, and settled.
- A centre team which is qualified and experienced.
- A safe and secure environment.
- Staff that have quality relationships with children.
- A high standard of hygiene and cleanliness.
- Educational program and practice.
- Children's health and safety.
- Physical environment.
- Staffing arrangements.
- Relationships with children.
- Collaborative Partnerships with families and communities.
- Governance and Leadership.
Start with the basics: sensitive, trained caregivers who are committed to the center; a low child-to-teacher ratio; and a creative, fun (and clean!) play space. You can consider both daycare centers and family daycares. Keep in mind that not all daycares are licensed.