Every parent wants to give their child the best start in life. If you have decided that long daycare or childcare is the best option for you and your family, how do you choose the centre that’s right for your child?
Before you go signing up with the closest centre to your home (though location should be a major factor) make sure you have a look at a few centres before you make your final decision.
Choosing a childcare centre is a bit like choosing a new home for your child. After all, your child is going to spend the majority of their day there. Here are some points to consider when you’re choosing a childcare centre.
1. Carer to child ratio
All childcare centres must meet the National Quality Standards, which is one educator to 4 children for 0-36 months, and one educator to 11 children for 36 months and above. However, some childcare centres may choose to go beyond the minimum and provide more staff in the room if they think it is required. For example, if a baby requires more help settling or if a child needs additional support.
2. Quality of staff and educators
A vital factor for your child’s success is the quality of interaction between the staff and the children. When you visit the centre, do the staff engage with the children in a fun and supportive way? Do they encourage the children to think and learn?
For younger children, you might want to find out about staffing in the room. Will the same educator be there every day? What is staff turnover like at the centre? Younger children adapt better when they can develop a bond with familiar staff members so it’s important that they don’t keep changing.
3. Food and nutrition
Eating healthy should start at a young age. Not only does it nourish growing minds, but it also instils good habits your child can take to adulthood. Have a chat with the centre management about their nutrition policy. Take a look at their menu and see what type of food they prepare. Are meals made from scratch, or do most of the food come from a package? How much fruit and vegetables do they serve? By checking out the menu, you can gauge the centre’s policy towards food.
4. Safe and welcoming environment
Large centres (some catering to over two hundred children) may offer high-end facilities and sophisticated resources. Others may be smaller and provide a more homey environment. Whichever centre you choose, the key is to find a place that supports your child’s holistic development: mentally, socially, physically and emotionally. Are there indoor and outdoor play areas? Are the resources inspiring? You can usually tell the moment you walk into a centre – is this the kind of place you would like your child to come to every day?
5. National Quality Standards
The National Quality Standards are a benchmark that guides all childcare centres in Australia. They cover 7 quality areas that are important for the safety and wellbeing of children. These include education, health and safety, physical environment, staff quality, relationship with children, and collaboration with families.
Things to find out: How well is the centre achieving these standards? What programs have they put in place to move towards this benchmark? The more committed the centre is to these guidelines, the higher the quality of service you can expect from them.
6. Communication with families
It is important for parents and educators to keep each other updated, so your child can receive the best support possible.Some childcare centres may have apps to communicate with you. Others may use email or a daily journal, or simply chat with you at pick up. In any case, make sure your centre believes in communicating with parents.
7. Flexibility of days
For some parents, flexibility may be very important, especially if you need to suddenly add or change your childcare days. Some childcare centres may not allow for much flexibility as they are so fully booked. Others may have more capacity, allowing you to book in without much notice. If you require flexibility for work or for any other reason, check with the centre what their policies are.
8. Childcare subsidies
If you are using the childcare services because you have to work, you can get a childcare subsidy from the government. You can also get this subsidy if you are looking for work, studying, or doing volunteer work in the community. Check out the Australian Child Care Subsidy for more details.
Most families can get about 50% of their childcare fees back. Some people get more or less, depending on your total household income and individual circumstances. For example, single parents may get more support.
9. Consider your child’s needs
Every child is different and has different needs. Have a chat with the centre to see how they would deal with your concerns. If you are still breastfeeding, how will the carers handle feeding and settling?
If you have an older child who is fussy about food, how will the centre manage meal times? Let their responses guide your decisions. Trust your instincts and go with the centre you feel most comfortable with.
Red Apple Early Learning Centre is a boutique childcare centre located in Balwyn and Vermont. We offer a warm and caring environment for your child to develop and thrive. To find out more about our services, book a tour at Red Apple Balwyn or Red Apple Vermont today. We’d love to show you around.