If you’re considering putting your little one in childcare and don’t know where to start, you’re not alone. There are over 6,000 centres across Australia, with more popping up every day. The good news is that you’ve got plenty of options to choose from. On the flip side, it can be a challenging task to pick the right centre for your family.
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Here’s our tips for making the selection process easier!
Check the quality ratings
Most long day care centres in Australia are assessed and rated by their state or territory regulatory authorities. Each centre is evaluated against seven key quality areas of the National Quality Standard, which sets the benchmark for early childhood education and care services in Australia. These areas cover everything from the centre’s educational program, to its physical environment and collaboration with families. Based on the results, a centre is given an overall quality rating. The five different ratings, from highest to lowest are:
- Excellent Rating
- Exceeding National Quality Standard
- Meeting National Quality Standard
- Working Towards National Quality Standard
- Significant Improvement Required
Checking a centre’s rating is easier than you might think. Head to ACECQA to find ratings for centres that you’re interested in!
Convenience and location
Finding the right centre needs to take into account not just your child, but your whole family. For example, depending on your or your partner’s work arrangements, you might find that it’s better to have childcare near your workplace instead of your home, or vice versa.
Find out about their early learning program
A big part of childcare is your child’s learning and development. Some centres focus more on structured learning, whereas others are more about learning through free-play. Ask about these learning programs to find which one appeals to you the most.
Ask around to see if any of your friends or mutual friends are current or previous clients of the childcare, and talk to them to find out how happy they are with the centre. Their honest feedback can be very helpful. Just be mindful not to rely on it 100%--you still need to do your own research, as everyone’s judgement on quality is subjective.
Drop by for a visit
The best way to really get to know a childcare centre is by visiting it in person. When you go for a visit, you’ll be able to get a sense of the centre’s atmosphere. Is the vibe warm and inviting, or is it busy and chaotic? Do most of the children seem happy and engaged? What are the meals like? Visit a few centres so you can make a fair comparison.
Meet and talk to the educators
Educators are the staff members who look after your children in childcare. They are the most important part of a childcare centre. During the centre visit, take some time to meet and talk to the educators to get a sense of how they operate. Observe them as they interact with the children. You’ll want to see frequent, positive, and respectful interactions. Ask them how long they’ve been working there to get an idea of the staff turnover. Centres with lower staff turnover will be more likely to provide a consistent environment for your child.
The process of selecting childcare can be a challenging yet exciting time in your family’s life. At the end of the day, if you’re really stuck and just can’t decide, a good tip is to follow your gut. Parents intuitively know if something does or doesn’t feel quite right. You know what they say… mama knows best!