Having spent the first few years with your child at home, the daunting decision looms should you decide, which childcare centre to select for your bundle of joy. The decision to allow a stranger to take care of your child can be scary as well as difficult and one which requires considerable research. If possible, visit several centres, observe the teacher-child interactions, ask lots of questions, list the comparisons and prioritise your checklist. Parents should scrutinise a centre’s ability to provide a safe, fun, motivating, and stimulating environment to cultivate their child’s mental, physical, and social development. If selected well, a childcare centre can be a special place that nurtures and encourages your child to thrive.
There are several factors in determining the most suitable centre that fits in with your work and life schedule. Below is a list of our top 7 factors to consider when selecting a childcare centre.
Many parents may seek a recommendation from other parents. This is a trusted referral as often these parents will have first-hand experience of a particular childcare centre and are unlikely to recommend a questionable centre. Credible Google reviews of childcare centres have also become notably important. Reviews give credibility to a centre; they not only strengthen the reputation of a childcare centre but can genuinely influence the decision-making process for parents. The top-ranking centres will make it to the top of the list whilst the lowest rated are completely disregarded. credible
Every parent will want confirmation their child is safe at a centre. Look for evidence that your child’s well-being and health will be a priority. Assess the security of the premises, who has access throughout the day, safety procedures are in place, security governing the entry and exit to the centre. A lack of classroom safety will be a dangerous red flag to the overall provision of care provided by the centre.
#3 Childcare Centre Staff
The connectedness and relatability you have to the staff and how they will engage with your child will be a strong determining factor as to whether a childcare centre becomes your number one choice. Observations of how the staff interact with other children will be a key indicator as to whether your child will adjust and fit into a centre. Confirm the staff is licensed and accredited to look after your child. The ratio of staff to children should not be overlooked. If fewer staff are looking after children, less attention will be given to your child. Childcare centres are required to be inspected and licensed before accepting children and at least one staff member is required to be CPR and first aid trained.
#4 Location and Cost
The commute and logistics to a centre can be central to the decision-making process. Is the centre close to home or work, is their adequate parking, are there any hidden fees are all factors to be deliberated? Cost is understandably a major consideration and rates can vary dramatically from individual centres. Ask questions regarding the registration cost, the weekly rates, and specifically what the fees cover. Enquire whether the centre has the flexibility to accommodate shorter hours of operation or are you bound to a fixed schedule. Also understand their policy for late pick-ups and associated fees for catering, special events and even waiting list fees.
#5 Program/Curriculum Focus
Many childcare centres will have a particular focus on the program they deliver, be it developmental or academic. Select a centre that best caters to the need of your child. The best curriculum will promote exploration and discovery as a way of learning. The program will help develop confidence, critical thinking skills, creativity and focus on each child as an individual learner. Curriculums should also include time for physical activity, quiet and free time.
Some centres may offer school-readiness programs and offer a variety of enrichment classes that help promote critical thinking, problem solving, improve concentration and make learning fun and engaging. Enrichment classes can range from culinary art, science, music, a second language and physical activities.
#6 Meals and Snacks
Making sure your child has adequate nutrition throughout the day is crucial. Healthy menus equal healthy minds. Some childcare centres now offer in-house chefs and edible gardening programs. Food allergies are also an increasing concern for parents, so it is important to enquire how the staff handle allergies and whether they have a management plan to deal with a reaction and anaphylaxis.
This may not necessarily be important compared to other factors but is definitely worth noting. If a centre appears shabby and dirty, the level of cleanliness and hygiene applied to other areas is questionable. Maintaining standards is important and if a centre is slack in maintaining basic standards, providing a safe and nurturing environment for your child’s physical, social and emotional development may be compromised.
Selecting the right childcare centre for you and your child is an important decision and with a little preparation and investigative curiosity, you can choose the correct one that best suits your family.
Explorers Early Learning Enrichment Programs are provided at no extra charge to families and our healthy menu is developed in consultation with Nutrition Australia. The centres offer a curriculum that is respectful of children and their desire to learn. Our belief is that children are strong, capable and resilient, full of wonder and knowledge. If you want to explore the Early Learning difference, book a tour and observe for yourself the practices and learning values that will help shape your child’s learning journey.