Going back to work is really hard. And putting your child into care for the first time can be a very stressful experience. But how do you choose the right childcare centre? And what should you look out for? It can feel quite overwhelming when you don’t know where to start.
We are lucky to be spoilt for choice when it comes to the number and quality of child care services available to us in Australia. Nation-wide operational requirements set by the National Quality Framework help to ensure all registered child care providers and early learning programs adhere to the same minimum standards.
But there are some child care and daycare centres that go above and beyond expectations to deliver an exceptional level of care and early learning experiences. Whether you’re a parent looking for quality childcare in your local area, or a childcare professional, administrator or educator looking to work with the best employer, we have put together this guide to help in finding a quality child care centre.
Here are the 5 top things you should consider when choosing a childcare centre:
1. Centre location and value
Make a list of all of the child care centres in your local area, and contact each of them to obtain their annual fees and any additional costs, which might include catering, special events or even waiting list fees. Don’t make a decision 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?
2. Educator training, qualifications and staffing levels
Assessing the training and education level of the staff is a good place to start when comparing child care centres. Does the centre have a good mix of experienced senior child care professionals as well as the energy and enthusiasm of trained newcomers to the industry? The National Quality Framework sets minimum standard requirements for early childhood teaching qualifications. You should also ask 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.
3. Healthy children’s menus and allergy awareness programs
Healthy menus equal healthy minds. As children take on the big step of attending child care or preschool, it’s important they’re enjoying healthy meals that keep their energy levels steady. A growing number of child care 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.
4. 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 child care centres and pre-schools. These programs should encourage children to learn, interact and develop through child-centred play and learning activities, and all centres have their own unique differences. Ask about the program inclusions to learn more, and choose a program that reflects your family values and the interests, needs, and personality of your child.
5. Modern infrastructure and up to date child care 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 centre infrastructure. You’ll want to look for a centre that is well equipped with safe and modern infrastructure and learning resources. Importantly, the child care centre should be tech savvy and link into the Child Care Management System – a nationwide software network for child care centres – with an approved software provider like Xplor.
Written by Rey Yesilnacar from Xplor, which provides a nationwide software network for child care centres. Child care centres that use Xplor offer families a whole new childcare experience including real-time contact with your child and carer, digital reporting of illnesses, injuries and food allergies, and an automated record of attendance and child care fees and subsidies.