There’s a lot to consider when you search for a child care centre for your kid. Finding somewhere with the right mix of facilities, safety, development, and experienced staff can be a stressful task.
Thankfully, with a childcare checklist, you can put your thoughts down on paper and make a decision that’s right for your family more easily.
Why childcare is important
Children who attend childcare get lots of benefits. They build on their developmental skills, from physical movement to communication, sharing and discovery.
Childcare also gives kids a safe environment to play, learn and experiment. They’ll practise arts and crafts, get used to processes like tidying up and make new friends.
Childcare also has benefits for parents too, allowing them to go back to work or spend a little time on themselves.
Some of the key benefits of childcare include:
- Social and emotional skills
- Good habits
Social and emotional skills
Social and emotional skills are two of the hardest areas for parents to teach their children.
For social skills, children learn quickest among their peers. While siblings and family members can speed up socialisation, spending time with similarly aged children will help them with the important skills of making and building friendships.
Emotional skills are similar. Children act differently when their parents are around and learning how to act and behave when they’re not under your watching eye is something that takes a bit of practice.
Children love to rebel against their parents so if you struggle to get your children to help tidy up after meals, pack away their toys or wash their hands at appropriate times, you’re not alone.
These sorts of habits are something that childcare can help with. Taking instructions from different adults and seeing other children displaying these good habits can assist your child’s development. You may end up pleasantly surprised at some of the traits they bring home.
One of the key goals of parenting is raising children who will become independent and resilient. For young children, this can be a hard journey to start if they’re constantly in the care of their parents.
Many parents find the drop off difficult at first. Toddlers don’t always understand what’s happening and don’t want to see their loved ones going, but over time this gets easier. Your child will associate daycare with good times, nice teachers and their new friends.
Without a parent on hand to guide and help them, your child will learn to make their own decisions and get better at solving their problems.
Importance of choosing the right childcare
When you start to search for childcare services, you’ll soon see that there are lots available. So what’s the best child care option? That depends on what you’re looking for, as one family’s needs will differ from another’s.
However, there are some factors almost all families will want from child care:
- Safety and security
- Growth and development
- Preparing for school
Most childcare centres in Australia will focus on these areas (and more), but you may find that they will vary in what they prioritise for their children.
Safety and security
When you leave your child in someone else’s care, is only natural that you want them to be safe and secure.
Every child care operator in Australia has to meet certain standards to be allowed to run. The National Quality Framework rates every provider for children’s health and safety, to minimise risks and protect kids.
Factors that are assessed include adequate supervision, incident/emergency management, encouragement of healthy living, appropriate hygiene practices, pick up safety and more.
Growth and development
Being at daycare is an important tool for the growth and development of your child.
While there, they’ll be involved in lots of different activities that will help them. From games that help build gross and fine motor skills to interesting activities that add in sneaky lessons like counting or spotting letters of the alphabet, your child will learn a lot from daycare.
Preparing for school
Many adults see daycare centres as a stepping stone to primary school, and this is just one of their benefits.
While children will be able to learn a lot of the required skills at home, being in a setting that’s a bit similar to school will help. They’ll understand the teacher-child relationship, get used to being around lots of children and also be introduced to small sessions of formal teaching.
Many of the skills your child will need — like basic writing, being confident with clothes and bags, and going to the toilet independently — will be developed through going to daycare.
Childcare Checklist: Important Considerations
When you’re looking for the best childcare option for your family, it can be hard to know what to look for.
Some of the most important lines on your childcare checklist should be:
- Curriculum and program
- Meals and snacks
- Experience of educators
- Facilities and resources
- Fees and payments
Once you evaluate these areas and weigh up which ones are most important for you, you’ll have a good idea of which centre is best for you.
Curriculum and program
As a lot of your child’s day will be spent at daycare, it must be more than a play centre. While free play is vital in development and growth, paying for a service should give you more.
Talk to the educators about what they do to help your child learn and grow. Many centres will work with guardians to address specific areas of development.
Meals and snacks
Child care centres have different policies on meals, drinks and snacks.
Some provide all the food for your child during the day. This can be very beneficial for a parent as it takes a major task off your hand and it’s also a great way for your child to be introduced to new and different foods.
This offer does, however, set a strict limit over what and when your child can eat.
If your child has any food allergies, you should check to see how these will be catered to. And it’s also a good idea to ask to see a nutrition policy to make sure it’s what you’re looking for.
When you leave your child somewhere, you want to make sure it’s perfect.
The indoor sections should be well lit, children should have lots of areas to relax and be comfortable,
The atmosphere of the facility is also important. Do the children play and look like they’re happy and engaged? Are the staff enjoying their work or are they stressed and frustrated?
Experience of educators
While some care options for your child — like babysitters — don’t need to be highly qualified, there are places where you do need experience and qualifications.
When you tour a childcare facility, make sure to ask about the experience of the educators. Most should have or be studying towards, either a university degree or a Certificate III or higher. This will help give them better training and ideas to implement in their days.
First aid training is also important.
Facilities and resources
The facilities and resources of a childcare setting will have a large influence on what your kid gets out of their time there.
There are different things to look out for. Having an outdoor area to play in is important, ideally with different ways to interact with nature and build their gross motor skills.
You also want to see they have access to a lot of stimulating games, toys and books. As a general rule, the more your child has access to day care, the more they’ll learn and experiment with different things.
Child care is there to help parents so it makes sense that it’s convenient. Major factors like location and opening hours will help you make a decision.
Other small factors like having an onsite barista may make your life a little bit easier too.
There are times when you may need to change days — whether that’s to pick up an extra spot if your work life changes or to drop some days during school holidays without having to pay for them. Having a bit of flexibility in how you use the centre is important for many families.
Fees and payments
There is of course the cost of childcare that must be taken into account.
Before you start comparing the cost and payments of different childcare choices, it’s a good idea to read up about childcare subsidies and work out what you would be eligible for. Once you take this subsidy into account, it might open up more facilities for your family’s budget.