What is childcare?

Child care is the supervision of a child or group of children provided by centres, organizations, accredited educators, the government or a person when the parents are at work or away. Child care service is usually offered to parents and families with children, from newborns up until the age of thirteen. Child care costs can be a lot of strain on one’s pocket that’s why the Australian government offers child care subsidies and assistance to eligible families.

Types of childcare

There are different types of childcare in Australia and each one of them offers services, programs and features that suit the unique needs of families. Some Australian families look for a service that matches their interests and values, for example, the childcare centre has food choices that they find acceptable for their kid’s diet or musical classes they want their child to be part of.

Then there are parents whose main consideration would be for their child to experience a variety of caring approaches and interact with other people’s children coming from different social and family backgrounds.

Some prefer child care that is personalised and more home-like, and some lean more towards formal training in centre-based care. Working families need longer hours of education and care for their children, some only need short periods of supervised care. The needs vary.

However, in general, many families base their decision in choosing a child care centre on the number of hours they need caring for their child a week, the available options in their location, the cost of care and quality ratings.

To help you better understand the types of childcare as you search for what’s best for your child, here’s a list of available child care options, their advantages, disadvantages, and how they can cater to your needs and expectations.

Centre-based Care

usually offers a more structured care service in a classroom-like environment to children in the same age group supervised by qualified early childhood educators.

Their learning environment and facilities are more commercial and larger than home-based centres. They offer structured programs and routines that contribute to child development in terms of their social, emotional and cognitive skills.

Long day care

Long day care centres are also known as centre-based care services. They are one of the common go-to childcare services of parents who have full-time jobs and need professional supervision of their children for long hours during the work week. Parents drop off their kids before their work begins and picks them up after the work day.

These long day care centres are approved child care services that have met the National Quality Framework standards. Long day care is managed by private companies, community organisations, or non-profit organisations.

Children are grouped with other kids of the same age or development stage, interacting with the centre’s educators, teachers or other staff in general. Some long day care services may serve meals throughout the day. Typically, long day care centres operate as early as 7:30 am until 6:00 pm to converge with the family or parent’s working hours.

Occasional, Flexible, or Casual Care services

These services provide short periods of care to children under school age. There are centre-based child care services that offer occasional care. This is a good option for parents who only need professional care and supervision for their children on a periodic or need-be basis meaning they don’t intend to send their kids to the centre regularly.

This suits families who are casual or shift workers. This is also helpful for parents who have urgent appointments, emergencies or a need to catch up on errands or housework. They can reach out to the child care centre offering occasional care and request to be added to the waiting list.

In this way, parents can take care of other tasks while their children socialize and interact with other children in an early childhood learning environment. Some non-profits, community organizations, and local councils provide occasional, flexible, and casual care services.

Preschools or kindergartens

Preschool programs are offered to early learners who will be going to primary school the following year, they are usually children aged 3-5 years old. Pre-school helps with children’s growth and development as young learners.

They have classes and activities that hone their reading and writing skills. Being around other children of the same age group also helps them develop their social skills, problem-solving skills, working in group skills and decision-making skills.

There are different kinds of preschools, it can be a standalone service, co-located with a school or co-located with another child care service.

Outside school hours care

Out-of-school hours care (OSHC) is offered to parents and families who need care for their children before or after regular school hours or outside the standard 9 am-3 pm school hours.

Outside school hours care is especially helpful for working parents to help them be more at ease knowing that their children are in a safe, structured and supervised early childhood learning environment.

OSHC often provides school-age children education and care programs that help them adjust to normal school. Some children who need an additional boost in their studies are enrolled in an out-of-school hours care program or holiday programs.

Outside school hours care offer different kinds of child care program that can help primary school-age children find their interests, strengths and potential. Children who have started school and also attend outside school hours care are more likely to get better grades and build foundational skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.

They also develop their social skills as they interact with other children. They learn how to collaborate and to work within a group.

Out-of-school hours care (OSHC) is available to school-age children before and/or after school, on pupil-free days during the school term and on school holidays.

Home-based care

Home-based child care or in-home care is one of the most flexible child care options there is. When you say home-based child care, it’s when a parent entrusts and requests care and supervision for their child from relatives, friends, babysitters, nannies or even live-in au pair, it can be in their own home or the trusted carer’s home.

Parents who have an urgent appointment, a social event, or a personal errand might choose to employ a babysitter, it’s the practical choice when you need occasional care. Parents who require longer or regular hours of care might go for a qualified nanny or alive-in au pair.

The Australian government offers subsidies for families who don’t have access to mainstream child care options due to their circumstances. It can be because they have unusual working hours, they’re geographically isolated or they have other complex family needs that affect their choice.

Family day care services

Family child care is a kind of home-based child care where the carer attends to small groups of children. State regulations may vary and affect rules as to where a family daycare can operate. They can be set up in a house, apartment or condo unit based in local communities, they’re usually neighbourhood-based.

Family day care is often cheaper than a childcare centre. However, in-home care rates may differ depending on the community.

Some parents opt for family day care because of its convenience and benefits. They have low child-to-provider ratios, so care is more personalised and children get more attention. Children also form bonds with the child care providers or host family, this type of care has very low turnover.

Family day care serves as parents’ partner in raising children in their early years. They tend to be the constant caregiver of a child throughout its early childhood. It is common for a family home care to take care and supervise the same child from birth until they’re ready for school.

Parents who want a home-like and family environment choose to bring their children to a family day care. It is also often quiet and peaceful in a family day care, so infants and little children who need rest or longer sleep time get the environment they need.

Business-related creches

Some employers or businesses offer on-site child care, mostly informal and unstructured. They’re mainly there for the convenience of customers or even employees. There are government departments, universities, hospitals, shopping centres and even gyms that offer this.

They charge a fee for the child care service they provide. It’s convenient for parents that need care assistance for short periods of time. This kind of child care does not offer high-quality early learning and doesn’t have to meet the requirements for centre-based care or family daycare services. Parents must set their expectations that business-related creches are for mere supervision of children and is not a substitute for early childhood education and care.

Finding the type of child care that suits you

There are so many types of child care out there at your disposal. As a parent, the decision is yours. Choosing where you want to entrust your child’s early years is important. These are their formative years where they will develop and hone their social, cognitive and even physical skills.

Carefully research the child care services you’re eyeing, and learn more about their programs, facilities, educators and staff. Weigh the pros and cons, and set your non-negotiables.

Your search can be made easier when you take advantage of convenient platforms like Space, a listing platform for early childhood education and care services in Australia. It can help you find schools, early child care centres, family day care, and good before and after-school care services near you. You don’t have to pay any fee when you create an account on the platform.

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