When you’re looking to enrol your kid in child care, you may be surprised to discover how many options there are. This simple guide to understanding the different types of child care available in Australia will help demystify the process and stop you feeling overwhelmed when it comes time to make a decision.
Some of the most popular types of child care available are:
- Long day care
- Family day care
- Before and after school care
- Casual child care
- In home care (babysitter, nanny and au pair)
Long Day Care
Long day care centres are one of the most common types of child care in Australia. There are plenty of benefits – both for the children and the parents – which sees it as a growing industry.
What Is Long Day Care or Child Care?
Long day care centres are a full-day option for parents to leave their children with trained educators while they work. Generally, long child care centres are open from early in the morning – normally 7am or 8am – and close around 6pm.
These centres normally have multiple rooms for different age groups, meaning children are mostly interacting with peers of a similar developmental stage. Each room will have several trained educators – normally one for every four or five children – with ‘floating’ educators switching between rooms to help during busy periods or to cover breaks.
Who is Long Day Care Suitable For?
Long day child care is an excellent option for children. This type of child care has a team of trained educators on hand, meaning children get lots of attention and lots of immersive ways to spend the day. Many of the play options have sneaky development or educational benefits too – from tweaking gross and fine motor skills to getting children familiar with counting, reading and sharing.
Long day care is popular with parents who work, as they can arrange to drop off and pick up their kid either side of the standard workday. For people who have shift work, this may not work as well.
Family Day Care
Family day care is one of the most intimate forms of day care, with a small group of children being looked after in a family home setting.
What Is Family Day Care?
Family day care is a much smaller operation than long day care, which gives it an intimate feeling of a family home that may be lacking elsewhere. While a centre may have multiple classes of children, this is a much smaller operation that may only have four children in total.
In most situations, family day care is held in the home of an educator. As well as an appropriate certificate in child care, whoever is hosting the family day care must also have a current first aid qualification.
Who is Family Day Care Suitable For?
This type of child care is normally chosen by parents who want a setting that’s less formal for their children. This child care option is closer to what a kid might experience at home and they normally form tighter bonds with the adults and children in the group.
For many parents, family day care is often seen as a stepping stone between home life and long day care, as it gives a child a taste of being away from their parents. When the kid is a bit older and looking for new stimulus and a greater social circle, they may move on to long day care.
Kindergarten programs are traditionally aged at children who are approaching school age. It’s closer to a school structure than long day care and more focused on education.
What Is Kindergarten?
Kindergarten is one of the oldest types of preschool care. It’s more closely aligned with primary school than other forms of day care, with a more educational focus than day care centres and opening hours that more closely reflect school hours.
This type of child care is often chosen by parents as their children get older and it can be a useful transition for kids before they get to primary school. Kindergarten programs give them a better understanding the type of work they’re expected to do and they’ll be able to better transition into more formal schooling because of it.
Who is Kindergarten Suitable For?
Kindergarten programs are generally most suitable for children aged between three and five, especially those getting close to school age.
Although the timing isn’t as useful for parents who work standard hours, there are often after school programs available so that you still have some sort of care while you’re at work.
Before and After School Care
It’s not just infants and preschool kids who need day care options. Parents of school-aged kids often need a little bit of help to look after their children so that they can make it to work.
What Is Before and After School Care?
Before and after school care options are exactly what they sound like. Schools – and some offsite options – offer child care services from 7am (sometimes as early as 6am) through to 6pm to help parents make the commute to work while also being able to drop off and pick up their children at school.
This type of child care normally provides activities for children where they can learn or play. Children have the chance to mingle with their peers and make solid friendships.
Who is Before and After School Care For?
Before and after school care is a great option for parents who struggle to drop off or pick up their kids at the standard time because of other commitments like work.
It’s also a great option for children who want to spend more time with their friends in a supervised environment and, depending on the location, it may also be a great way for your child to develop certain skills.
Casual Child Care
Casual day care is an option for parents who need ad-hoc care and don’t want to commit to booking in certain days or times for their children.
What Is Casual Child Care?
Casual child care centres typically have flexible opening hours and allow parents to drop off their child or children without any notice. Unlike long day care, there are no waiting lists and there’s no need to book in for certain days.
Casual child care centres have qualified educators working at them and they offer many of the same activities and games as other options.
While many parents use these child care centres as a backup option, they can be very useful.
Because of the casual basis of this type of child care, your kid will likely meet a wider range of children but may not create as many strong friendships.
Who is Casual Child Care Suitable For?
Most casual child care centres are options for children up to five years old. They’re the perfect option for parents who work unusual hours or who may need to pick up shifts at the last minute. They’re also a handy option when something unusual happens and there’s no one on hand to look after your children, or during school holidays when other child care options may be closed.
Another way these centres are utilised is as a bridging option while waiting for a spot to open up at a long day care, family day care or kindergarten.
In Home Care
In home care is another type of child care, with options available for a couple of hours in the evening through to the whole day. The advantage of this is that your children are in an environment they’re familiar with. The three most common types of in-home care are babysitters, nannies and au pairs babysitters.
Babysitters are normally hired on a casual basis. They’re the most informal of three arrangements and is often someone you know and trust but who has limited responsibilities.
At the low end of the scale, you may simply need someone to be in your home while your child sleeps, allowing you to go out of the house for an evening. At other times, there may be basic jobs involved like putting your child to bed, giving them a bath and maybe feeding them.
Babysitters can come from many places, but often a teenage family member looking for a bit of work is an affordable and reliable option.
Nannies are generally a step up from a babysitter – in terms of roles, experience and price. Generally, they’ll have an educational background (or be studying towards one) and nannies tend to have a more consistent presence in your child’s life than a babysitter.
Common reasons for hiring nannies might be to pick up your child from school and spend a couple of hours with them until you get home. As your child grows, you may want to find a nanny who can help your child with their homework, providing both education and care for your kid.
Au pairs tend to spend more time with your child than a babysitter or nanny. Traditionally in Australia, an au pair comes from overseas on a six-month visa and gets food and board with you as part of your agreement (as well as payment).
In exchange, they will spend time with your child and help you out when you need it. What roles this include depends on your circumstance, but it may be getting them ready in the morning, attending school drop off/pick up or helping with the bedtime routine.
Depending on your agreement, you may also be able to get the au pair to help with some household chores while you’re at work.
Au pairs tend to cost more than the other options, but they generally have a lower hourly rate than a nanny so you may get more value for money.
Which type of child care is right for you?
Knowing which type of child care is right for you depends a lot on your needs. For ongoing care for younger children, long day care or family child care may be the best option. As they get older, you may prefer before/after school care or in-home help. Casual child care and babysitters also have their place, and can be used to complement other types of child care.
Registering for Child Care
Once you’ve thought about your options and decided on the type of child care that works best for your situation, the next step is often to register your child so you can get the days and hours you need. Search for the best child care options on Space and start your journey now.