Choosing the right child care can be difficult. Your decision will depend on your family’s needs and the environment where you and your child feel most comfortable.
As well as providing care, child care services provide an opportunity for your child to develop social, emotional and learning skills.
Every family is different, so it’s important to think about your own family needs when choosing child care for your child.
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Things to consider
- How old child is your child?
- How much care will your child need each day?
- How many days a week will you need care?
- How far you do want to travel?
If you only require a few hours of child care each week, occasional care may suit you. If you work full time you may need a long day care service.
What to look for
You should look for a child care service that:
- offers valuable play and learning experiences for your child
- makes sure there is a caring and consistent relationship between staff and your child
- allows children time to explore and learn new activities
- supports all aspects of your child’s development, including their social, emotional, physical and cognitive needs
- sets clear and reasonable expectations of behaviour
- works in partnership with your family.
You should also consider the quality of the child care service. The quality of child care services are rated under a system called the National Quality Framework.
Just like schools, quality child care and kindergarten is important because high quality early education sets young children up for life.
startingblocks.gov.au websites help you find out the quality ratings of services.
What to look for when you visit
Most child care services welcome enquiries and will organise a visit. During the visit you can see the service, its staff and the children attending it.
When you first enter the service, you will be able to tell if its atmosphere is inviting or cold, relaxed or frantic. It should be a safe and comfortable place and the children should have a choice of fun and interesting activities. Educators should be engaged with children, playing and talking with them.
Information about the service’s operations, policies and procedures should be displayed and made available to you on request. These policies should be child and family focussed, and sensitive to each family’s cultural and social background, lifestyle and child raising practices.
The available information should include:
- the service’s education and activities program
- the contact details of the responsible Quality Assessment and Regulation Regional Office
- the fees charged
- the name and telephone number of the person you should contact if you have any complaints or concerns
- their approach to behaviour management
- staff qualifications
- their children’s service licence or approval certificate
- the name of the proprietor or approved provider.
Questions you can ask
To decide if the child care service is suitable for you and your child, the following questions will be helpful:
- What is the quality rating?
- Are places available for the day/s and hour/s I need?
- Does the service operate throughout the year or only for school terms?
- Does the service offer extended hours of care?
- What is the ratio of qualified staff?
- What are the staff’s values and philosophies around caring and educating children?
- What are the fees?
- Is there a fee to be placed on the waiting list?
- Are there any other costs I’ll be asked to pay over and above the fees?
- How does the program meet the different needs, interests and experiences of the children?
- How does the service support children with additional needs?
- Will the same staff consistently care for my child?
- What is the process if my child is unwell, upset, or unsettled?
- Can parents be involved and how?
- Can I visit at any time of the day?
- How are food and drink provided for the children?
- What are the sleeping arrangements for the children?
- What is the process for administering medication?