How to choose a childcare centre

Childcare instructor listening to children

Finding the right childcare centre is an important decision to make for your child. When choosing the best childcare centre for your family, there are a lot of factors to consider, such as the location of the centre, the cost, the hours, and the staff.

On top of all this, perhaps the most important factor to consider is the quality of care that your child will receive.

Today, we take a look at how to choose a childcare centre. This includes questions to ask a childcare centre, and what to look for in a childcare centre. Read on to find out more.

What to look for in a childcare centre

There are a few factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right centre for your child. A childcare centre also often acts as a space for early childhood education and development along with child care, so it’s worth keeping this in mind when weighing up your options. Knowing what to look for can help you to make a better assessment. Before making your decision, think about the following elements:

The location of the centre

You might like to ask yourself a few questions regarding the location of the childcare centre you’re considering. Is it close to your home or work? If not, is it easy to get to at the time of day you’d be looking to do drop-off and collection? Always consider how easy it would be to drop-off and pick up your child when looking at childcare centres.

The cost

While it might be nice to think money doesn’t matter, for many, the price of a childcare centre also plays a role in the decision. Childcare centres may charge different prices for differing levels of service. Smaller centres may be able to offer more one-on-one time and charge accordingly, while others may have a lower staff-to-child ratio and charge less. It’s important to consider what you can afford and what services are most important to you and your family. When looking into childcare centres in your local area, it’s also worth looking into the breakdown of the fees and seeing what’s included in the cost.

The availability

Popular childcare centres can book up fast, and you may need to be added to a waiting list for a spot to become available. It’s important to consider how long you might be prepared to wait for a spot. Some families may choose to apply for a centre six to 12 months before the spot is needed, if they know it has a long wait time. Are you willing to wait for a spot at your preferred centre or are you happy to take a spot at another one if it’s available sooner?

The staff

The people who will be caring for your children on the day-to-day are another element to think about when deciding between childcare centres. Along with providing care, childcare staff are also often responsible for educating children in their care. Take some time to get to know the staff at the centres you’re considering. Do they seem like people you would feel comfortable entrusting your children with? Are they qualified and experienced in providing quality early education?

The environment

When looking at childcare centres, always take the time to walk around the grounds and have a good look at the space your child will be in. Is it well-lit and airy? Are the toys and equipment in good condition? Does the outdoor space provide a secure and safe environment? Is there plenty of room for curious minds to create and explore? The environment your child will be in is an important factor to consider.

The opening hours

The hours of operation are another factor to consider when choosing a childcare centre. Some places only operate during standard office or school hours, while others may offer early mornings and after work care. Find out whether the opening hours of the childcare centre fit in with your work schedule. If you’re working long hours, you might need a centre that’s open later.

The philosophy of the centre

Each childcare centre will run things a little differently and have their own philosophy on how they care for children. For example, at Story House Early Learning, our philosophy is to provide a space for parents’ priorities to be acknowledged and for children and their differences to be catered for. When looking at centres, ask about their philosophy and see if it lines up with your own and what you want your child to be surrounded with.

The services & opportunities

Along with providing care services, childcare centres are often also spaces for early education. Many centres offer additional services and opportunities for children. This could include excursions or activities that help children learn and develop new skills. If there are certain activities or opportunities you’re looking for, make sure to check whether the centres you’re considering can provide them. You’ll also want to find out if these services and excursions come at an additional cost.

The reviews

Finally, one of the best ways to get a feel for a childcare centre is to read reviews from other parents. Ask around and see if anyone you know has sent their children to the centres you’re considering. If they have, find out what their experience was like. It can also be helpful to read online reviews from other parents who have first-hand experience with the childcare centres you’re considering. This can give you valuable insights that you might not have considered.

Questions to ask a childcare centre

There are a few questions you may like to ask to help you on your mission to narrow down childcare centres. The specific questions you ask will depend on the values that are most important to you, however, some examples might include:

What is the communication process like between staff and parents/caregivers?

Different childcare centres will have different methods of how they communicate with parents and caregivers while the child is under their care. Some centres will send photos of the child to the parent or guardian throughout the day to show what they’re up to, while others may write short daily reports. Some may also have an app that parents can use to check in on their children throughout the day. It’s a good idea to find out what communication methods the childcare centre uses and how frequently they use them. This will help you to decide whether the centre is a suitable fit for you and your family.

What qualifications and experience do the staff members have?

The qualifications and experience of the childcare centre staff is another topic you might like to ask about. After all, they’ll be responsible for the education and care of your child while they’re in their care. Most centres will have a range of trained adults with different qualifications and levels of experience. This could include those with education in early childhood development. Asking about the educational background and experience of staff will give you a better idea of the level of care your child will be receiving at a centre.

How many children for each teacher at your facility?

Learning the ratio of teachers to children at a childcare centre can help you to better understand the quality of care your child receives. A lower teacher to child ratio generally means that each child will receive more individual attention from carers. A higher ratio may mean children spend more time in group care. If you feel having a lower ratio and receiving more individual care is important for your child’s development, finding out the teacher-to-child ratio of a centre should help you to make a decision.

Is there a set routine for the children at the centre, and if so, what is it?

Most centres will have a basic routine that they follow each day. This could include times for meals, naps, outdoor play and learning activities. If you’re looking for a family day care provider with a set routine, it’s worth asking about this upfront. The routine will differ for younger babies and older children, so you ask specifically what the structure is for your child’s age group. Doing this will give you a better idea of whether the centre fits the type of routine and structure you’re looking for, and what will be happening during your child’s day there.

What is the centre's discipline policy?

When it comes to discipline, every family will have different values and preferences. Some might prefer a more gentle approach, while others may prefer a firmer hand. Finding out what the centre’s discipline policy can help you decide whether their values align with your own.

It's a big decision

Choosing the right childcare centre for your family is a big decision. However, if you take the time to think about what it is you truly want and ask thorough questions, you should be able to find a centre that’s right for your child and family.

Story House Early Learning has centres all across Australia. We believe that each child is writing their own individual story, moving through it at their own pace. Contact us on 1300 786 794 to find out more about us and how we can support your child’s development.

Let their learning story start with us.

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