Whether you’re a first-time parent, or looking to put your child into care for the first time, choosing the best childcare service for your family is an important decision. With so many childcare providers offering different types of care, inclusions, and services – we understand that choosing a childcare service can be an overwhelming prospect.
When it comes to the care of your precious little one, we want to support you in every way possible. We’ve put together this handy list of things to consider when choosing care, to help guide you as you make your decision.
Before we begin, we’d like to say, above all – please trust your instincts. Choose the childcare service that you can see fitting in with your family’s needs, and where you know your child will be happy, supported, and well-cared for; because that is the most important thing of all. Tour the centres on your list, chat to the staff and the Director, and ask all the questions you need to feel comfortable. Your childcare journey should be a happy and enriching one, full of fun, relationships, trust, and learning.
The Practical Considerations
What are the fees?
Fees can vary greatly depending on the area and the types of care and educational services offered. In Australia, the Government subsidises childcare which is a great help for families and ensures everybody can access quality education and care. You can check the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) rate you are entitled to, by contacting Service Australia or by using their handy CCS Calculator found here. You may also like to watch a helpful video on CCS here. Don’t forget to check out our blog post, A Simple Guide to the Child Care Subsidy too.
At Imagine we encourage our families to contact Services Australia in the early stages of looking for childcare, as subsidy entitlements can take a few weeks to be processed.
What benefits are included in the fees?
You must also consider what level of benefits and educational services are included in the fees. If a centre supplies your child with meals and nappies, this will greatly reduce your own household costs. For example, Imagine Childcare offers extensive benefits and all-inclusive fees including healthy meals, nappies, extracurricular activities, and full educational services.
Imagine Childcare reduces your household costs even further, with our special partnership with Nurch Childcare Loyalty Rewards. You earn points on your childcare fees that can be redeemed for digital gift cards from popular retailers like Kmart, Woolworths, and Myer to name a few.
The best thing you can do is ask centres directly for their daily fee and inclusions. Then, consider how this all fits in with your household budget and your family’s needs.
Which location should you be looking in?
Are you looking for a day care centre near you, within easy walking distance from your home? Or a centre you can drop your child off at on your way into work? Consider your personal routine and narrow down your search to centres that are convenient to your location needs.
What type of care do you require?
Are you looking for a centre that will provide your child with full-time care and educational services while you are working? Or are you looking for a centre that will give you a couple of hours of care every now and again when you need it? Some popular types of care include:
- Long Day Care (Care and education for children 0-6 years old. Usually operates for 8-12 hours a day, 48-52 weeks a year. Children can attend full-time, or parents can select the days they wish their child to be enrolled. Imagine Childcare falls under this category)
- Family Day Care (An Educator educates and cares for children in their own home, for children 0 to school-aged)
- Occasional Care (Casual care only when you need it so a less formalised bookings pattern. Operates shorter hours – usually 1-2 hours)
- Nanny or Au Pair (Hired for your child’s care in your own home)
- OSHC (Care before or after school for school-age children. This may also include holiday programs during school holidays for school-age children)
- Vacation Care (School holiday program for school-age children)
Do you require childcare right now, or are you happy to go on a waitlist?
Childcare centres have a finite number of places they are registered for, so it is important to start researching the centres you are interested in early on and register your details with your favourites, so they can contact you when you are ready for care, or when a place becomes available at the centre. Of course, there may be a place available straight away at your favourite centre, but it is important to remember that many centres often have waitlists.
Have you considered licencing, regulations & national standards?
By law, all childcare centres must be registered. It is important that you check if a service is registered or not when choosing the right centre for your family. Check the ACECQA website to ensure the service you are choosing is registered.
Every childcare service is rated across seven quality areas, called the National Quality Standards. This assessment process ensures that childcare providers strive for quality in these seven important areas. These areas are rated as Significant Improvement Required, Working Towards, Meeting, Exceeding & Excellence.
Childcare centres must legally display their rating, and you can also ask the centre themselves in your initial enquiry or on your tour, or you can check the ACECQA website.
Long day care services like Imagine are licensed under the Education and Care Services Regulation and Law. Each state has their own regulatory authority who works in consultation with childcare centres to ensure children are protected from harm and have the best possible outcomes for development and learning opportunities. The regulatory authority will conduct spot checks and assesses the centre against the National Quality Standards.
Facilities & Resources
What type of facilities are you looking for?
Are you looking for a modern service with adventure playgrounds, state-of-the art technology in the classrooms, and all the bells and whistles? Or will you and your child be happier at a smaller centre with a more homely feel? If you’re unsure, the best thing you can do is tour a few different centres and see what feels best for you and your child. Everybody is different, and what is important to one person will not be important to the next. Whilst on your tour, note other areas such as – does the centre design allow children to have the ability to flow from the indoor environment to the outdoor environment? Is the environment secure? Is there a secure sign-in and out system for parents to use?
Is the centre well-maintained and clean?
On your tour, look at the resources – are they well looked after or are they worn and old? Is the play equipment maintained and the playgrounds looked after? Also note how clean the centre is. You can tell a lot about the care and pride that is put into a centre by how well it is maintained, cleaned, and cared for.
Staff and Community
Read the centre’s philosophy. You can tell a lot about the values, beliefs, and the guiding principles of the centre by reading their philosophy. Does it align with your values and beliefs?
The early years are so important to children’s learning and development, and childcare centres can provide so much more than just care. Look at the centre’s curriculum and the educational services they offer. How does the curriculum and the centre’s approach to early education match your values? Do children have a voice in regards to curriculum planning and can they freely choose resources and experiences that interest them? Do both parents and children have the ability to reflect on the educational curriculum so the centre is striving for continuous improvement?
One of the most important areas for consideration is the centre’s staff and Educators. Ratios of Educators to children in each age group are set by legislation, so ensure that your centre is maintaining these ratios. However, there are other considerations to make too. Is there a high staff turnover, or are there many long-term Educators? Do the staff hold qualifications appropriate to the children and level of learning they are responsible for? Are they qualified in areas such as first aid and do they participate in professional development opportunities? Are the staff happy at the centre and do you get a great welcoming vibe from them? Again, tour the centres you love and talk to the staff in different classrooms to really get a feel of the centre, this is the perfect opportunity to observe staff interactions and engagements with the children. Ask about their qualifications. You are entrusting the staff with your precious child’s care, so do thorough research in this area.
Communication and Partnerships with Parents
How does the centre communicate with parents? Does the centre allow parents input into their child’s educational learning? How will the centre communicate your child’s daily learning? These questions are important to ask when you enquire with the centre, as your childcare journey should be a partnership between your family and your centre. For example, at Imagine Childcare, we value open communication and parent input into our programs. We support our families and see our Imagine family as a community. We also send you daily updates of your child’s day through KindyHub.
Reputation and Reviews
Word of mouth is so important. Do your research and engage in social listening, and look on Google and Facebook for reviews and what parents are saying about the centre. Join some community Facebook groups in the area and put the question out there for feedback on centres in your area. Parents love to talk, and you can tell a lot about a centre from what is said about them.
Finally, the most important consideration of all – how does the centre make you feel?
We cannot stress this enough. From the moment you contact the centre, throughout your enrolment process, and on your centre tour, you should feel like part of the family. The childcare centre should feel like a home away from home for you and your family, where you are welcomed and where you and your child are excited to make many wonderful memories!