Putting your precious little one into care for the first time can often seem quite daunting as a new parent. You’re entrusting your baby into the care of somebody else, and you may be wondering whether your baby will be happy and safe in their new environment and how you will feel when you are away from them too.
At Imagine Childcare, we have years of experience welcoming and supporting new parents as they begin their childcare journey. We believe that each family’s childcare journey should be a happy and enriching one, full of fun, relationships, trust, and learning. We’ve written this article to support you with information about putting your baby into care for the first time.
Choose a childcare centre where your family will feel comfortable
Choosing the right childcare centre for your family’s needs is such a personal decision. It’s so important that you choose the childcare service that you can see fitting in with your family’s values, and where you know your child will be happy, supported, and well-cared for.
Sophie Kelly, a Lead Educator in the Nursery Room at Imagine Childcare Jensen, encourages parents to do their research on a centre, as each centre will have their own approach towards care and philosophy.
“For example, at Imagine Childcare, our approach is The Abecedarian Approach, which places a priority on high quality adult to child interactions and children’s language acquisitions” she says.
“This means that our Educators spend more time engaging and interacting with the children, and through these high quality adult to child interactions, our Educators are enabled to meet the child’s needs because they are observing and interacting with the child more closely.”
See our blog post Choosing the Best Childcare for Your Family to read all our tips on finding the right childcare centre for you.
Find out what’s included in the fees
Ask about any inclusions the centre provides as part of your daily fee. Imagine Childcare offers inclusions such as nappies, linen, meals, and wipes, which Sophie says are a fantastic support when you have so much to organise already, and can really help with your household budget.
As your baby begins solids, inclusions such as healthy meals can also be fantastic for busy parents. Ask about how a centre caters for children’s allergies and dietary requirements too, and talk to the enrolment team and the centre about any requirements your little one may have too.
At Imagine Childcare, we provide nutritious and developmentally appropriate meals for your little one – catered for all dietary requirements. We won’t introduce any foods to your child they haven’t tried at home first, so we do encourage our families to constantly keep up updated with the foods your child has tried at home.
Look for extra inclusions that will support your family further. Read our blog post The Childcare Rewards Program Saving Families Money to find out more about how Imagine Childcare is supporting our families through Nurch. Imagine Childcare also offers barista coffee for parents – a perfect little perk to help you start your busy day.
Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable
When you first enquire at a childcare centre, you should ask as many questions as you need to feel confident and comfortable. As you continue the enrolment process, and even after you’ve enrolled, continue to ask any new questions you may have. There is no question too silly or not important enough to ask. We’re here to help and we want you to feel as comfortable as possible!
Your centre and Educators will also ask lots of questions of you too, to ensure a smooth and successful transition into childcare.
“Before your baby’s first day, our Educators will collect all the information required regarding your little one, such as their eating requirements, allergies, or any other additional needs of the child” says Sophie.
“Each child is unique, so we ensure we ask lots of questions and get lots of information, so we are providing the best quality care for each individual child within our service.”
What are the ratios in the Nursery Room?
Something that is really important to ask, is the ratios of Educators to children in the Nursery Room. The centre you are enquiring at must follow the rules for ratios for their particular type of care, as these rules are in place to ensure the best and safest possible care for your little one. View a handy table of required ratios at www.acecqa.gov.au/nqf/educator-to-child-ratios
At a centre-based daycare like Imagine Childcare, the ratio for Educators to babies up to 24 months is 1:4. For example, at Imagine Childcare Jensen where Sophie is an Educator, there are two Nursery Rooms, each with a capacity of 12 children and three Educators. The younger babies are in Nursery 1, and the older babies are in Nursery 2. By separating the babies into two rooms like this, we are providing a safer more age-appropriate environment for your little one.
Applying for CCS
One of the top questions we get asked at Imagine Childcare, is how the Child Care Subsidy works and how much subsidy you are entitled to. Make sure you read out blog posts A Simple Guide to the Childcare Subsidy and Applying for the Childcare Subsidy – Process to Follow, to find out everything you need to know about the CCS process and how to apply too. Our enrolments team recommend organising your CCS before you start applying at centres. This will make for a much easier process for you.
Will my baby miss me and be unhappy if I’m not there?
This is a very normal way to feel. Educators are highly trained to form bonds and relationships with the little ones in their care, and the emotional wellbeing of the baby is a priority for them. They understand the responsibility they have to ensure your baby’s time in care is a happy, nurturing, and rewarding one – and that you feel supported too!
At Imagine Childcare, we also encourage parents to phone the centre if they would like to check in on their little one, and our Educators will also provide you with regular updates and photos of your baby’s day through our parent portal, KindyHub.
Will my baby be safe?
Again, this is a very common question a new parent will have. Remember that the selection of centre is up to you and you must ensure that you feel trusting that your little one is going to receive the best possible care when choosing a centre.
If you have any concerns about your centre and your little one’s safety at any time, it is important that you talk to the Educators and the centre to rectify the situation immediately. A good centre will also contact you straight away to inform you of any incidents that have occurred.
At Imagine Childcare, the safety of your child is of the utmost importance to us and all our Educators have ongoing training to ensure we are providing the safest environment for your little one. We have a comprehensive Child Safe Environment Policy in place to guide staff practices, and we also follow the Red Nose Guidelines to provide a safe sleeping environment.
We also have an open communication policy with our families, because we believe that this fosters trust and helps build successful relationships.
Before you enrol, you will be invited on a tour of the centre. On your tour look carefully at the Nursery environment your little one will be in. Is it a safe, happy, and nurturing space where you will feel secure that your little one is getting the best care possible? Do the children seem happy, settled, and comfortable in their environment? And how do the Educators in the room make you feel? Can you see bonds and relationships between the Educators and the babies?
When you go on your tour of the centre, also ask to see the full centre and all classrooms, not just the Nursery Room. Continuity of care is so important for a little one’s growth and development, and by looking through the whole centre and the different classrooms, you will be able to make a more informed choice as to if this is the centre for your family’s childcare journey.
Meet and Greets
At Imagine Childcare, Meet and Greets are offered to all our new parents, but if you are not offered this service at the centre you enquire at, do ask. Because we want you to feel totally comfortable and secure before the big first day, we also encourage parents to have as many Meet and Greets as they need.
Sophie says that Meet and Greets are really important for parents and children, as it allows both you and your little one to begin to familiarise yourselves with the Nursery learning environment and begin to form bonds and relationships with your Educators.
“It’s extremely important that a parent finds trust in their Educators to look after their children” Sophie says. “Forming bonds with not only the child, but also with the child’s family, is key to forming this trust.”
Spending time with the Educators in the Nursery Room prior to starting will also allow them to really get to know your child and their individual needs before they start care, and Sophie says that this tends to decrease the time it takes to settle a new child into care.
During your Tour, your Meet and Greet, and throughout your childcare journey, continue to talk to the Educators about any additional needs, routines, or requirements your little one may have. Good Educators are highly trained to communicate with families to ensure every individual child receives the best care possible, and they will want to know everything about your little one to ensure their time in care is a nurturing and rewarding experience.
Choose how many days you would like your little one to attend
Depending on your personal needs, how many days you put your baby into care is totally up to you. You may wish to start slowly and ease your little one (and yourself!) into their new environment and routine; or due to work or other commitments, you may like to attend every day.
Whether you are attending one day a week or five, you can feel reassured that good Educators will ensure that your little one feels happy, settled, and secure in their new childcare environment.
Packing for daycare
Your centre will give you a list of what to bring to childcare each day when you enrol, but do feel free to ask any questions about what to bring or what not to bring before the big day to help you feel organised early. Ensure your child’s belongings are labelled with their name.
As an example, at Imagine Childcare we ask parents to bring:
- A backpack
- A hat
- Two spare changes of clothes to suit the weather
- A comforter such as a dummy, teddy, or blanket
- A drink bottle with water only
- Sterilised bottles (please note that milk teats must be covered by a cap; bottles to be made up for formula must contain the correct amount of cooled, boiled water)
- Formula (must be pre-measured in a measured container) or breast milk if required.
If your baby is breastfeeding we do accept breast milk at Imagine Childcare, and we are also a breastfeeding friendly centre.
Your first day
You’ve had your Tour, your Meet and Greet, and you’ve enrolled at your chosen centre. You’re excited but also probably a little bit nervous too.
Before your first day, look at the list the centre has given you of what to pack, and prepare this the day or night before. Label your child’s belongings as necessary. Preparing yourself before the big day will ensure that you and your little one are more relaxed and will give you more time to spend with them in the morning before you leave.
On the day, bring along your child’s comforter to help them feel safe and secure. Dress your baby in comfortable clothes appropriate for the weather. Choose clothes that are able to be easily removed for toileting and nappy changes. Sun-safety is also important to remember, so do ensure you have a top that covers your little one’s shoulders and a hat too for any outdoor adventures they may have with their Educators too.
When you arrive at the centre, you’ll be greeted by Educators and other staff. At Imagine Childcare, security of children is absolutely paramount, so if you’re attending our centre, you will be shown how to use our Sign In/Out Kiosks.
You’ll then be taken to the Nursery Room, where the Educators will be ready to assist as soon as you arrive and will greet you and your little one and help you put away your baby’s items in their locker. If your baby requires medication, you will hand this over to the Educators at this time and be asked to fill out a medication form. Ask any questions at all, as your Educators will want you to feel at ease and will be happy to chat.
It can be easier said than done, but try and stay calm when it’s time to say goodbye, even if your little one begins to cry. Be assured that this is completely normal and Educators are highly trained to help your little one with the transition on their first day of care. It might be tempting to stay and hug your child or wait in the room for them to stop crying, but the best thing for you and your child is to calmly farewell the Educators and your little one and walk out of the room.
Also, don’t worry if you start to cry too! Lots of new parents find that first moment saying goodbye to their little one really hard, and rest assured you’ll not be the first parent to cry on their baby’s first day and the Educators will be ready with tissues and a kind word!
You may like to phone for updates throughout the day, and at Imagine we encourage parents to phone as many times as needed. Some centres, like Imagine Childcare, have parent portals where the Educators will update you throughout the day with information about what your baby is doing. These portals are fantastic for opening up lines of communication and allowing you to see how your baby’s day is going.
Will the centre follow my child’s home routine?
One of the things the Educators will ask you is your baby’s routine at home. The Educators will then follow this routine as closely as possible to ensure the baby is settled and comfortable in their new environment.
Naturally, as the child grows older and develops, their routine in the childcare environment will begin to differ.
“Every child is an individual” Sophie says. “Daycare is often the first time a child is away from a parent, and over time children will begin developing confidence, independence, and decision-making skills for themselves. This is all a part of the child’s development, aided by their learning environment and the support of their Educators.”
How long will it take my baby to settle into care?
“It does take some time for babies to settle into care” Sophie says. “Especially if Mum and Dad are all they know. Time is the element here, as well as creating an exciting and interesting environment for the children. You will be surprised how great a baby’s concentration really is when discovering the world, forming relationships and developing their fundamental skills.”
Something that really helps, is talking about the Educators and the environment at home, which creates a continuity between the centre and home for your child.
Before you know it, your little one will be settled into their new environment and loving their time at their new childcare centre.
What are the benefits of placing my little one into care?
Sophie says that there are many benefits of placing your baby into care.
“Placing your baby in care aids their social and emotional development, as they can form relationships with many different adults and children, learn to adjust, regulate their emotions, and also learn to build trust with those around them.”
“Your baby’s physical and mental development is also supported, through learning resources and a carefully designed program based off child interest, developmental needs, and age appropriateness” she says.
We wish you and your little one all the very best on your childcare journey. We encourage you to choose a childcare centre where your family will form trusting relationships, and where your baby will feel happy, secure, and comfortable as they develop mentally, physically, and emotionally.