Selecting what form of childcare your child attends is an important decision for a parent to make. Although it’s not always an easy decision to make. There are so many factors to consider – Cost, Location, Availability, the Values of the care provider and what will suit your own Child’s individual needs.
Whether you want to use Long Day Care, Occasional Care, Family Daycare, a Nanny or even a family member, there are a few things you may want to consider:
I believe your first impression will likely be accurate about whether or not an individual or centre will be suitable for caring for your children, particularly if you have an immediate response one way or another, its probably a good idea to trust that feeling, which doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the centre or individual, just that it’s not a match for you and your child.
What is important to you and your family in terms of what do you value as being most important when it comes to the care of your children? How do you feel about your baby being left to cry to sleep, or the importance of a routine? Do you have specific expectations with regards to how behaviour is managed? What would you want your child to be learning – or not learning – from their carers? I think its important to be really clear with yourself about what it is you expect and ideally find someone who agrees with you. If you are having a look around a child care centre, maybe ask the teacher or the director who’s showing you around a few “What if…?” scenarios to find out what they do, or how they approach topics which are important to you.
While you’re being taken around the child care centre observe the way the carers interact with the children in their care. This will likely be the best indication of how they will interact with your child.
As much as we’d love to hire a nanny, that’s not an option for all parents. The cost and quality of care can also vary greatly from centre to centre. Also not in all cases will you ‘get what you paid for’. Ask what that cost includes, such as meals and nappies, and if there are any additional expenses, as some centres charge for additional activities and excursions. Ultimately though you will need to work out what fits into you own budget.
Child care can be anywhere from Family Day Care with 4 children, to large centres with over 100 children. Consider your own children’s personality, some children thrive in big busy centres, with lots of play mates and large play spaces. Whereas other children would be more comfortable with a smaller group of children and a quieter environment.
When looking through a centre, try to view it from your child’s point of view as well as your own. For myself, we went to a purpose built centre when looking for somewhere for our son, and I thought it was great because it was a new building, but in the end it wasn’t a warm space, it did somewhat resemble a hospital. He now attends a preschool that was converted from a old house and while its not as pristine and impressive as the other centre, it does feel like a home.
Hours and availability
Are you able to have your child in the centre for the days and times you need them to be in care – does this work with your work or study time tables and other commitments? Also, if you can only get your child in for one day a week, what are your chances of getting more days further along? Sometimes it can be better to take a day in the centre you want and wait a couple of months until the days you need are available, than put them in care you aren’t as happy with. I’ve previously enrolled my son in two different centres because neither could give me all the days I needed until one was able to offer me the extra days. It’s not ideal but sometimes it can be very challenging to get more than one or two days at any one centre.
Questions to consider asking-
How long has the carers that would be looking after your child worked in the centre and what is their staff turnover like? The reason I’d ask is I’d want my children to be in a centre that treated their staff well, so they’re not stressed and overwhelmed when interacting with my children, and also to gauge whether my child will need to adjust to new carers on a regular basis.
Do staff work the same days regularly throughout the week? This never occurred to me as a question to ask until my daughter briefly went to daycare and she started forming a bond with one particular carer, who didn’t always work on the one day she was in daycare. So even though they have great staff retention, my baby wasn’t being left with the same person each week.
Does the centre close during holidays? Do they close for a couple of weeks over Christmas – and how does this work with fees. It’s good to know before you enrol them how that’s going impact you.
Do you pay full fees if you take holidays, or if your child is away because of sickness? Some centres if you book holidays far enough in advance will give you a reduced fee.
What are the centre’s policies regarding celebrating religious and cultural holidays?
If the centre doesn’t supply food, what foods can you bring for you child? While no-nuts is a very common requirement, some centres don’t allow whole grapes, popcorn, packaged foods, or may have other policies regarding food you may want to be aware of.
What is their orientation process? Some centres let parents bring their child in several times before they actually start paying fees, for a short visit, or a half a day, either with or without the parent, just to gradually ease them into care before they start full time – talk through what you think would be best for your child and see what they can do.
Does the centre “open door” about letting parents come in any time they want to check in with their child? Do they encourage parent involvement in the centre?
For more tips on starting Childcare check out Separation Anxiety and Childcare
What is most important to you when looking for someone to care for your child?