One of the most important decisions you’ll make as a parent is choosing child care for your family. It’s the foundation of your child’s early development, and the choices you make now will have long and lasting impact on their happiness, wellbeing and future prospects. So, you’ll want to get it right.
In most suburbs there are a number of daycare and preschool centres to select from. Most will offer a variation on the same services, while a few will go just that little bit further in the types of care they offer. Here are some of the key things you should ask about when choosing child care.
Let’s say you’ve recently bought a home in western Sydney. You’ve got a part time job and you’re looking for a centre that’s on the way to work but close to home; it’ll make the drop off easier and let you spend more time with your family. You’ve decided that a preschool in St Mary’s is the best option, so what are the things you need to know about?
What do they believe?
Quality early learning centres typically have a philosophy about their programmes, how they teach them and how they plan to foster your child’s development. There’s no one-size-fits-all, so it’s important to understand how the centre will care for your child, whether it’s right for them and for your family. Most importantly, ask yourself if the centres’ philosophy aligns with your parenting beliefs?
Where the centre is located makes a big difference. You’ll want one that doesn’t place undue commuting strain on the family, and you’ll want to consider external factors like busy roads, adjacent industry or flight paths. They all have an impact on your child’s wellbeing. Also consider availability – a centre that’s perfectly located but has a five-year waiting list may not be suitable.
The fine print
There will be a lot of annoying little details to check on, but all of them are significant. The National Quality Framework stipulates that a centre must be registered – is it? How do they rate in the National Quality Standards report? You can check the helpful ACECQA website for some of these details. Fees are important too, but don’t forget to ask about less obvious charges as well.
The not-so fine print
Write a list. You’ll want to know about the centre’s facilities, the staff to pupil ratio, meal options, nutritional policies, cleanliness, reports, communications. It sounds like a lot of work but think of it this way. You’d do all this and more when buying a home. Of course, you’d do as much if not more for your child’s wellbeing today and long into the future.
Happiness. It’s the single most important thing you can give your child. You need to know that you’re placing them in a caring, happy environment where they’ll learn, develop and prosper. If something tells you they won’t be, then keep looking until something tells you you’ve got it right.