There are lots of different options when it comes to finding quality child care, so how do you know what will be right for your child and your family?
Choosing a child care service is an important decision, and one that many parents lose sleep over. After all, you are entrusting your most precious possession (your child!) to the service, and you want them to benefit from quality early childhood education and care to help give them their best start in life. So how is a parent supposed to know what is a ‘good service’ and a good fit for their family? Well – good news – these tips from Startingblocks.gov.au can make the decision process a little easier.
How to get started to choose quality childcare
When it comes to child care it’s like the old saying about comparing apples and oranges – not all early childhood education and care services are the same!
When it’s competitive to find a place, you might feel you’ve reached a point of desperation and be tempted to take the first offer that comes in. We’ve all been there! Some families might feel anxious about securing a spot by a certain date. So it’s a great idea to start your research on local child care services early – even during your pregnancy – to ensure you are on the waiting lists.
Your personal criteria are important to you as a family and should always be considered in your search for a service. Write down your ‘non negotiables’ and ‘nice to haves’ and use this list to further guide your selection.
Educate yourself about the National Quality Standard (NQS)
If child care is on your mind you need to know about the NQS. All approved childcare services are given a National Quality Standard (NQS) rating – an independent assessment by government regulatory authorities across Australia.
A service’s overall NQS rating follows assessment against these seven approved quality areas:
- Educational program practice
- Children’s health and safety
- Physical environment
- Staffing arrangements
- Relationships with children
- Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
- Governance and leadership
Of course, you’ll want to know what a service’s NQS rating is before enrolling your child – here’s how! Startingblocks.gov.au is a fantastic free government resource for parents to use to search for local child care services, and also to find out what their NQS ratings are. This can help you to decide which centres you want to book a tour with, put your child’s name on the waiting list, or enrol.
What types of child care are available?
When choosing child care, it’s important to understand the different types of early childhood education and care services operating under our National Quality Framework (NQF).
Long Day Care is the most common type of child care option (from 0-6 years). These centres are usually open from early in the morning to late in the evening.
Family Day Care is a smaller based operation with lower enrolment numbers due to the staff to child ratios. Family day care centres are often run within the provider’s home, and as other child care services.
Preschool often runs within school hours to help transition children into a school based learning program and schedule.
Make your decision based on what format will best suit your family and child’s needs. If you’re not sure start by considering the centre’s operating hours, the amount of care you need, the child to educator ratios at the service and the age of your child.
How will I know what to ask when I visit a child care service?
Head back to our favourite child care resource, the StartingBlocks.gov.au website! StartingBlocks.gov.au have made a simple checklist of questions to consider asking when meeting with a potential child care service. Some of the questions you may want to include are:
- What hours do you operate?
- Do you close throughout the year and for how long?
- Will I be charged fees for public holidays and when my child is not there?
- Do you provide meals and nappies for children?
- What qualifications and experience do the staff have?
- How will I know that my child’s learning and development will be encouraged?
What if I’m not going to enrol my child in care?
There are resources available to you to encourage your child’s learning and development in their early years at home.
Early learning is an important part of every child’s development. Startingblocks.gov.au shares activities such as reading, creating and playing that are all great ways to help your child grow and learn. There are lots of ways that you can shape your child’s day, from creating a regular routine, to limiting screen time and modelling appropriate use of screens at home.
If you can find a play group or mother’s group to join, this is a great way to meet other families and allow children to play together and practice social skills. For more parent resources, click here.
Make the best decision for your child – and family!
Choosing child care can be a worrying time for any parent. Being informed and allowing yourself time to consider your option is key to getting the best result! Of course, visit StartingBlocks.gov.au and you’re sure to have the information you need right at your fingertips – with this great resource you can choose your child’s care with confidence! Good luck!
This is a sponsored post for StartingBlocks.gov.au