Enrolling your child into childcare is a big step. For most first-time parents, it can be a daunting experience. How do you know what to look for? What are the right questions to ask?
Typically, your search begins chatting with your most trusted confidants: other parents. But what if you're the first of your friend group to have kids? Or what if you've moved away and you don't that luxury.
Understandably, you have high standards and ideally, you'd like to find a centre that aligns with your family values. Nobody knows your child better than you, so your intuition is quite powerful when choosing an early learning centre. But with gut instinct comes self-doubt, second-guessing and anxiety.
To help eliminate the uncertainty, we spoke to Jae Fraser, Founder and Managing Director of the nine-strong Little Scholars School of Early Learning centres, and former President and current board member of the Australian Childcare Alliance.
Jae has put together a series of key questions to ask during your childcare auditions to help you find the most suitable centre for your little one.
General childcare policies and terms:
- What are the operating hours? Is there a late pick-up fee?
- Daily cost and the gap fee for government-issued rebates
- Is there an open-door policy for parents who may like to pop in and join an activity?
- What is the ratio of teachers to children?
- If my child becomes unwell, what is the procedure?
- How are behaviour issues managed? (Hitting, biting and bullying)
- How are parents kept in the loop? Is there an app that updates you on activities, what food they are eating and how long they slept/rested for?
Safety and staff training
This will put your worries at ease and give you a clear idea of exactly who is in contact with your child.
- How are staff screened? Is everyone trained in infant CPR and First Aid? What other qualifications do they have?
- How long have your employees worked at the centre? (turn over is normal, but long term employees indicate good culture)
- What happens if someone other than me or the other parent needs to do a pick up? Does the front door require an entry code? What are the other ways people may access the centre?
Mental and social development:
A key role of early learning centres is to provide stimulation that encourages mental and social development. To gain more of an understanding of what your little one will be involved in, try asking things like:
- What types of activities are there? Are extracurriculars (dance, yoga etc) delivered by professionals?
- Is there a wide variety of toys and equipment to keep them engaged?
- How much emphasis is on reading? (see how many books there are)
Nutrition and feeding schedules are also an influential area. Think about how prepared you are to pack lunches, or if you'd prefer to have meals included.
You may want to check if there is a qualified chef, do they use fresh ingredients and is all food cooked in house?
Last but definitely not least, sleeping and toilet routines are areas you want to investigate