When the time comes to pick a child care centre for your little one it can be exciting, but it can also feel overwhelming. There are so many options out there that it is difficult to know where to start. It’s important to choose a place that meets all of your requirements and offers the best fit for your child.
A small amount of prep work can help you sort things out. Start by doing a bit of research online that will help you narrow down your choices. Look for information about locations in your area. Visit each centre’s website and read it thoroughly to acquaint yourself with how they present themselves and what types of programs they offer.
Other important resources are your friends and family. Ask around to discover where other people take their children. Find out what they like and potentially dislike about where they have their child. At the end of the day, however, you and your child are unique.
Once you have narrowed down your options you need to visit the childcare centres in person. I would suggest comparing at least three places if at all possible. This should be enough to give you a real feeling for what is available in your area and, if you have done some pre-work on the internet, you should probably be able to narrow it down to around that many.
Before you visit, make a list of all of the questions you have. Write them down so that you are better prepared when you visit. In addition, be prepared to write down their answers. That way when you are making your decision later you won’t be stuck trying to remember small details like which place provided lunch and which place expected you to send it in.
Figuring out which questions to ask can be difficult. Seven important topics to consider include:
For many parents safety is one of their top concerns. If your child isn’t going to be with you all day it is incredibly important to be confident that they are in a place where they are safe. Ideally, you want a location that limits who can come and go from the building. The door should have some type of locking mechanism that only allows authorised users to enter.
A staffed front office is also a great benefit to help ensure that everyone who enters has a legitimate purpose for doing so. Some locations may even offer closed circuit television to help monitor the building, which can give you added peace of mind.
There are so many different types of learning philosophies and curriculums out there it is difficult to keep track of them all. You definitely want to pick a centre that has a well-articulated learning philosophy. Each different type of curriculum offers particular benefits and you are the one best suited to figure out which one will be the most beneficial for your child.
All reputable centres should have an established way of communicating with parents. Some may only send home a folder at the end of the week with your child’s work in it. Many offer some type of daily reporting that might tell you what your child ate, how often their diaper was changed (or how many times they used the toilet), and how long their nap was, in addition to what activities they participated in that day.
Some offer an online system or app that allows you to get updates from your child’s teacher throughout the day. In this way, parents can be involved in their child’s experience in real time. In addition to daily updates, ideally, the centre director should also provide at least a monthly parent newsletter that will keep you informed about larger changes and events happening at the centre.
4. Teachers and Staffing
Ensuring that your child has a warm, enriching relationship with their teacher can be the critical element in determining whether your child enjoys his or her experience. Ratios of carers to children have been set by the government. Never entrust your child to a centre that doesn’t adhere to these minimum standards.
In general, the ratio is one adult for every four infants, one adult for every four or five toddlers, and one adult for every ten to eleven preschoolers. Check to make sure that the centres you are considering have enough staff to keep to the ratio, even when staff members take their lunch breaks. Additionally, try to find out how long staff have been employed.
Consistency is important for children to feel safe and confident. It also enhances their ability to learn. Instead of finding out about their longest employed staff members, ask how long the three newest employees have been there. If the answer is six months or less, ask more questions to find out why.
It is important to examine your budget before you even begin to determine what’s in your budget range. Keep in mind that the money is well spent if your child is safe, happy and flourishing. Also, the government offers a child care benefit and a child care rebate so do your homework to see if you qualify for either of these programs.
All childcare centres are going to have rules and policies that protect both the children and the workers. Within these regulations, it is important to determine how much flexibility each centre can offer you. The longer the opening hours, the more wiggle room you will have in your schedule.
If a centre is open from 7 am to 6 pm and allows drop off and pick up at anytime within those hours you can schedule an early work meeting at 7:30 am without worrying about your childcare.
This can be a surprisingly important component to the childcare equation. The place that is all the way across town may have a great reputation, but are you committed to the extra commute time it will take to get there? Maybe it is a really great place and you are that committed, but you want to be sure.
Picking a location close to your house has certain benefits, especially the obvious one that you can get to and from it quickly and easily. In some instances, though it might make more sense to chose a place close to your work, so you can quickly stop in during the day. This is especially important if you have a very young child and you would like to try to go and breastfeed a few times a day.
Choosing a childcare centre is an important decision and consequently can seem overwhelming at times. Don’t let that happen to you. Now you have some tools to equip you to find the perfect childcare centre for you and your family. Do your research, be prepared with questions and visit the locations you are interested in. And at the end of the day trust your gut. If you walk into a place and it just “feels right” you have probably found the one!
Want to take a look at Harmony to see if we’re the right fit for your child? Please contact us to schedule a meeting or book a tour.