Placing a child in childcare can be an emotional time. It may be the first time you've been apart and it takes a lot of trust to hand over your precious one.
Choosing childcare can also be confusing with a minefield of information out there to navigate, especially when you're just getting your head around being a parent. However, before you know it, your little one, could be ready for some form of care. Perhaps you're heading back to work or need the additional support.
Over 460 childcare centres from across Australia have come together to collaborate on The Childcare Guide – Your quick reference to childcare options, providing the information you need to help with your decision. The guide was created with important feedback from families to help answer questions when searching for care.
Of course your final choice will involve your gut feeling and instinct about a place, the location and hours of operation. Here are five practical pointers you need to know before you start your search and questions to ask yourself before you make your decision.
1. Types of childcare
The first thing you need to understand is the different types of care available. From long day care and family day care to occasional care and having a nanny, the type of care you choose will be the most appropriate for you and your child's needs. It's good to know how each type of care should operate and if they are government approved.
2. The EYLF
All government approved childcare services follow a properly developed curriculum – The Early Years Leaning Framework. It's important you have a basic understanding of the EYLF so you can be sure it's being implemented at the childcare service of your choice. Some good questions to ask the day care educators include:
Do you offer play-based learning?
How do you plan for, observe and evaluate my child's learning?
How do you provide an environment that recognises my child's individual interests and builds on them?
3. Quality ratings
The National Quality Framework is a great way to compare childcare services. The NQF is an agreement between all States and Territory Governments to work together to provide better educational and developmental outcomes for children. This basically means that all government-approved facilities (long day care and family day care) should meet certain standards in order to receive one of the following quality ratings:
Exceeding National Quality Standard
Meeting National Quality Standard
Working Towards National Quality Standard
Significant Improvement Required
4. Kindergarten and Preschool program
As your child approaches the age of four, you'll need to make a decision where to enrol them for that all important transition to -big school'. Most long day care centres offer Kindergarten/Preschool programs with longer operating hours than standalone Kindergartens and Preschools. Consider whether your choice of childcare caters for the school transition. And what their programs involve.
5. Government assistance
What government assistance is available and how it all works could be an important factor in choosing your childcare. For example, it's good to know that if you choose a childcare provider that is government approved you could be eligible for Child Care Benefit and/or Child Care Rebate. Is your childcare provider government approved? Are you eligible for any government assistance?
So, there you have it, the five practical pointers you need to understand before choosing childcare.