As a parent, choosing the right childcare centre for your child is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in their early years. But with so many options available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. When choosing childcare, questions can provide valuable insights to assist you in making an informed decision.
In this article, we’ll provide a list of key questions to ask when figuring out how to choose a childcare centre, so you can be confident that you’re making the best decision for your child.
Whether this is your first time choosing a childcare centre or you’ve already had prior experience, these questions will guide you through the process and help ensure that you find a childcare centre that meets your needs and expectations.
Why choosing the right childcare centre is important
Choosing the right childcare centre for your little one is a big decision that will ultimately shape their growth and development. A high-quality childcare centre should provide a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment where children can grow and learn.
Children who attend quality childcare centres are more likely to develop strong social skills, emotional regulation, and academic readiness, which can set them up for success in school and beyond.
What should you ask?
When looking for the right childcare centre for your child, it’s important to ask the right questions to make an informed decision. Here are some important questions to consider when evaluating potential childcare centres:
What is the staff-to-child ratio?
When selecting a childcare centre, the staff-to-child ratio is a crucial aspect to keep in mind because it directly affects the quality of care and attention that your child will receive. A low staff-to-child ratio means that there will be more staff available to attend to the needs of each child, while a high staff-to-child ratio can result in overworked and stressed staff who are unable to give each child the care they require.
What are the centre’s safety and emergency procedures?
Asking about the safety and emergency procedures of a potential childcare centre is important because it directly affects the well-being and security of your child. A high-quality childcare centre should have clear and well-established procedures in place for various emergencies, such as fires, medical incidents, and natural disasters.
Having these procedures in place provides peace of mind for parents, knowing that their child will be safe and secure in the event of an emergency. It also demonstrates that the centre takes safety and security seriously, and is committed to providing a safe environment for children.
What is the centre’s philosophy and approach to child development?
The philosophy and approach a childcare centre takes will play a big role in shaping your child’s learning experiences and opportunities. A centre that follows a developmentally appropriate approach will offer your child engaging experiences and opportunities that perfectly fit their age, abilities, and passions. This type of philosophy allows children to learn and grow at their own speed and nurtures their unique needs and talents.
At Aurrum Kids, for example, our Reggio Emilia approach prioritises a play-based learning experience that purposefully engages children’s fine and gross motor skills.
What is the centre’s policy on changes in schedule or pick-up/drop-off times?
Life can be unpredictable, and unexpected changes in schedule or pick-up/drop-off times can occur for various reasons, such as illness, work schedule changes, or unexpected events.
A centre with a flexible and accommodating policy on changes in schedule or pick-up/drop-off times can make it easier for families to manage their daily routines, and ensure that their child receives the care and attention they need, even when unexpected events or changes occur.
What qualifications do the staff have?
The qualifications of the childcare educators are an indicator of their knowledge, expertise, and ability to provide children with the care and education they need.
A centre with staff who have the appropriate qualifications, such as early childhood education degrees, teacher certifications, or training in child development, will have staff who are knowledgeable about child development, and are equipped to provide children with meaningful learning experiences and opportunities.
To give a specific example, as play is important in child development, qualified staff have the knowledge and experience in creating the conditions for children to engage in meaningful play experiences that support their growth.
What is the centre’s policy on late pick-up fees?
It’s a good idea to ask about late pick-up fees when considering a childcare centre. This can help you understand the cost of their services and make it easier for families to use them. A centre with a straightforward and fair policy on late pick-ups can give families a better idea of what to expect and even encourage timely pick-ups.
What is the centre’s policy on extreme weather and emergency closures?
A centre with a clear and comprehensive policy on extreme weather and emergency closures can help families understand how their children will be protected during these events, and can also provide families with peace of mind knowing that their children will be safe in the centre’s care.
How does the centre care for children with special needs?
When choosing a childcare centre, it’s important to consider how they support children with special needs. This can greatly impact the care and inclusion of these children, as well as the quality of the centre’s services for families. A centre that takes a comprehensive and inclusive approach to caring for children with special needs can provide them with the resources and support they need to grow and succeed. It can also create a welcoming and inclusive community where everyone belongs.
What is included in the educational program?
Asking potential childcare centres what is included in their educational program is critical in ensuring that your child receives a well-rounded and comprehensive educational experience. Ideally, the program should include a combination of indoor and outdoor activities, routine incursions and excursions, imaginative play, and an emergent curriculum.
An emergent curriculum focuses on the child’s individual needs, interests, and strengths, and allows the educator to design activities and programs that are tailored to each child’s unique developmental stage. This approach helps to ensure that each child is receiving an educational experience that is both engaging and challenging, and supports their overall growth and development.
Are there any additional fees such as registration or materials fees?
Knowing about additional fees such as registration or materials fees can help families plan and budget for the cost of childcare, and can also allow families to compare the cost of childcare between different centres.
Can you provide references or testimonials from other parents?
Hearing about the experiences of other parents can be incredibly helpful when it comes to choosing the perfect childcare centre. Hearing about the staff, facilities, and approach to child development from someone who’s been there can give you a great idea of what to expect. Simply put, testimonials and references from other parents provide valuable first-hand insights that can make all the difference when it comes to making an informed decision. It’s like getting the inside scoop!
Choosing a childcare centre for your child is an important decision that deserves careful consideration. Asking the right questions can help ensure that you find a centre that meets your needs and expectations and provides a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment for your child to grow and learn. For further insights, we recommend exploring the Victorian government’s helpful resources on how to choose the best childcare centre for your child.