What to look for when choosing a child care center

Going back to work after parental leave is not easy. And putting your child into care for the first time can be a very stressful experience. How do you choose the right child care center? What should you look out for? It can feel quite overwhelming when you don’t know where to start.

Rey Yesilnacar gives us her top five considerations that will take the stress out of choosing the right child care center for your family.

We are lucky to be spoilt for choice when it comes to the number and quality of child care services available to us in Australia. Nationwide operational requirements set by the National Quality Framework help to ensure all registered child care providers and early learning programs adhere to the same minimum standards.

But there are some child care centers that go above and beyond expectations to deliver an exceptional level of care and early learning experiences.

Whether you’re a parent looking for quality child care in your local area, or a child care professional, administrator, or educator looking to work with the best employer, we have put together this guide to help you find a quality child care center.

Here are the top five considerations when choosing a childcare center.

Centre location and value

Make a list of all of the child care centers in your local area and contact each of them to obtain their annual fees and any additional costs. Additional costs might include catering, special events, or even waiting list fees. Don’t make a decision on price alone, but take into account proximity to your home and workplace. Would it be more convenient to have a center closer to where you live or work?

Educator training, qualifications, and educator-to-child levels

Assessing the training and education level of the staff is a good place to start when comparing child care centers. Does the center have a good mix of experienced senior child care professionals as well as the energy and enthusiasm of trained newcomers to the industry? The National Quality Framework sets minimum standard requirements for early childhood teaching qualifications. You should also ask about the educator-to-child ratio to understand how many children will be in the group, and how many caregivers will be looking after them.

Healthy children’s menus and allergy awareness programs

Healthy menus equal healthy minds. As children take on the big step of attending child care or preschool, it’s important they’re enjoying healthy meals that keep their energy levels steady. A growing number of childcare centers offer healthy eating initiatives including in-house chefs, kitchen gardens, and edible gardening programs.

Food allergies are also an increasing concern for parents of young children, so it’s important to have educated kitchen staff who understand food allergies and have in place a management plan for food allergies and anaphylaxis.

Stimulating curriculum and engagement programs

The Early Years Learning Framework guides child care providers on the principles, practices, and outcomes that support and enhance early learning from birth to age five, and the transition period into school. This framework is used to construct the curriculum and engagement programs at child care centers and preschools. These programs should encourage children to learn, interact and develop through child-centered play and learning activities, and all centers have their own unique differences. Ask about the program inclusions to learn more, and choose a program that reflects your family values and the interests, needs, and personality of your child.

Modern infrastructure and up-to-date childcare management technology

Professional, caring, and engaging educators are more important than having the latest play equipment, but take note of the age and condition of the center infrastructure. You’ll want to look for a center that is well equipped with safe and modern infrastructure and learning resources. Importantly, the child care center should be tech-savvy and link into the Child Care Management System — a nationwide software network for childcare centers — with an approved software provider like Xplor.

Written by Rey Yesilnacar from Xplor, which provides a nationwide software network for child care centers. Child care centers that use Xplor offer families a whole new child care experience including real-time contact with your child and caregiver, digital reporting of illnesses, injuries, and food allergies, and an automated record of attendance, fees, and subsidies.

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