What makes a childcare centre great compared to average?  What do I look for?  Do I even need to be thinking about childcare?  Does it have any advantages for my child?  How much is okay?

 Thinking about using childcare?   Childcare today really fulfills the role our family would have a generation ago.  Now families are widespread and mostly unlikely to live in the same city, childcare was originally introduced to give mothers a little break, of course it is available 5 days a week and for long hours.  I prefer parents to use childcare over a shorter period of time and a good rule is a day for each year of age of the child.  A common question parents ask me about is quality childcare and how do you know if it a great centre compared to an average centre.  All centers’ have accreditation or ratings, so ask what theirs are and do a bit of research on what this means. The higher the accreditation usually the better the centre.

Here are a few tips on things to look for.  Firstly you must go for a visit and have a look for yourself, it’s great to ask your friends or workmates for their recommendations but be sure to check them out.  When you are looking through a centre, notice the ratio of children to adults in each room, look for cleanliness of the children & the floor, take notice of how the staff speak to the children is it with respect and as you speak to your child or are they ordering them about, how warmly to do they greet you, if its lunch time – do the tables have cloths and plates?

Then take a good look at the children – are they busy concentrating, behaving well and calm or are they running around crazy?  Are the staff actually playing/ interacting with them or just standing around looking?  Are the children dressed suitably or is there clothes missing?  What is there to play with – just puzzles and drawing for everyone or is there numerous options for children to choose what they feel like doing?  Look at the cleanliness of the toys and the quality.   Are the kids healthy or sick?

If your thinking about using childcare or would like to have the option in the next year or so then you really need to explore the options now and put your name on their waiting lists.  Yes, they do have waiting lists and some are quite lengthy.  So even if you need isn’t immediate but you are planning to return to work even part time or have another baby due then do your homework now.

On that note, it is a good idea if you are having a second child to go through the phase of introducing your older child to attending a centre for a morning or two and to complete this before the baby arrives so that there is only one stressful think happening at a time for your child.  You also want to bypass the idea that separation from mum is a result of the baby arriving.

In this situation, it is ideal in a couple of years time to have both children attending a centre on different days so that each child has time with you by themselves. For the second child this is a precious commodity.  In this way you can use childcare to your advantage.

There are also benefits for your child to attend a centre a day or two a week – obviously there are social benefits where they learn to take turns, wait, line up, follow routines, become independent, get along with a variety of different children and adults and educationally they are exposed to a wider variety of experiences and activities to their home.

For more information have a look at this website to start: www.ncac.gov.au/factsheets This is the National Childcare Accreditation Centre which has some great fact sheets on what to look for in quality childcare   Another useful site is www.careforkids.com.au which has a checklist for you to fill in on the childcare centre and what you are looking for and see.

Nicole Pierotti

Written by Nicole Pierotti

© Copyright 2012. No reprinting or publishing without permission from writer. For permission or further information contact nicole@babysmiles.com.au.

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