Choosing the best childcare centre for your family and child, can be daunting, overwhelming and scary. There are so many options available across Brisbane and it can be tricky to determine the differences and benefits between various providers. Of course, there is no one correct choice: it is essential to consider what you value best in your child’s education and care and trust your gut feeling regarding where you feel most comfortable. After all, you, as your child’s first teachers, know your child and their needs best. We have compiled a list of our top tips when visiting potential childcare centres and how to prepare for the upcoming transition.
What should I look for and ask when visiting potential childcare centres?
Of course, each childcare centre is governed by the same National Regulations and National Law, and required to uphold the National Quality Standard. However, each centre has their own philosophy, key values and priorities and it is essential for families to consider their own parenting
beliefs and how they may align with each centre. In particular, when visiting a centre for the first time:
- Consider how you feel when you walk through the doors for the first time. How were you greeted? How did you feel walking into the building?
- Ask their centre philosophy and how this ‘looks’ in daily practice.
- Discuss illness, incident, cleaning and safety procedures within the centre.
- Request policies regarding fees (holiday, sickness, public holiday, Child Care Subsidy) and inclusions.
- Discuss the daily routine in your child’s room, including the educational program, how they plan to engage your child in the activities and how they will communicate your child’s participation, learning and development with you.
- Ask the centre how their rooms are grouped (regarding ages) and how they calculate their child to educator ratios.
- Discuss with the service how they settle children when they are upset, how they ease a child’s transition into childcare for the first time and their approach to behaviour management throughout the ages.
- Ask the centre to explain their staff rostering system, including the availability of your child’s educators and if they foresee any staff changes occurring.
- Finally, request to understand the governance arrangements at the centre (for example, if the Director is absent who is responsible, whether the Approved Provider is hands-on and if sufficient provision is provided for incursions and new resources and materials).
What can I do to prepare my child and myself for this big transition?
Entering a new environment can be daunting for anyone – even us as adults can feel anxious beginning a new job or workplace. Considering your child, yourself and the centre can help ease the transition and calm your nerves.
Preparations with the childcare centre:
- Communicate with your new centre prior to the official start date, including all information about your child (interests, skills, routines, rituals, abilities, culture) and how they best settle.
- Visit your new centre and allow your child the chance to explore with you close by, and begin to form bonds with the educators.
- Learn about the new centre, including their philosophy, policies and procedures and how they best plan to settle, nurture a relationship and engage your child in their program.
Preparations with your child:
- Talk to your child and read books about childcare, ensuring they are aware you trust the environment, reassuring them they will be safe and you will return in a specified amount of time.
- Discuss a goodbye ritual so your child knows what to expect before you leave, allowing enough time to avoid being rushed in the morning.
- Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings (it is OK to be upset) and reassure them you will return.
- Create rituals after childcare to allow you to reconnect with your child.
- Encourage your child for their efforts.
- Ask your child each evening (if they are older) how they felt each day: what made you feel happy today? When did you giggle? If possible, look through photos sent by the centre together to reflect on their experience.
- Pack familiar belongings for them to be comforted by (for example, a toy, blanket, bedding from home).
Preparations for yourself:
- Be easy on yourself! You are doing the best you can and making the most informed decision based on your knowledge and understanding.
- Consider the goodbye ritual and ensure it is something both yourself and your child feel comfortable with. Separation is never easy for both