What to look for when choosing a day care provider
- Consider your child’s temperament when choosing your style of day care
- Cost, availability and convenience are important to ensure it fits your lifestyle
- Consider your options but trust your instincts
In the early days of parenthood, day care can seem like a far-off reality. But like all things to do with your child’s growth, it’s likely that the time to start planning will come around sooner than you think. Whether you’re returning to work or taking some time for yourself, the child care enrolment process can be overwhelming on a number of fronts. On top of the emotional load, it also requires some comprehensive research, planning and touring to help you choose where your little one will spend their time when they’re not with you. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind on your search for a child care provider.
Child care style
The two key types of facilities are family care, which is run out of a carer’s house and often includes their own children, or group day care, which is a more traditional creche or pre-school setting with a number of different carers. There is also informal or home-based care, if it is an option, involving nannies or generous grandparents. You know your child best. Consider their temperament – the qualities of reactivity, self-regulation and sociability that impact how your child responds to the world – and whether they are better suited to the more intimate home care environment or whether socialisation and stimulation will help them thrive.
Availability and cost
The next – and sometimes biggest – stumbling block for parents finding a child care provider, is availability and cost. Australia’s and New Zealand’s bigger cities and towns, in particular, are known for their higher day care occupancies. And while day care fees are subsidised, it’s also important to consider things like out-of-pocket costs and how they fit into your family budget. This is why it’s helpful to start researching and planning for your child care with a good buffer of time before your first drop-off. Most child care places have a set day rate and a waiting list you can join if there aren’t immediate availabilities.
Next, make sure the proximity of the service provider meets your needs. To make drop-off and pick-up as straightforward as possible, the day care facility should be close to your home, close to your work or somewhere along the route. Make sure it’s convenient for your partner’s workplace so you can share the load, and do a quick Google Maps search to see how long it would take your emergency contacts to travel there if required.
Educational philosophy and activities
In early childhood, play is everything. It supports relationships, builds resilience and reduces stress. In fact, play is so important for children that it has been designated a right by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. As such, the child care provider should have plenty of stimulating, child-safe toys and activities, and ample room to move. Outdoor activities are also important, whether it’s playing in the garden or just walks in the fresh air. Some child care centres have particular philosophies and activities that might align with your lifestyle, like minimum waste or child gardening programs.
Touring facilities presents the perfect opportunity to meet and engage with the people who could be caring for your little one each week. Keep an eye out for happy, friendly carers who your child would feel comfortable around. They should show an interest in your child, understand when you talk about your child, and be people you could envision building an ongoing relationship with. So, don’t be afraid to treat your tour as an informal interview. After all, you are entrusting them with your most precious thing.
Trust your instinct
Through comprehensive research, planning and touring, you’ll hopefully have a number of good child care options to consider. When it’s time to make your choice, the most powerful signals can come from within. While it’s natural to feel conflicted about picking the right day care, it helps to listen to your gut. A centre could be perfect on paper, but something just feels amiss. Or another might be further out of your way, but you love the philosophy and carers. Be flexible and trust your instinct to let you know when you’ve found the one.