Choosing childcare: Top tips for parents
Like all parents, you want your child to have the best start in life. But with so many different childcare options available, how do you choose the right one for you?
According to Wendy Raghoobar, Centre Director at Goodstart Calliope, you need to use your heart and your head.
"Book a tour of the childcare facilities you are considering first, to get a feel for different styles, places and 'vibes'," Ms Raghoobar said.
"A happy, positive and nurturing environment is best for your child, so be guided by your feelings from the minute you arrive."
Then take a good look around. The signs of quality childcare should be everywhere.
Here are Ms Raghoobar's expert tips to help you know what to look for:
Happy engaged children
Smiling faces, lively chatter, a variety of activities and engaged children are good signs that the environment is happy, caring and stimulating.
Qualified, dedicated staff
The best early childhood teachers and educators not only have professional early learning qualifications, they have a real love of children as well. It's important to look for both.
Early learning programs
Quality programs that support and enhance your child's learning can make a significant difference to how well they adjust to school and beyond.
Ask if the centre has an early learning component that uses the Early Years Learning Framework (ELYF).
Clean and safe, inside and out
A quality childcare facility will offer your child every opportunity to play and explore, inside and out. They will also understand the importance of health and safety.
That's why a centre with clean, safe indoor and outdoor areas is likely to be a good choice.
The right place with the right times
It's important to get the basics right by making sure the centre is convenient to where you live or work, and that the hours suit your family's timetable too.
Centres that offer long day care hours and their own kindergarten or preschool programs can make life easier for working parents.
Regular communication with parents
You need to know what's going on in your child's life when you're not there, and a good childcare centre will make a point of communicating with you about that.
Ask if the centre staff update parents regularly about their child's progress and wellbeing.
Nappies, meals and routines
Not all centres provide basics like nappies and meals, so make sure you check if you have to supply these yourself.
Ask about the daily routine too. A good centre will happily provide you with all the details.
Government benefits and rebates
The Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate are only available to families who use an approved childcare service. Your family may be eligible, and the extra financial support can be a big help, so make sure you check that your preferred centre is approved.
There is no doubt that a loving family and a safe, happy home are the most important things in child's life. But, according to Wendy Raghoobar, a stimulating and nurturing childcare environment is vital too.
"Most people don't realise that over 80% of a child's brain development takes place in the first five years," she said.
"That's why it's vital to be informed, look around, and choose the best quality childcare for you and your child."