Sending your child to an early child care centre for the first time can be absolutely nerve wracking. It can also be one of the more difficult times, emotionally, that you’ve experienced in your life. Your child is being sent to a place that isn’t their home, to be cared for by people who aren’t you, and you lose some control in how they spend their day and are treated.
Scariness aside, however, finding the right centre can take practically all these fears away. While the process is long and arduous, and the effort you’ll need to put forward is immense, the payoff of having your child in a centre that cares for your child, keeps them safe, and works with you to give your child the best experience, is totally worth it. This guide will help you find that magical balance between quality and economy for you and your child, all wrapped up in the perfect day care centre.
When you find that perfect early child care centre, after incredible amounts of research, time visiting centres, and interviewing the centre professionals, you might think the work is over. What you might not think about, however, is the fact that the centre you’ve so carefully chosen is actually full, and you’ll need to be placed on a waiting list.
Mitigate this risk by asking immediately when interviewing child care centres. Find out first if there is a wait list, then how long it is, if there are any consequences for backing out of a wait list, etc. Depending on the quality of the centre, you may want to find alternative options while you wait for the centre of your dreams to open up.
You’ll need to do some self assessment with yourself, and your partner if applicable, for what kind of hours you’ll need your centre to have. For example, do you get to work late and leave later than standard banking hours? Does your partner have days off during the week? Are you often finding yourself having to work later than your scheduled time, with no real control over it?
All of these questions will help you decide how long you need your centre open. Many centres have strict hours, with set pickup and drop off times that are non-negotiable. If your schedule is quite varied and you never know when you’ll get off work, make sure the centre you choose is okay with flexible pickup and drop off times.
You’ll also want to find out what their policy is for holidays and weekends. If you occasionally work a weekend and don’t have anyone to watch your child, find out if weekend hours are a possibility and what the additional costs are. Same with holidays, as you may be required to work some or all holidays depending on your line of work.
Experience of the staff
Finding out who the staff are, and what they have to bring to the table is incredibly important when choosing a childcare centre. One of the first things you should ask when visiting a child care centre for the first time is what kind of training or schooling the centre requires for its employees, if any. While having a professional child care degree may not be super important for all of the employees, it’s something to look out for in the managers or owners of the centre.
At the very least, every child care centre you visit should not only be licensed, but post their official licenses up in the centre in clear view, as well as be prepared to provide you with a copy of them. Take a look at the different licensing criteria to make sure that your centre is up to date with theirs.
While depending on your location, small, in home child care centres may not be required to hold a license, you’ll still want to think carefully about what that means for your child. Licenses provide proof that your child care centre is sanctioned by the government, allows for administration of government programs and funding, like these subsidies, and ensures that your provider has completed important training and courses to achieve the license.
Another important part of deciding on a child care centre is knowing what they offer your child. For example, does the centre provide age appropriate lessons and play sessions that promote growth? Take a look at this early learning centre’s programs to get an idea of what you should be looking for in your own prospective centres.
If possible, ask if you and your child can participate in one of the programs to get a feel for how they work. This is possibly the best way to find out how effective the centre runs its programs and how much attention they provide directly to your child.
Possibly the most important part of a centre you can trust is finding one that can accept and use parent feedback appropriately. Your child care centre should work in partnership with you and your family to make sure your child is getting the best experience at all times. If you sense a feeling of combativeness or inability to take criticism, don’t pursue that centre. You know your child best, and your centre should want to participate as much as possible in the ongoing discussion of your child’s welfare at the centre.
Hopefully you now have some tools for finding the right child care centre for your child. Try and remember that stress and worry is perfectly normal throughout this process. Those feelings are just your defense mechanisms firing up to protect your beautiful child, and you should make sure you’re listening to your intuition at all times. Use this guide as a jumping off point for beginning your search. If possible, don’t forget to ask your family and friends for recommendations as well, and you will have an arsenal of options for your child in no time.