Choosing a childcare centre isn’t easy. With so many options, how do you know which is the best for your child?
You want to find a childcare centre where your child can make a new discovery every day. Where you look forward to pick up time so you can hear about all their amazing adventures for the day.
No one will begrudge a parent asking all the questions of a possible childcare centre. But what questions do you need to ask? Of course there are the practical questions about fees and operating hours, but there are other questions you need to ask to really get to the heart of the issue - will your child flourish and thrive within this environment?
Here are 10 important questions you should consider asking a childcare centre to help you in your decision-making process.
What are the core values of your centre?
As a parent you already know this, but we'll spell it out. Never underestimate the importance of values.
Your child will be spending many hours in the centre you choose. If their core values don’t align with yours, it can lead to disappointment and challenges along the way.
Values are things like respect and empowerment. More than just listing values, the childcare centre should be able to articulate how they put these values into practice every day.
How do you communicate with parents?
Communication is huge. The last thing you want is to find that you are in the dark about what your child is doing every day.
When you are assessing the communication of a childcare centre, look at both the formal and informal ways they communicate with parents. Do they have an app like Storypark for you to get updates on your child’s progress? Who will you speak to if you have concerns about your child along the way?
Good communication builds strong partnerships.
What is your pedagogical methodology?
Pedagogical methodology is another way of saying educational philosophy or approach to learning.
Why is this important? Childcare isn’t just about the safety of four walls and someone to care for your child… it’s a place where your child will experience amazing new things and start to discover the world and people around them. The pedagogical methodology of the childcare centre will guide this learning.
Does the centre use play-based learning, direct teaching, project-based learning or a blended approach? Research consistently shows that children - particularly in the early years - learn best through play-based experiences, so keep that in mind while making your decisions.
How do you encourage individual learning and discovery?
Children are innately curious beings. Every day is a new discovery as they observe, explore and interact with their surroundings.
In a childcare setting, this individual learning and discovery should be embraced. What sparks the curiosity of one child may be old news to another. Whether it is learning everything there is to know about ladybugs after seeing one crawling on a leaf or diving into the world of shapes after recognising the circular and triangular shapes in a pizza, it’s all about empowering the individual.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a curriculum or framework in place, but this question dives deeper to understand how that framework and the pedagogical methodology is applied to each individual child.
Can you describe a typical day in your centre?
Likely up until now they’ve spent every day with you, so it’s natural to want to know what your child will be doing every day!
While there are probably no two days that are the same, every childcare centre should have a routine. Understanding this routine will help you determine if this is the right centre for your child.
What time do they eat lunch? What time do they sleep? Do they have any screen time? Are there regular group time activities? It’s ok to ask for details!
How will you help my child settle into your centre?
Separation anxiety is real. It might not happen on your child’s first day at a new childcare centre, maybe it will take a few days or weeks, but there will most probably be a time when your child doesn’t want you to leave.
As educators, we understand this. But what’s important is how the childcare centre handles these situations. Do they take a gentle approach that fosters a feeling of safety and belonging for your child?
As a parent, walking away from your child when they are crying is heartbreaking. But knowing they are in good hands with people who genuinely care for them will help to ease that feeling.
What do I need to pack in my child's bag?
This is one of the more practical questions but you’ll need to understand the expectations of you and what the childcare centre provides.
Do they provide lunch or will you need to pack a lunch box? Do you need to send sheets or a sleeping bag or are these provided by the centre? What about changes of clothes? Or a hat? Your own sunscreen? Nappies?
Hopefully the centre will give you a checklist for what you need to bring but most definitely ask the question if you have any concerns.
What qualifications do your educators and teaching staff have?
There are national guidelines that all childcare centres must follow that dictate things such as the number of staff that must be qualified. At least 50 per cent of the staff in a centre must have a diploma level qualification, or be working towards one. All other staff must have at least a Certificate III level qualification, or be working towards one.
Qualifications are important… but so is experience. You can only learn so much through study! Does the centre have a mix of experienced and younger staff? You can’t measure empathy through qualifications so part of this question is also observing the educators interacting with other children.
How do you ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all the children?
For any parent, this is probably the question that is most at the front of your mind. You are entrusting the care of your child to these people… and you want to know that they are going to be safe.
There are a few elements to health, safety and wellbeing within a childcare centre. The first is physical security and access. Do they have secure keypad or swipe card access? What measures are in place to prevent security breaches?
Secondly, the educator - child ratios need to be high so that there is adequate supervision. Accidents do happen, but strict educator - child ratios can prevent the worst from happening.
Will you help prepare my child for school?
Maybe you haven’t even considered school readiness yet, but a quality childcare centre will start preparing your child for school from a young age.
This preparation starts with preschool, and may be subtle to start with and gradually increase over the years. Once your child does take their first steps into “big school” with confidence and a strong sense of self you will be so grateful for it.
A new discovery every day with Gowrie NSW.
We welcome you to visit our childcare centres to experience the Gowrie difference for yourself. Our world-class educators encourage your child’s natural curiosity and help them to develop their whole self. And they do it within innovative spaces of learning, discovery and play.
Contact us to arrange a centre tour so we can get to know your family and lay the foundation of a strong partnership.