How to choose an early learning centre
Ask parents with children in childcare, and many will tell you that leaving their child in care for the first time was not easy. For many of us, it’s the first time we will leave our child with someone else and there is a mix of emotions to deal with – the excitement of working and spending time with adults again but also the anxiety, and often guilt, about your child’s care. That’s why choosing the right early learning centre is so important for families.
A child’s first five years is crucial for developing brains – in a baby’s first year, their brain will double with more than one million connections formed every second. A quality early learning centre and nurturing home environment is the perfect combination for your child to develop their full potential. It will also help prepare them for school.
Given their rapid development, children need to be immersed in activities and stimuli that feed their hunger for knowledge. So how do you find a childcare centre with a nurturing, stimulating, safe environment, with caring, qualified early learning professionals?
In this article from the First Five Years website
you’ll find some simple things to look for, as you navigate finding that special early learning centre that will be able to provide the high quality, early learning and care for your child that you really want.
Below are examples of what each aspect of high quality early learning can look like in different age groups and can be a handy tool for when you next visit a centre.
Infant & toddler
Relationships and interactions
- Educators interacting with infants and toddlers at their own height; and on the floor together. (Indicates respect for infant communication styles)
- Infants and toddlers who seek out their educator and show joy in seeing them. (Indicates good attachment between infant and educator)
- Some children may be eating, while others may be sleeping, while others are playing. (Indicates individual children’s routines and rhythms are being respected)
- Simple games that educators repeat with a child and wait for the infant cue that they are ready to move to something else. (Infant and toddlers need repetitive and practice play over time to support learning of new concepts)
- Educators singing rhymes, counting or exploring body parts with infants and toddlers during routine times such as meals and nappy change. (Indicates an understanding that learning takes place during normal care routines)
- Educators playing with single children or very small groups (Indicates understanding of infant and toddler need for closer adult scaffolding to support learning and relationship development)
- Displays of the children’s learning, at children’s height, accompanied by explanations of the learning that has taken place. (Supports very young children to retrace the activities they have engaged in and to help families understand the learning that has taken place in their absence)
- Equipment and toys accessible, from low shelves and/or baskets, for infants and toddlers to self-select as interest dictates. (Indicates a respect for infant’s ability to make choice and demonstrate independence)
- High chairs are low to the ground to match the same height of low tables of older children. (Indicates the environment is being organised to support and encourage social interactions at meal times between all children)
- Posters, displays, mirrors etc. are down low at child height. (Indicates the environment is being organised with the physical size of infants and toddler as a primary consideration, rather than adult perspectives)
3 to 5-year-old
Relationships and interactions
- Educators and children in deep discussions about activities or play; children enthusiastic to seek out their educator to share stories, ask for assistance involve them in play; children and educators at ease in each other's company. (Indicates reciprocal relationships and positive bonds between educator and children)
- Children negotiating with each other without conflict; if conflict arises educators support the children through the issue to find a solution together. (Indicates the educators have spent time supporting children to work with others)
- Children engaging in play with friends in pairs and small groups. (Indicates the educators are working at facilitating positive relationships between children)
- Projects that trace the inquiry of children about a topic are displayed (at child height) and demonstrate multiple curriculum areas such as math, literacy, science as part of the exploration of the topic. e.g. children may have examples of practice writing and drawing about the topic, making models of things from within the topic, photos of group discussions etc. (Indicates an understanding of holistic learning and the weaving of curriculum areas around a topic of interest to children. Also, evidence of educator’s ability to stretch and extend children's initial interest and understanding of a topic)
- Small groups of children engaged in a range of activities inside, or outside, at any one time. (Supports children’s diverse interest areas for play and exploration and provides more opportunities for social engagement between children)
- Children moving equipment from one section of the room to their play e.g. bring dolls and cars into the construction area. (Indicates educators are supporting children to extend their thinking and independence to develop richer play)
- Equipment and resources available for children to self-select, use and self-manage. (Indicates respect for children’s growing sense of independence and abilities and capability to be responsible for their own environment)
- Well-resourced and clearly defined areas in the room for different types of learning experiences e.g. Writing area, dress up area, construction area. Resources & props to add to play are available such as cardboard boxes, paint, sticky tape, material swatches. (Indicates educators understanding of the growing complexity and imagination in play for older children. This complex child initiated play requires a broad range of accessible resources to fully support and extend the learning)
- Children’s belongings are easily accessible for children including food, clothing, bags etc. (Indicates the environment has been respectfully organised with children’s growing capabilities for independence and autonomy in mind)