To help parents and carers make this all-important decision, we talked to Goodstart NSW and ACT state manager Nicole Jones who has three simple tips for selecting a provider that meets your child’s needs.
1. Start your search early to secure a quality early learning and care provider
Ms Jones said finding high quality child care was extremely important.
“We know from research that 80 percent of a child’s brain development occurs in the first five years, and children who attend early learning are one third less likely to start school behind,” Ms Jones said.
“So, the best way to ensure parents find the care needed is to start looking early, and during pregnancy is a great time to start.”
She said when it came to Sydney and other large cities childcare was in high demand, so by taking a proactive approach and starting your search early parents would be in a better position to secure childcare where and when its needed.
2. Undertake a centre tour, meet the team and ask about the learning programs offered
Ms Jones strongly recommends parents and carers undertake tours at centres they are interested in to help narrow the search and find the right provider that meets your child’s needs.
“It’s a valuable way for parents to meet centre directors, educators and preschool teachers if the childcare provider provides a preschool program.”
“Ask about their experience and qualifications, ensuring that the educators are qualified in early childhood development.”
She said beyond meeting the team, centre tours enabled parents to get a feel of the indoor and outdoor learning environments and hear first-hand how educators and their programming supports a child’s learning, development and wellbeing.
“At our Goodstart centres for example, we use evidence-informed practice to ensure every child benefits from quality early learning,” she said.
She said Goodstart used a play-based learning approach that capitalised on a child’s natural sense of inquiry and discovery.
“Educators embed elements of teaching and learning within play experiences that children are interested in and naturally drawn to and therefore more likely to stay engaged with,” she said.
“This is why Goodstart educators has to know each individual child so well, to know what they are interested in and how each child learns best.”
She said asking the childcare provider about their learning approach was extremely important to ensure that your child was given the very best early learning experience.
3. If the childcare centre is in high demand, be flexible with start and days
Wherever possible, remain flexible with your start date and days of childcare should the centre be at full capacity.
“When a spot becomes available at a centre, remaining flexible with your days and when you commence childcare can mean you get your foot in the door.”
Once your child is within care, she said centre directors should work with you to help secure additional days or preferred days once these places became available.
“Once your child is within care at a Goodstart centre, you will have first preference over other families on our waitlists.”
Over time Ms Jones said there was a high likelihood you would secure your preferred days of care.
Ms Jones said she encouraged parents to seek consecutive days of childcare rather than one day on and one day off.
“Consecutive days support continuity in routine for children, enables them to play and interact with the same friendship groups and it results in better learning, development and wellbeing outcomes.”
Starting your search?
A good place to start your search is the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) Starting Blocks website (http://www.startingblocks.gov.au/find-child-care/) where you can find a range of centres within your local area. For up-to-date information regarding Goodstart Early Learning centre locations and availability, click here or call 1800 222 543. Our team will organise a centre tour, discuss your needs and childcare availability.
Prior to making a decision and securing childcare, Goodstart centres offer Play Dates and Stay and Play opportunities, enabling families to bring their child into the centre for free and experience the early learning and care environment. This is a great way for parents to stay at the centre with their child and see first-hand how their interact with fellow children, educators and the indoor and outdoor learning environments.