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How to choose an early learning centre

Early learning

Looking to enrol your child in an early learning program but don’t know where to begin? You are not alone! 

We know there are many considerations for families when working out early learning and care arrangements - from location, fees, and hours, through to learning programs, extra-curricular options, and much more. On top of all of that, there’s also an understandable mix of emotions, particularly if this is the first time you’re entrusting the care and education of your child to others. 

But we also know it’s worth spending the time finding the right childcare centre for you and your child, because high-quality early learning and care, coupled with a nurturing home environment, makes all the difference to a child’s early development, and helps prepare them for school and beyond.

At Goodstart, we’re for providing the highest quality early learning and care in the safest possible environments, because we know what a significant impact this can have on a child’s life. Their first five years is the period of the most rapid brain development children will have in their lives. In a baby’s first year alone, more than one million connections are formed in their brains every second! 

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.  

Quick tips for choosing the right centre:

  • Understand what is best for your child and your family: think about your family’s routine and your child’s development.
  • Do your research: look for information from a variety of sources before putting together a short list.
  • Visit a centre: the best way to learn about early learning is to visit a centre, as you’ll get a good sense of how the centre operates and you’ll have a chance to ask more questions.
  • Ensure the learning program is high quality and will bring out the best in your child: research how the educators integrate learning and development into their programming.
  • Find out about extra inclusions: during your tour, ask what learning and extra-curricular activities are on offer as part of their programs, and what extras might be included, like meals or nappies.
  • Understand the centre’s policies: all centres should have information about their operations, policies and procedures readily available. Particularly if your child needs extra support or they have medical issues like allergies, for example, you should ask to see the relevant information.

What high-quality early learning can look like:

Infants & toddlers

Relationships and interactions 

  • Educators are interacting with infants and toddlers at their own height, and on the floor together. (Indicates respect for the unique communication styles of infants and toddlers.)

  • Infants and toddlers seek out their educator and show joy in seeing them. (Indicates good attachment between the child and their 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.)

Play-based learning

  • Educators are repeating simple games with children, and educators wait for the child to indicate they are ready to move to something else. (Infants and toddlers need repetitive and practice play over time to support learning new concepts.) 

  • Educators are singing rhymes, counting, or exploring body parts like fingers and toes 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 are playing with single children or very small groups of children. (Indicates understanding of infant and toddler need for adults to model appropriate skills to support learning and relationship development.)

  • Children’s learning is on display, 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 what their children are learning.)

Physical environments

  • Equipment and toys are accessible, from low shelves and/or baskets, for infants and toddlers to self-select. (Indicates a respect for an infant’s ability to make choices and demonstrate independence.)

  • Highchairs 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 the height of the children. (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-olds

Relationships and interactions 

  • Educators and children are in deep discussions about activities or play; children enthusiastically seek out their educator to share stories, ask for assistance or involve them in play; children and educators are at ease in each other's company. (Indicates reciprocal relationships and positive bonds between educator and children.)

  • Children are 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 are engaging in play with friends in pairs and small groups. (Indicates the educators are working at facilitating positive relationships between children.)

Play-based learning

  • There are displays (at child height) of projects that follow children’s inquiries about a topic, and demonstrate multiple curriculum areas such as math, literacy, or science are being used as part of the exploration of the topic. For example, children may have practised writing and drawing about the topic, making models of things from within the topic, or there are photos of group discussions, etc. (Indicates an understanding of holistic learning and using multiple curriculum areas around a topic of interest. Also, it is evidence of the educator’s ability to stretch and extend children's initial interest and understanding of a topic.)

  • Small groups of children are 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 are moving equipment from one section of the room to their play, for example, bringing dolls and cars into the construction area. (Indicates educators are supporting children to extend their thinking and independence to develop more meaningful play.)

Physical environments

  • Equipment and resources are 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.)

  • There are well-resourced and clearly defined areas in the room for different types of learning experiences. For example, there might be a writing area, dress-up area, or construction area. Resources and props to add to play are available, such as cardboard boxes, paint, sticky tape, or 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.)

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