Starting your journey into childcare can be daunting and there is a lot to consider when starting out. We've compiled a comprehensive checklist on the things parents should note when considering a service for their child.
From the moment you begin your search, we guide you through the most critical things to think about before you visit and during your first call right through to accreditations, safety and security as well as communication with centre managers and staff.
With so much to think about, this checklist is guaranteed to help you remember everything!
Before You Visit/Over the Phone Yes No N/A Notes Ensure the service can meet your care time requirements. Ask whether you can change your days of care if your work situation changes see how much notice they require Think about the centre location. Would you prefer it closer to home, work or a family member's home? Ask about the hours of operation and which days of the year the centre is closed. Find out and compare the daily fees? Does the centre offer sessional or occasional care? Can you claim the Child Care Subsidy? Ask what the procedure is if you are running late to pick up your child and what fees will be charged. Find out whether the centre can meet your religious and/or cultural requirements. Find out whether the centre offers an orientation program which you and your child can participate in.
During your visit - initial impressions Yes No N/A Notes Is the atmosphere relaxed and happy? Can you hear laughter and the sounds of children playing? Do you and your child feel welcome? Do staff members seem interested in your child and did they make an effort to talk to him or her? Is the reception area clean, tidy and organised? Do the rooms seem well organised, clean and tidy? Were you offered introductions of all staff and a tour of the centre?
Accreditation Yes No N/A Notes Has the service been assessed under the National Quality Framework? If so what was the rating? Does the service have a Quality Improvement Plan? Can you view the plan?
Security Yes No N/A Notes Does the centre seem safe and secure? Did a centre employee greet you at the door and sign you in? Did you notice restricted areas and security access areas? Are centre staff easy to identify and do they wear name badges?
Health and Safety Yes No N/A Notes What is the incident report management plan? Is there an established fire drill and are exits clearly marked? How will you be advised if your child is sick or has an accident? What action are you required to take if you child is sick or has an accident? Are staff members who can administer CPR and first aid available at all times? Are centre staff able to administer medication? Does the centre have a sun protection policy? Are children required to wear hats and sun block whenever they are outside? Where do children sleep? What sort of mattresses and coverings are used? Are you required to purchase a set of sheets? Where are nappies changed? Does the area look clean and hygienic? What is the centre hand washing policy? How does the centre ensure No Jab No Play is enforced? What is the procedure in case of a breakout of a communicable illness?
Management, staff & supervision Yes No N/A Notes Who manages the child care centre? Can you meet him/her? Does the manager also supervise the staff? What are the child to carer ratios at the centre? What background checks are completed on staff? What qualifications do staff members hold? What is the staff turnover rate? Is there a balance between older and younger carers and men and women? Does the centre have staff members from a range of ethnic backgrounds? What is the centre's procedure for dealing with complaints against staff? Does the centre hold adequate insurance? Do staff members interact with children or have a minding role? Are children supervised at all times? How do staff members deal with behavioural issues? Are the staff warm and engaged in what they are doing? Do you feel comfortable approaching staff to chat and ask questions?
Food and mealtimes Yes No N/A Notes Are standards for food preparation and cleanliness high? Is all food cleaned up after snack and meal times? What time is food offered? Is food available outside of these times if children are hungry? Are children allowed to eat at their own pace? What happens if your child doesn't eat at the designated time? Is water offered and available all day? What food/beverages are you expected to provide? How does the centre cope with food allergies and intolerances? Can the centre accommodate individual dietary requirements? Is there a weekly menu on display, does it look interesting and varied? Does the centre have a nutrition policy and do you agree with the policy? What is your centre's approach to cakes/birthday treats?
Daily timetable Yes No N/A Notes Does the centre have a daily timetable which you can see? Can your child's individual needs be accommodated if necessary? What is the procedure for putting children down at sleep time? What is the procedure for children who don't want to sleep?
Environment Yes No N/A Notes Is the building light and pleasant to be in with good ventilation and/or air conditioning? Does the building seem well maintained? Is there plenty of space for the children to play? Does the outside play equipment accommodate children of all different ages? Is there an outside area with plenty of shade? Are there places where children can go for quiet play? Are the toilets and sinks clean and easy for the children to use? Are the sleeping areas separate to the play areas? Do children of different ages have separate areas to play or do they interact?
Toys and equipment Yes No N/A Notes Is there a wide range of toys and books provided for the children? Are the toys at the right height for children to reach? Can you see a range of toys suitable for children for children of all age groups? Do the toys look clean and intact? Can parents and children get involved in decisions about the purchase of new toys and equipment? Do staff members help children play with the toys?
Planned activities and programs Yes No N/A Notes Does the centre follow the Early Years Learning Framework? Does the service offer documented diaries or learning stories where parents can view the activities of the day? Are there online/social networking forums where parents can keep track of their children during the day? Is there a set daily routine? Does the centre offer a range of programs for the children to participate in? Do these programs cater for all ages? How are these programs developed? Are they designed to be educational? Do they take into account the cultural and religious diversity in the group? What percentage of your child's day will be spent on planned programs and what percentage will be spent on free play? Does the centre enable children to participate in activities they might not be able to do at home such as painting, water play, collage making and playing in a sand pit? Does the centre do excursions? If so, what is the cost and how are they managed?
For a printable version of this checklist click here .