How To Choose A Child Care Centre

I have received quite a few emails lately about child care so I thought I would do another post about how to chose a child care centre.

When I was pregnant my first obsession was picking the perfect pram…we went with Uppababy.
Once my pram was ordered, then researching child care centres became my focus.
I know…skewed priorities!

Unfortunately, obtaining a spot at a child care centre…at least in Brisbane…is not easy.
If you know that you are going to require child care, then I would start looking basically as soon as you become pregnant.
Don’t be afraid to put your name down everywhere…everyone else certainly does!
As your pregnancy processes, use Google, ask friends, family, colleagues and people on the street for recommendations, and take tours of the centres you are most interested in.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a child care centre.

How big is the nursery?
There will likely be eight babies in there and although they may start out at the child care centre not even being able to sit, by the end of the year there will be eight toddlers running around the room.
Bigger is better.
Also check out their sleeping room and what facilities they have for preparing foods and for changing diapers.

Do the babies have access to the outside?
I personally didn’t love the idea of my baby spending all day cooped up inside so I preferred the centres that had a shaded, outdoor area attached to the nursery.

What sort of activities do the carers do?
Again, when your child starts at at the centre, they will only be a baby but before you know it they are a toddler and will love play dough and finger pairing and water play.
Look for evidence of crafting, make believe and books.
And look to see if the carers participate in the activities with the children.  One of the things I love most about Toddler C’s child care centre is that the carers are always down on the ground interacting with the children.

How does the centre communicate with parents?
Leaving your baby is hard.  Toddler C has been at child care for almost a year now and I still find my mind wandering away from my work and wondering what he might be up to.  Now at the end of the day I just check to see when he woke up from his nap and what activities they did but when he was a baby I wanted to know every single detail.
Ask what reports they give you.
At Toddler C’s child care centre there is an individual report detailing when each baby slept, what each baby ate, how many dirty nappies they had and any other issues.  They also have another group report describing what activities they did…this one always includes pictures so you not only get to see the end product of the finger painting but also what your baby looked like while he was finger painting.
The centre will likely email out newsletters but you might also want to inquire about how they communicate other important things like if there has been an outbreak of chickenpox in the nursery.

What is included in the fees?
Some centres don’t include anything beyond the care…you have to provide bottles, food, nappies, wipes and sheets.
Other centres include everything…all you have to do is drop off the baby.
Believe you me, when you are a working mother not having to worry about having a clean sheet to send to child care makes your life just that little bit easier.
I found that there really wasn’t that much difference in the fees of those centres that provided everything and those centres that don’t provide anything…so if faced with an option, you might as well get the most bang for your buck!

How does their wait list work?
Some centres just want you to put your name down and then not bother them again…don’t call us, we will call you.
Others say that the more contact you have with them indicating that you are seriously interested, then the better the chance of getting in.  For these centres I would recommend emailing them once a month just to reiterate that you are interested.  Make sure they are aware of what days would best suit you…although the more flexible you can be with your days, the better the chance you have of getting in.
Once you are on a waiting list then it is just a…wait for it…waiting game.

Of course you are generally looking for a centre that is clean and well managed.
The staff should be organised, efficient and energetic.
The children should be happy.
Trust your instinct.  If you get an uncomfortable feeling about a place or about a staff member, then it is probably best to look at another centre.
I would also recommend revisiting the centres once you have had your baby.  I did one round of tours when I was pregnant and really had no idea what babies were like.  I found that when I did another round of tours once I had Toddler C, my opinions had completely changed.  Staff turnover can be quite high and so doing a second tour can help alert you to changes in management or in nursery staff.

If you are only offered one day at the centre you really like, take it!
Even if it means having to enrol at another centre, once you are registered at a centre you get first preference as additional days open up and so, with any luck, you will soon be able to transfer to just the one centre.

Hopefully this is helpful to all you moms out there who are looking for childcare!
Going back to work is not easy…having your baby at centre that you trust makes such a difference!
Please feel free to email me with any other questions you might have and I will do my best to help!

Is your child in child care?
How did you chose your centre?

For reviews of Brisbane child care centres, please head over here.