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Choosing childcare is a dilemma for every working parent. What kind of care is best for your child? What educational benefits are important to you? Can your family afford to utilise traditional childcare?

With so many questions to answer, how do you start looking for the best childcare provider so you can return to work with a sound mind that your child is happy?

Finding your Starting Point:

Before you start, answer these logistical questions:

  • Will I be responsible solely for dropping and pickup up my child from childcare?
  • Will my husband/partner be partly responsible for helping with the daycare drop-offs and pick-ups?
  • Is it more convenient to put your child in a childcare near your house or near your place of work?
  • Do you consider the location of the childcare centre more important than the style of childcare provided, or is a specialised curriculum more important than the location?

Once you have an idea of who will be picking up your child each day and where is the most convenient location for a childcare, then you can locate all the childcare centres in your area.Or you can do a search for centres that provide the style of childcare you want for your child.

Or you can do a search for centres that provide the style of childcare you want for your child.

Traditional vs Alternative Childcare Curriculum:

One of the most important questions to ask yourself is: Do you want your child being part of the traditional Early Childhood Learning Curriculum, or would you prefer an alternative method of early childhood teachings such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, or Steiner?For me, the most important aspect of early childhood education for my daughter was to learn through play. Developmental education is more important to me than educating children based on their own cultural communities because I feel that it is a more inclusive style of learning, where each child is equal as a child.

For me, the most important aspect of early childhood education for my daughter was to learn through play. Developmental education is more important to me than educating children based on their own cultural communities because I feel that it is a more inclusive style of learning, where each child is equal as a child.I also didn’t want her to be made to feel inadequate for not understanding a concept. My sister struggled a lot through school with learning to read because she didn’t learn in a way that the teachers taught. I didn’t want that for my daughter.

I also didn’t want her to be made to feel inadequate for not understanding a concept. My sister struggled a lot through school with learning to read because she didn’t learn in a way that the teachers taught. I didn’t want that for my daughter.

For me, a post-structuralist style of early childhood education was a definite no-go because my husband and I are definitely opposed to the idea of educators teaching through the use of ‘exploiting the use of power relationships.’

I am a very much a ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’ parent. Spilling milk or making a mistake in our household is a case of ‘Whoops. Let’s fix that, can you help me?’ because I feel it encourages children to learn from mistakes instead of being scared to make a mistake.

So, I wanted the childcare centre where my daughter would spend a significant amount of time to reflect those parenting values.The most important thing for me is that the childcare centre, regardless of what model of education they provide, is accredited with the National Quality Framework (NQS), which ensures they are up to standard with the Australian government.

The most important thing for me is that the childcare centre, regardless of what model of education they provide, is accredited with the National Quality Framework (NQS), which ensures they are up to standard with the Australian government.I’ve put some information below about some of the developmental styles of early childhood education so you can see how each style of learning stacks up and decide what best suits your child(ren) and family.Childcare question pack display

Any information provided is a result of my own reading and experiences when I was investigating childcare centres for my daughter.

Montessori

In Australia, Montessori style of early childhood education in childcare has been more and more popular.

While I am pleased that more childcare centres are embodying developmental methods of educating and nurturing young children, it is also a worry because I feel that some centres are only gaining Montessori accreditation to appeal to parents and rake in more money, and not because they wholly believe in the methods.

When my daughter first started in a childcare centre, I thought I had found the best childcare provider possible because they made a point of informing me at every opportunity that they were sponsoring all their carers to obtain their Montessori accreditation.

Montessori theories emphasise that children learn at their own natural pace, and it is the educator’s job to facilitate the natural learning processes, through play, while maintaining that it is ‘child led.’

After my daughter spent a couple months there, receiving the weekly newsletter where they stated “During Montessori sessions, the children did (insert activity),” made me feel that the Montessori was just an activity that they scheduled in each day to ensure parents felt their fees were worth in, rather than a holistic approach to early childhood learning.

When I withdrew my daughter from the childcare centre because we no longer required childcare (as my mum was offering to have Ella on the days I worked), the centre manager inferred that their centre provided better care than my mother could “because they were Montessori”. That’s when I knew I was leaving that centre for the right reasons.

Not all Montessori education centres are like this. I bet I just was unlucky enough to get the only one that only cared about the style of education for its ‘buzzword’ appeal to parents.

My understanding of the Montessori development methods is that it’s an overall philosophy that should be embodied in any daily activity with children, as with every other developmental style of early childhood education. The Montessori Australia website provides a concise explanation of how it should be implemented.

My daughter is now at a different childcare centre as I increased the days I work (mum still has her two days a week and they love their time together) and although the centre doesn’t label themselves as ‘Montessori’, they embody aspects of ‘developmental styles’ of early childhood education in their daily activities. I couldn’t be happier where we are now.

Reggio Emilia

This style of early childhood education is similar to Montessori in that it is a developmental style of education, but emphasises more ‘learning through play’ approach, where toddlers and pre-schoolers learn through their experiences and their senses.

Reggio Emilia is another style of ‘child-centred’ education where the childcare educators are there to guide the child’s learning but have a ‘hands off approach’.

One of the carers that used to look after Ella described Reggio Emilia style as ‘educators collaborate with the children, rather than playing the role of an instructor’.

Reggio Emilia style of education places more emphasis on children expressing themselves through ‘a hundred languages’ (other than just speech) and promoting an environment that is conducive to this expression.

Steiner

Another popular style of developmental education, that varies from the traditional curriculums is the Steiner style of early childhood learning.

Steiner places more emphasis on learning through practical, hands-on and creative activity that tends to be slightly more structured than Montessori or Reggio Emilia styles of early childhood learning. I found the Steiner Education Australia website wonderfully informative for how Steiner theories of early childhood education are implemented in a practical sense.

What I love about the theories of Steiner or Wardolf education, is that a lot of learning is facilitated through practical activities such as gardening, cooking, as well as artistic and collaborative activities such as singing etc.

How to choose the right childcare based on education?

Quite simply, arm yourself with knowledge.

I’ve provided very rudimentary explanations, based on my own research of childcare centres as a starting point for you. Download my free printable of the Jumbo List of Questions to Ask the Childcare Centre when you go to explore childcare centres for your child. (insert opt-in page for free printable)

Other factors to consider:

There are many other factors that you need to consider when choosing a childcare. We’ve already covered logistics and location.

How much will it cost?

Cost is another important factor when considering childcare.

Government Assistance?

Does your government offer a rebate for childcare fees? In Australia, until the new legislative changes are implemented, each child is eligible for up to $7500 per year of Childcare Rebate (which is not income-tested), and some families are eligible for Childcare Benefit (which is income-tested). Make sure you have a look at the Human Services website for more information about what government assistance may be available to your family for childcare fees.

While the Childcare Rebate is a massive help in getting parents back into the workforce, as with any government, they don’t implement this incentive very well.

While the Childcare Rebate is a massive help in getting parents back into the workforce, as with any government, they don’t implement this incentive very well. The government withholds 15% of the eligible rebate to ‘balance your books’ at the end of the financial year, in case you owe the Family Assistance office any money for underestimating your family income. So, this rebate becomes $6375 per child. There is very little communication about this (you must scour the Family Assistance website for this information). If your books balance at the end of the Financial year, then this sum is reimbursed, but it does not do anything to help for the three months that you must pay the full out-of-pocket expenses before the End of Financial Year.

The government withholds 15% of the eligible rebate to ‘balance your books’ at the end of the financial year, in case you owe the Family Assistance office any money for underestimating your family income. So, this rebate becomes $6375 per child. There is very little communication about this (you must scour the Family Assistance website for this information). If your books balance at the end of the Financial year, then this sum is reimbursed, but it does not do anything to help for the months that you must pay the full out-of-pocket expenses before the End of Financial Year. So, rather than figuring out what $6375 per year would equate to per eligible

So, rather than figuring out what $6375 per year would equate to per eligible childcare day and then deduct that from your daily childcare fee, the Family Assistance offers merely applies the rebate to 50% of your out of pocket fees, until you reach your $6375. For me, with Ella attending childcare 4 days per week, we reached our Childcare Rebate cap nine months into the financial year. Which means we were required to pay the full fees (as we do not qualify for the income-tested Childcare Benefit) until the new financial year.

For me, with Ella attending childcare 4 days per week, we reached our Childcare Rebate cap nine months into the financial year. Which means we were required to pay the full fees (as we do not qualify for the income-tested Childcare Benefit) until the new financial year. For those three months, more than half my monthly pay was being spent on childcare fees, AFTER we reduced her days down to three days per week.

For those three months, more than half my monthly pay was being spent on childcare fees, AFTER we reduced her days down to three days per week. While I am not complaining too much, it would be better if this information was communicated to people that can utilise the Childcare Rebate so they can plan their payment of childcare fees better. I would have paid extra per month while the rebate was being paid to create a surplus fund with the daycare to minimise my out of pocket expense when the Rebate cap had been reached.

While I am not complaining too much, it would be better if this information was communicated to people that can utilise the Childcare Rebate so they can plan their payment of childcare fees better. I would have paid extra per month while the rebate was being paid to create a surplus fund with the daycare to minimise my out of pocket expense when the Rebate cap had been reached.

The lesson to learn here: READ THE FINE PRINT OF ANY GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES THAT YOU MAY BE ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE. Sorry for shouting. But, I cannot stress this point enough.

What does your daily childcare expense include?

Be sure to ask the childcare centre what the cost of care includes. Some centres include the cost of nappies and all meals. Some do not.

While the cheapest fee may look the best on paper, it could be that the fees that are $5-10 more per day include all your child’s meals and their nappies. If your child is in there for more than 2 days per week, then the extra money in fees that include the nappies and meals could be better for your pocket than the cheapest childcare fees but you have to provide all meals and nappies.

If your child is in there for more than 2 days per week, then the extra money in fees that include the nappies and meals could be better for your pocket than the cheapest childcare fees but you have to provide all meals and nappies.

Accreditation

Another important consideration is to consider what accreditations your childcare centre has from a governing body. These accreditations ensure that the childcare centre consistently provides a safe and secure environment for your child, as well as ensuring training of educators remains up to current standards.

These accreditations ensure that the childcare centre consistently provides a safe and secure environment for your child, as well as ensuring training of educators remains up to current standards.

Australia:

In Australia, ALL childcare centres must be accredited under the National Quality Framework (NQF), which measures how each centre adheres to the standards of care expected that is a base standard for operating a childcare centre. Each centre should be aiming to exceed the base standards. Click here for a starting point to find childcare centres that are meeting the NQF standards:

America:

In America, childcare centres should be meeting the standards stipulated by Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).
Ideally, childcare centres in America should be accredited under the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), however not all states are governed by this Childcare Accreditation body.

The UK:

Childcare centres and nurseries are regulated by OFSTED, who perform routine inspections to ensure centres are maintaining certain standards of care.

How does the childcare centre manage grievances?

This is a big one. What frameworks are in place to protect families if issues arise? Does the centre have a formal policy on handling grievances, should they arise? Ask to see a copy of the childcare centre’s grievance handling policy before you enrol your child.

How do educators handle behaviour issues in children?

It’s inevitable. Our kids are not going to be perfectly behaved or cooperative all the time. They are going to test the boundaries; they aren’t going to be nice to their friends. But the most important thing here is to ascertain how the childcare centre handles such issues as they arise?For me, it was important that the educators employ the same methods that myself or my husband would if our child was acting out at home, to ensure consistency for Ella.

For me, it was important that the educators employ the same methods that myself or my husband would if our child was acting out at home, to ensure consistency for Ella. I believe time-outs are ineffective, especially in toddlers, for encouraging children to correct their behaviour and wanted to ensure that the childcare centre that Ella attends would not place her in ‘time out’ for less than ideal behaviours.

I believe time-outs are ineffective, especially in toddlers, for encouraging children to correct their behaviour and wanted to ensure that the childcare centre that Ella attends would not place her in ‘time out’ for less than ideal behaviours. At her age, redirection and showing alternative ways of doing things is how I feel I can get the message across. Encouraging a child to correct their own behaviour, and therefore learn from it, is more effective than removing and isolating them.

At her age, redirection and showing alternative ways of doing things is how I feel I can get the message across. Encouraging a child to correct their own behaviour, and therefore learn from it, is more effective than removing and isolating them.

When Ella is playing rough with her friend, for example, with snatching toys, I attempt to correct the behaviour by telling her that “It’s not nice to snatch toys. It hurt your friend’s feelings because she was playing nicely with that toy and you suddenly snatched it. You wouldn’t like it if your friend snatched your toy, would you? Can you please give the toy back?” Most of the time, this tactic works the first time and the toy that was snatched is given back to the original child and both children play happily. By asking her if she would like it if her toy was snatched, it’s also giving her the opportunity to realise that the action of snatching isn’t nice because she wouldn’t like it.

Most of the time, this tactic works the first time and the toy that was snatched is given back to the original child and both children play happily. By asking her if she would like it if her toy was snatched, it’s also giving her the opportunity to realise that the action of snatching isn’t nice because she wouldn’t like it. If that doesn’t work, and Ella respond with ‘No’ to my request to give the toy she snatched back to her friend, then I will employ redirection techniques to distract her focus from the toy she snatched to prevent recurrences of that happening.

If that doesn’t work, and Ella respond with ‘No’ to my request to give the toy she snatched back to her friend, then I will employ redirection techniques to distract her focus from the toy she snatched to prevent recurrences of that happening.So, after a long-winded example, what I mean to say, is that it is important for Ella’s carers to employ the same methods to correct behaviour as I would apply at home. Especially when I am very opposed to time-outs and authoritarian methods of discipline, as I feel it undermines the message we are attempting to teach.

So, after a long-winded example, what I mean to say, is that it is important for Ella’s carers to employ the same methods to correct behaviour as I would apply at home. Especially when I am very opposed to time-outs and authoritarian methods of discipline, as I feel it undermines the message we are attempting to teach.At the end of the day, regardless of what style of early childhood education a centre focuses on, how much they cost and how they guide children, you need to feel comfortable in your

At the end of the day, regardless of what style of early childhood education a centre focuses on, how much they cost and how they guide children, you need to feel comfortable in your centre’s ability to meet the needs of your children.

Don’t ignore any bad vibes or gut feelings you have. Pay attention to your child’s cues to know if the centre is right for you. And if you decide a traditional daycare centre is not for your family, check out my post on alternatives to traditional childcare centres for your family.

Don’t forget to download your free printable of the Jumbo List of Questions to Ask Prospective Childcare Centres.

7 things to consider when choosing childcare | Naturally Busy
7 important questions to ask a prospective childcare centre | Naturally Busy

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