Choosing a childcare centre for their child is one of the biggest decisions a parent makes. Childcare centres provide a child with their life's first learning experiences and place of social interaction. Children learn to communicate with others whilst being in an environment where they form the foundations of their learning through various means. This is why parents need to take several factors into consideration before deciding on a childcare centre for their child. These include:
- Budget and type of centre — The first step is deciding one's budget. Childcare centres operate in two major ways, the first type is long daycare centres operating as pre-schools. In these centres, educators use a structured program with relevant learning outcomes to provide children with learning experiences. These are typically more expensive as they run through the day and also provide children with meals. The second type is flexible daycare centres where children can interact with other children however there is no structured learning program. Parents working long hours and with more financial room can opt for long daycare centres, and those parents who work casually or occasionally will find flexible day centres a more suitable option.
- Learning experience — Parents should schedule a trial visit for several centres and see which one offers the best learning experience for their child. During a trial visit, the parent can leave their child to play in the centre for one to two hours and observe which learning tools they have access to. Play-based learning tools include clay, musical toys, craft materials and more. The way the educator works with children is also crucial; one should see whether the educators are actively involved in their child's activities.
- Safety — A child must first and foremost feel safe and comfortable in their environment. This is the most important aspect of any childcare centre. Parents should notice what safety measures the childcare centre has in place, including surveillance cameras and doors with pin code access. In addition to this, parents should also notice how the centre feels as soon as they enter it. Have the educators created a warm and welcoming environment or does it feel cold and unwelcoming? Only a parent knows which environment their child prefers and feels safe in, so only they can decide whether a childcare centre has the right environment for their child.
Parents should also take some time to ask family and friends for their experiences with childcare centres before making a final decision.