If you’re a parent who has moved to a new area, you’ve got a new job, or your situation has changed – you will be ready to begin your search for child care. It might feel like a mammoth task, and you might be worried about someone else looking after your little one. This is all normal. See our five steps below to securing a spot at a child care centre that you love.
1. Check the locations
Location is such an important factor to consider when you begin looking at child care centres. Do you want a child care centre near home, your work, or near other caregivers that are helping out with drop offs and pick ups? Start making your shortlist of centres that tick all the boxes for location.
2. Read all about it
Now you will want to find out more detail about each of the centres. Read some reviews online, speak to locals that have used the centre, check that their hours suit your needs, call to see if they have any vacancies, ask about the enrolment process, and see what their rates are. Remember, depending on your rebate you may be able to claim up to 75% of your child care fees. Not sure how much you can claim? Use our simple online tool to determine (in 30 seconds) how much Child Care Subsidy your family could claim. When you contact the centre, be sure to ask whether they provide meals and snacks for the children. This is a great bonus as it means you don’t have to prepare a lunchbox, and the kids are exposed to new tastes and types of food. Eating with their friends can also encourage even the fussiest of eaters to try new things.
3. Book a visit
One of the best ways to get a feel for a child care centre is to arrange a visit to all of the centres on your list. At the visit you can get a feel for the centre, inquire about fees, ask about their waitlist, and find out more about their philosophy. It’s a great idea to go and take a look at centres even if they say they don’t have any vacancies. Especially if it’s one that you know has a good rating and reputation. Monique is a child care director with more than 20 years of experience. She shares ‘My tip for parents who don’t have a spot in the centre that they want is to just keep ringing up. Keep ringing, and keep ringing, and call in to visit and have the staff know who you are. Keep showing your interest to the centre that you would like. Because if all of a sudden one of the centre’s kids moves away and they need to fill that spot, they will think of you.’
4. Make your decision
Often you’ll know whether you like a centre as soon as you walk in the door. That’s why we recommend you go and check them out, and be sure to take along your child. You can ask questions, look around, see the other kids in action, and imagine your own little one there playing with the puzzles or making play dough creations. Collect some enrolment forms while you’re there, then head home and think about which centre ticks all the boxes for you and your family. Monique shares more insight on how to make this decision after you’ve visited the centre. ‘Look for the services that have the outstanding ratings. Unfortunately in many areas, the places are so limited that you can’t find these centres or they don’t have availability. I would be looking for those services that have an environment that is inviting and welcoming. But the most important thing that I believe you should be looking for is the relationships between the children and the educators. What you want to see when you go to look at a centre is whether the educators want to get to know your child. Do they get down on their level and talk to your child and make it all about them, or do they just talk to the adult over the child’s head?’ Once you’ve completed the forms and confirmed your spot, many centres will offer orientation sessions. This gives your child a chance to visit the centre for a short time, and get a feel for what a day in the life there might be like. They can take part in activities, have a snack, and make some new friends.
5. Start your orientation
‘If you’re going to start at a new centre it’s absolutely essential that you spend time there with your child before they begin,’ explains child care director Monique. ‘You can’t expect to just have a start date, and drop your child off there and for them not to be upset. You need to go and visit the centre prior. It’s so important to help them feel at ease, find their way around, see how things work, and meet the people that are going to be taking care of them. The child will then begin forming relationships with the staff before they begin. Visit as many times as you can. It will make the transition so much smoother. By going along with your child on these visits, you are helping to facilitate the triangle of trust between the carers, your child, and yourself. Your child might still cry and feel upset on their first day, as it’s a new environment with different people, they don’t know how it all works. But if you’ve done the ground work by visiting the centre and getting to know the staff, your child is going to have a much more pleasant first day.
If you’re finding the process a bit daunting, why not jump onto Toddle?
At Toddle you can find local child care centres in your area, read reviews, see rates and vacancies – all in one spot. You can even book visits to multiple centres with the click of a button. Here’s what a few parents had to say about using the Toddle website.
‘For my eldest, I spent HOURS on the phone ringing around different child care centres, only to be told there were no spaces. For my youngest child, I jumped on Toddle and found a handful of available centres in my area with just a few clicks.’ Kate, mother of two. ‘When I moved here from overseas, I had no idea where to start looking for a good child care centre for my son. I loved being able to look at the reviews of the different centres on the Toddle website.’ Alice, mother of one.
When you’re ready to find a child care centre that is perfect for your child, simply start searching for centres on Toddle.com.au to start the easy process.