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What to look for in a childcare centre

As we head towards the new year many parents will be preparing to send their children off to care, often for the first time. Choosing a childcare centre can be a daunting task – apart from being an appropriate distance from your home or work, having places available and being affordable for your budget, what are some of the other things you should look for in a centre?

Secure, well maintained building - People other than staff and parents should not be able to enter the centre without staff knowledge and approval. Children should not be able to leave the facility without adult supervision.

High quality facility – The building and equipment should be of high quality with regular maintenance inspections and immediate repair or removal of any damaged or faulty items.

Parking facilities - to allow for the safe drop off and pick up of children.

Climate Control – appropriate heating and cooling so children and staff feel comfortable all year around with plenty of airflow.

Food – if food is provided at the centre, they should offer healthy nutritious meals and snacks appropriate to the weather and the children's age groups. The centre should follow strict guidelines relating to food safety and allergy management.

Policy & Procedures – The centre should have policies and procedures they use to run the centre easily accessible to parents and staff. Parents and staff should be able to provide feedback on centre policies.

CCB & CCTR approved - The centre should be registered as a CCB approved centre to ensure the centre meets the government regulations and standards and to offer parents access to government fee assistance through CCB and the Childcare Rebate. (Note: There are some types of childcare facilities that do not require accreditation or CCB approval,  for example, Formal kindergarten's etc)

Orientation Process – the centre's orientation process should include the option for pre-start familiarisation visits and documentation of a child profile to ensure staff are aware of each child's unique routine, preferences and background.

Nurturing, inclusive staff – with a combination of experience and appropriate qualifications. Staff should be warm and welcoming to all children and parents.

Resources – staff and children should have access to plenty of resources to provide a varied program of activities and imaginative play.

Programs – a daily or weekly program that uses a variety of learning techniques to enhance children's learning experiences. An ideal programming approach includes both routine and spontaneous activities.

Outdoor Play Areas – Age appropriate, safe play areas that offer plenty of imaginative play opportunities. The area should provide extensive shaded areas and allow for both individual and group play and as well as quiet play and physical play. The equipment and surfaces should be well maintained and cleaned daily.

Author: Samantha Ahearn – Mother of two and Managing Director of Giggletree, a childcare management and consulting company.

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