Finding and choosing a new daycare centre is a bit like hunting for a new job. It doesn’t pay to rush in without doing your homework or looking around to find the best option for both you and your child.
For the best results, start looking early – a few months early if possible – so that you aren’t forced into choosing a less than ideal daycare centre because of time constraints. It doesn’t hurt to put your child’s name down at a few centres to get them on the list; some daycare centres will charge you a fee for this, but at least you know your name is on that list!
When you have your list narrowed down, you need to follow a brief checklist just to ensure that you’ve gone with the best option when all is said and done. Here’s a brief guide to the process of finding a new daycare centre.
Figure Out What You Need
Make a list of your priorities in order of importance. Would it be better if it is closer to your home or your work? Would you prefer a larger centre or a smaller one with more of a focus on each individual child? Price is also a consideration, but figure out how important your budget is, especially if going for a cheaper daycare centre means sacrificing location or quality. Another thing to check is opening hours; if you often work until 6.30pm, is the daycare centre you choose able to accommodate that?
Start Your Research
Sometimes the most reliable references are from your own friends and neighbours, so don’t be afraid to ask around to see where other people are sending their kids. A personal referral is usually much better than anything you could find online or in a community guide, so make that your first line of attack.
If that’s not bringing enough options, go online. There are several Australian websites dedicated to reviews of local schools and daycare centres. Don’t forget to look in forums for your local area either.
As a last resort, hit up the telephone book, but make sure you put a lot of emphasis on step 3 if you go this route. You never know what you’ll find in an untested daycare centre!
Visit and Ask Some Questions
The phone is a great way to get the basic information like the cost and the average age of the children, but you’ll never get a true sense of how the place is run unless you visit in person. Make up a list of questions to ask the director and staff members so that you don’t forget anything while you’re there.
Some things you should find out include:
- discipline techniques
- sleeping arrangements
- centre’s vacation schedule
Pick up a copy of the policies and normal daily activities. In these instances, your gut feeling is usually right, so if you get an odd feeling about anything, you’d be better off just skipping to the next place on your list.
I can give you all the steps in the world, but you have to trust your feelings when it comes to finding a new daycare centre for your children. It should be warm and inviting, and the staff should be experienced enough to handle the kids. Hang around for a little bit and see how they deal with the children on a one-on-one basis.
Let Your Child Make the Final Decision
Before you settle on one place, bring your child to an ‘organised playdate’ at the centre and see how they get along with the staff and other children. If they hate the place, you should probably move on. If they like it, take that into consideration when you choose. Above all, your child’s happiness is going to determine how smoothly the whole process goes.
How did you choose your daycare centre?