The importance of quality childcare

I’ll never forget the day Mr Handyman walked through the front door, our daughter on his hip (aged about 15 months) and a look of horror on his face.  I had recently returned to work outside of the home and had made all of Stinky’s childcare arrangements.  That afternoon, he’d turned up to the centre for the first time, the code lock on the front gate was broken so he just walked straight in.  He didn’t come across anyone so followed the sound of children playing and the delighted squeals of Stinky as she saw him through a window.  One of the carers looked at him and smiled (presumably at the reaction of a child seeing her parent).  He picked her up, found her bag and walked out of the centre.  No one asked a single question about who he was or why he hadn’t signed her out.  He literally picked her up and walked out!

Stinky never returned to that centre.

As a working parent, I’ve zoomed away from childcare to the office with tears streaming down my face as my child has cried and the guilt has enveloped me.  It hangs around all day and I’m sure on those days, I’ve been less productive and more distracted thinking about my little cherubs.  Most of the time, I know my kids have stopped crying the second I’ve walked out of the room. I’ve often waited until I could hear them calm down, then left with a little less weight on my shoulders.  Sometimes I’ve had to leave and phoned once I arrived at the office only to find they’re just fine.

Thankfully, we’ve now found a BRILLIANT childcare centre where I would love to stay and play.  The staff are so loving and warm; handing out hugs and laughs at the drop of a hat.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had quite a journey to reach this point.  This is the third centre we’ve been involved with as well as one family day care.

I know how important it is to find the right carer for your little ones.  I also know there isn’t always a lot of choice.  With waiting lists and limited places, sometimes we need to take what we can get.  I live in a town with one childcare centre.  One!  If it was substandard, what would I do?  I am lucky it’s so wonderful.

Here is a list of things to look out for when selecting a childcare centre:

  1. Spend some time in the room your child will be attending.  Go for a play 2-3 times if you have the opportunity.  Most centres will allow this and it’s a great opportunity to see how the carers interact with the children.
  2. Check out the menu.  This is such an important part of your child’s day.  Make sure there is variety and healthy food on offer.  You’d be surprised what some centres still feed children, despite what we now know about the effects of food on behaviour.
  3. Drop by out of the blue.  If you’re on the verge of selecting a centre, drop by unannounced and gauge the reaction of the staff.  If they’re accommodating, that’s great.  If they’re horrified and unwelcoming, the red flag starts waving.
  4. Take a look at their programming.  All accredited centres (and Family Day Care providers in Victoria) have a documented program for education and activities.  It will tell you what they plan to do and what areas of your child’s development it relates to .
  5. Ask other parents for recommendations.  I was really surprised how many parents told me their horror stories of the ‘bad’ childcare once I started talking to them.
  6. Do a quick search online.  You never know what parents have been saying online about centres and carers.  Beware, this information is highly subjective and could be the result of a disgruntled employee.
  7. Ask the centre about staff turnover.  This was a major issue in Stinky’s second centre.  There was ridiculously high staff turnover.  This indicated to us that there is an underlying issue.  If management can’t keep staff happy, how can we expect them to keep our precious little people content and safe?
  8. Be present.  Once you have selected to type of care and the centre, make sure you are present and ask questions.  This travels right through schooling in my opinion.  Make sure the teacher/carer is aware that you’re interested and engaged and open to discussions.  As working mothers we can’t always cut fruit or volunteer, but you can linger a little longer at pickup time.
  9. Think outside the box.  The centre closest to home is not always the best fit for your work and family situation.  We chose a centre that was close to my work so that if anything happened, I was closer and able to get there quickly.
  10. Trust your gut instinct.  If you walk into a centre and something doesn’t feel quite right, listen to that inner voice.  Spend a little longer researching and make sure you’re 100% happy with the centre.  If you’re uneasy, chances are your child will be too.

I hope some of these things will help you when looking at your childcare options.  I know it’s hard, trust me; I know!  We all need to find the best fit for our family and that isn’t always the same as the person next door.  Just make sure you’re comfortable with your choices and your child is happy.  That’s all we really want, isn’t it?

 

Image source #1 Image source #2

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