It is a good idea to start looking for early learning and child care as soon as possible. Some centres, particularly those that provide infant care, may have a waiting list for spaces.
When searching for quality child care, it is important to identify what your needs are and to take into account the interests and needs of your child. Consider these factors:
- your child’s age
- travelling distance and mode of transportation
- exact hours and days of care required
- any special language or physical requirements your child may have
Selecting a child care centre or home child care professional, that both you and your child feel comfortable with, takes time and research. Try to visit as many centres or interview as many home caregivers as possible, before you make your final decision.
Your first contact with a child care centre or home child care agency will most likely be a telephone call. When you call, speak to the Director or Supervisor. You may want to ask some of these questions:
- How many children will be in my child’s group?
- How old are the children that are cared for?
- Is there a waiting list, and if so, how long?
- Are parents encouraged to drop in?
- What is the basic cost? Are there additional charges? Is there a charge when children are sick or on holiday? Is there a registration fee? Is fee subsidy available?
- Will the child care professional respect the cultural practices, if any, of your family?
- Will pets be present? (allergies)
Keep in mind that even though fees differ between each child care centre, it is the quality of care you are looking for. You should call a few child care centres for their rates, and then determine what you want to pay for child care.
Spend some time on your own observing the children and staff/caregiver. Sit down and watch to see if the children are happy and involved in the activities described in the group’s program plan for the day. Look for evidence of a well-balanced program that includes: indoor and outdoor play; active and quiet times; structured and unstructured activities; individual, small group and large group activities; and experiences that promote physical coordination, language development and social skills. Watch how staff/caregivers relate to the children. Do they talk to them often and listen carefully when they speak? Do they bend down to the children’s level and talk directly to them? Are their words and tone of voice positive and do their faces show that they are enjoying their work? How do the children respond to them?
After the Visit
After each visit to a child care centre or home providing child care, make notes about the positive and negative aspects of the centre or home. This will help when you make your final decision. Pay particular attention to health and safety aspects, and your instincts about whether you and your child will be comfortable and confident in the program.
When choosing a child care centre, check on emergency procedures and carefully read any documents you are asked to sign.
When Your Child is Sick
If your child is sick you may need back-up care. Make sure you have made plans for this, as centres cannot care for a sick child.