Understandably, you want to give your child the best start in life. And with overwhelming evidence pointing to quality early education as a crucial foundation for future success, choosing a child care centre could be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.
You’ll find that while child care centres may look similar on paper, they can actually be quite different in terms of how they operate, what they offer and how they go about their daily routine.
The very best way to research various options and find a preference is to book a tour and visit the centre in person.
This article outlines key things you should look out for when you’re doing a tour and gives some suggested questions to ask. The centre will be taking care of your very precious cargo and setting them on a path for strong and healthy development, so you need to be completely happy and comfortable about where you enrol your child.
What to look for on your tour
Ahead of your tour, it’s a good idea to jot down the things that you want from a childcare centre so that you can run through your checklist while you’re there. For example, you may want a certain child to teacher ratio, extended hours and aftercare or a specific educational approach eg Montessori or Reggio Emilia.
Ideally, you want to book your tour during school hours so you can get a good sense of the ‘feel’ and mood of the centre, how it operates and the interactions between the children and the staff. Is it a loving and nurturing environment? Do the children look happy and busy?
Trust your instincts, treat the tour as an interview and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions.
Facilities and size of the childcare centre
Day care and early education centres vary significantly in size, from small groups run in private homes to larger purpose-built facilities operated by commercial operators with multiple properties. A tour will reveal whether you share the same values as the centre and whether it will match your child’s needs and your expectations.
The indoor and outdoor spaces of a child care centre tell an important story about the centre. Look at the resources available, whether there are different spaces set up for various activities, the amount of natural light and the overall cleanliness of the place.
Staff to child ratios
Your tour will give you a good sense of the staff:child ratio, plus you should ask about the qualifications and experience of the team who will be caring for your child.
Activities and documentation
On your tour, look at what the children are doing. Are they all involved in the same activity or are there a whole lot of different things on the go? How do the child’s activities, the physical environment, resources and the educators combine to support each little person’s unique creativity, curiosity and wellbeing? Is their work on display anywhere? Ask about the daily curriculum and how the children are prepared for the transition to ‘big’ school.
Other practical issues to consider when touring a childcare centre
During your tour, you should also discuss the following:
- How the centre handles special needs for children (eg medical requirements, allergies, developmental challenges, separation issues etc)
- Health and safety policies and procedures
- Their approach to nutrition (don’t forget to check out the kitchen and the weekly menu if there is one)
- Parent involvement and feedback
- Arrival and departure procedures
There are also practical considerations to discuss such as operating hours, after care services, the process when a child is unwell etc.
Some final thoughts on doing a tour of a child care centre
There are lots of ways you can research different child care centres, such as browsing their website, asking friends for recommendations and reading reviews and testimonials, but the very best way to get reliable information is by actually visiting the centre and forming your own opinion from your first-hand experience. At Evoke Early Learning, we always recommend that prospective parents book a tour of our early learning centres so that they can see our philosophy and approach in action and make an informed decision. We would love to show you our caring, nurturing and supportive environments and welcome you to make a booking directly with our Albert Park or our Clayton child care centre. Look forward to meeting you!