Getting started

The key to making child care work is doing what best suits you and your child. Here are some ideas to help you start planning your child care choices.
Signing up early for child care
Starting child care: what age?
Choosing care for your child
Information to give carers
Signing up early for child care

Thinking well ahead is a must if you want your child to go to the child care service of your choice. For example, you might have limited choice in your area, or you might not know how long the waiting lists are.

You should organise child care early because:

there’s usually high demand for places
most formal child care services have waiting lists
regional and rural areas often have limited child care facilities.
It’s a good idea to register your child with services even if you’re only considering a return to work or other change. Taking the time to register will mean you’ll have the option later.

Starting child care: what age?

There’s no best time to start child care – it all depends on what suits your family and child.

Ask the childcare Center what programs they have, below are some questions to consider :

Are structured activities, naps and mealtimes planned? Is this plan well displayed for parents?
Is there a chance for quiet time or rest during the day?
Will staff report back fully on your child’s day?
Is there easy-to-access information about the centre’s policies, level of staff training, hygiene and discipline procedures?
The setting

Is the environment stimulating and safe?
Does the centre or home have a relaxed and happy atmosphere?
Do the staff spend time talking to and encouraging the children?
Relationship with parents

Do you feel welcome to discuss any issues with staff?
Can you and your child do an orientation program?
Can you drop in at any time to visit and observe your child in the environment?
Will other family members be encouraged to be involved in activities?
Facilities at care

Does the centre/home seem bright and interesting, with plenty of light and lots of toys and activities?
Will your child have the chance to explore and create?
Do toileting, nappy changing and rest times meet individual needs?
Check the ratio – for example, is there at least one carer for every four babies?
Is there plenty of room and outdoor equipment for your child to enjoy?

Is a healthy selection of snacks and drinks offered?
Are meals provided, or do you need to supply them?
Do snacks and meal arrangements meet children’s individual needs?
Does the centre follow Australian dietary guidelines for children? The centre should be able to show you their menu, if applicable, and policy on nutrition.
If you need to pack food for your child to take to child care, there are a few things to remember. Meat or dairy products being transported from home to the centre should be put in an insulated lunch box with a frozen drink bottle to keep the temperature below 5ºC. At the centre, the food should be put in a fridge straightaway. Expressed breastmilk can be transported in an esky with an ice brick to keep it chilled.
General information
You might also want to ask:

What happens when my child’s sick?
Will I pay for days we don’t attend?
What happens if I’m late for a pick-up?
Who else can pick up my child?
What do I pack for my child?
How can I help my child adjust to child care?
Information to give carers

Once you’ve chosen the child care setting that best suits your child and you, you’ll need to give some information about your child to her new carers. This is likely to include:

information about your child’s wellbeing, including sleeping patterns, emotional and social preferences, and any unusual events that might be affecting her
any food allergies, intolerances or other medical conditions your child has
your child’s hygiene practices
learning activities your child enjoys
any concerns you have about your child’s development
any cultural or individual differences in practice that need to be considered sensitively and positively.