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How to pick the best child care centre for your kids.

This post is sponsored by Goodstart Early Learning

We know a child’s brain is an amazing thing. You only have to look at how quickly they have embraced the ‘i’ age and even at the age of two are playing games on and operating ipads and iphones; sometimes even better than their parents.

A child’s brain develops most rapidly between birth and five years old – in science terms more than 700 new brain connections are made every second. The connections are what builds the structure of the brain and lay the foundation for all later learning, behaviour and wellbeing for a child.

The most important influence on a child’s brain development is where and how they spend their early years. Positive stimulating and nurturing environments help them to thrive and grow and learn; alternately negative environments can have a significant adverse impact on their cognitive, emotional and behavioural development.

This is why choosing a quality child care centre is so important. What happens in their early years will impact them for the rest of their life so it’s critical to ensure they are being exposed to the best possible early learning and care environment.

The experts have led the way in showing us what quality child care looks like with the introduction of the National Quality Standards; which highlight highly-skilled staff and more staff to less children as being critical.

So how can you tell which centre is the right one? How do you know if they are going to provide the best possible place for your child? The best way to know if a centre is right for you is to go down and have a look. Talk to the staff, watch them engage with the children and just by being there you will start to get a feel for the place.

Use your eyes (and your nose)

Observing the centre will give you a sense of the safety and stimulation of the centre, and it will also give you a chance to watch interactions between staff and children. Consider:

– Do children appear to like being there? Are the interactions you see between children, staff and parents warm, friendly and genuine?

– Get a sense for what children are working on – are there sufficient resources and equipment for children to be using in small groups? Are all children having to do the same thing at the same time or are there choices for children to play with what interests them?

– Are there safety measures in place at the point of entry so that staff are aware of who comes into the centre?

– Is the environment safe and clean?

– Use your senses – does the environment look inviting? Does it ‘smell’ like the sort of place you want to come back to? Can you hear laughter and children being engaged and supported in their learning?

This post is sponsored by Goodstart Early Learning

– Is the atmosphere busy, yet organised and calm? Noise is not necessarily a bad thing, but consider whether you are hearing excitement about the learning activities or chaos.

– Are small groups of children supported by the appropriate number of adults? (This varies from State to State and across different age groups. The National Quality Standards are here. It is important to check how many children will be in your child’s group and how many adults will be working with the children.

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– Does there appear to be influences from the local community in the program and the environment? These influences will enrich the learning experiences of both the children and families who participate in the program.

Ask, ask, ask

Asking questions will not only help you find out what you need to know. How the centre staff respond to your questions will give you a feel for how comfortable you’ll be leaving your child in their care. Consider:

– Freely ask about menus, routines, qualifications and professional development of staff, and health and safety. Note whether your questions are treated as valid and whether you are satisfied with the information provided.

– Ask how you will be kept up to date during the day about your child’s wellbeing and participation. Also ask about how you will be updated on your child’s learning.

– Does the staff member you are talking to welcome questions and make time to talk through information with them or the centre’s Director?

– Is there printed material about the centre that you can take away to read or is there a website that you can look up?

– You may wish to check whether family participation is welcomed and whether the centre encourages and values your input into decisions made about the program and the environment. You may like to ask about the decision making process for these things and see some examples and outcomes.

It’s the vibe

Ultimately, you will get a lot from just visiting and getting the vibe of the centre. Gather information and trust your instincts:

– Do you get a sense of what is important to the staff and the children at the centre?

– Do the staff appear confident and professional in their interactions and behaviour? Do you feel like the staff in the centre will work in partnership with you to best support your child?

– Most importantly – what you ‘feel’ is significant. You know your child best, so ask yourself whether this is a place where you believe your child will learn and thrive.

Goodstart Early Learning is Australia’s largest early learning and care provider with more than 650 centres across Australia. The Goodstart team of 15,000 staff educates and cares for more than 73,000 children from 61,000 families nation-wide.Our mission is to provide high quality, accessible, affordable and community-connected early learning in our centres and partner and openly collaborate with the sector to drive change for the benefit of all children. We’re for children, not-for-profit and believe the first five years matter and last a lifetime.

 This post is sponsored by Goodstart Early Learning.Comments on this post are just for this post. If you want to talk about the IDEA of sponsored posts or the choice of advertisers please click here. We will be reading all those comments too for feedback.

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