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Everything you need to know about your options for childcare in Australia.

For most of us mammas these days we have a need to head back to work after having our little ones, which can be a daunting and guilt filled decision at times, but a necessary one.

Sadly, money makes the world go ‘round and we often don’t have ‘the community’ we once had, of mums, grandparents, Aunties, or sisters friends dogs available to assist us to care for our children as we once did.

So what are our options?

Centre based care; which includes, Long Day Care, Occasional care and preschool for younger children, are all based in a service that is regulated by the Australian governments. These can be privately owned, not for profit enterprises, council or community run. They all include educational programs for children, qualified educators and endless social opportunities for children.

sending child to childcare
Centre based care is regulated.Image via iStock.

Family Day Care; this is often much cheaper and is also covered by the governments rebates, benefits and regulations. FDC takes place in a residential home, (so there are less children) and also must include an educational program for those who attend.

Nannies; these are quite expensive and are not regulated by the government, so there are no official safety nets to ensure the quality of care. Many families like this private option and there are many quality nannies out there if you can afford them and get your hands on them.

So, why childcare?

It’s an all in one: Consistency is really important when it comes to the emotional development of children, one thing EC services such as Long day care offer, is a vast age range for children. Most services will enrol children anywhere from around 6 weeks up until 5 or 6 years.

Most also have a registered kindergarten program, which meet all the same criteria’s as a sessional kindergarten, only with the option of a full day of care. This enables families to utilise the same service for many years and your children can essentially grow up with the educators and children of the service, giving families an opportunity to become a part of the service ‘community’ over these many years.

sending child to childcare
It's important to find a service that meets your needs. Image via Getty.
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It meets the hours of our working lives: It can be a micromanaging disaster to try to complete your work hours within unrealistic time constraints. Luckily most LDC services run for a full day of care, these vary from service to service, so it’s important to find the service that meets your personal needs.

Most services offer all meals, including brekky, which is handy for the early working parents, some services even offer ‘dinner’ or ‘late snack’, where the service menu must meet The Australian Dietary Guidelines.

The social benefits

There is a plentiful range of potential ‘friends’ or acquaintances for children to develop social interactions and relationships with. This gives them the opportunity to develop skills such as empathy, language, cooperation and collaboration with others. They learn to become inclusive of diversity, embracing and valuing the differences and similarities within us all.

Some beautiful relationships with educators can be created, which assist in the settling process and help children to feel comfortable around other adults and in varying environments outside of the home.

LISTEN: Mamamia's pregnancy podcast, Hello Bump discusses all things childcare (post continues after audio...)

The educational gain.

They have an education and care program; this is designed around the interests, development and abilities of the children as a whole and as individuals, which is designed to be a collaboration with families.

There are many engaging experiences to be had in quality services, children learn primarily through their play and have intentional teaching and learning opportunities both pre planned and spontaneously facilitated by the educators.

sending child to childcare
There are many education experiences within childcare programs. Image via Getty.

The guilt factor

We often feel a little guilty leaving our children with others, however it’s usually not an option for us to stay forever at home, here are some factors to keep you guilt free:

  • Your child is having an opportunity to learn social skills in an environment where they meet new people from various walks of life each and every day they attend care.
  • There are many super fun experiences available to children, from art and craft, dance and song, problem solving opportunities and early literacy and numeracy programs.
  • They develop some envious secondary attachments to other adults; this helps them to easily connect with other people and places.
  • They are having their nutritional needs met at the service
  • They often have many great extracurricular opportunities, such as music and sport programs, various animal and multicultural incursions and sometimes exciting excursions.
  • ‘The Family Institute of Australian studies’ completed research that demonstrated, Access to quality early childhood programs can provide children with social and cognitive experiences that promote independence, positive attitudes to learning and facilitate the transition to school that underpin later academic success.
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