Choosing a day care centre for your child is a big decision, but by turning up to your visits prepared with a list of all important questions, you may find the choice a little easier to make.
What’s your general philosophy on childcare?
This can give you a better understanding about what the focus at daycare will be.
What’s the educator to child ratio?
This will give you an idea about how much attention your child is likely to be receiving throughout the day.
How do you handle discipline/ behavioural problems?
Knowing how behavioural problems are handled can better help you to decide whether a daycare centre is the right fit for you, you may well want something that fits in with your own disciplinary practices.
What’s your daily routine?
Find out what kind of activities and learning & development programmes are offered throughout the week. This could include music, art, storytelling, baby sign language, expect a wide variety! Maybe the daycare centre have a weekly schedule that they are able to share with you.
How do your observations work?
Find out how often observations are made and how your child’s learning and development will be tracked.
How focused are you on outdoor play?
Ask about the outdoor play area and how much time your child will be spending outside each day. You may spend a lot of time at the park with your children, and want this element to be a large part of their time at daycare! Regardless, outdoor play is crucial to a child’s development, mood and wellbeing.
Can you tell me about the food you provide?
You’ll want to know how much and how often food is provided throughout the day, this could be breakfast, lunch, and two snacks in between, depending on how long your child will be spending at the centre per day! Ask about the freshness of the food, the portion size, and to see an example of their menu. Does the food change seasonally? Is it on a 6 week cycle?
What’s your nap schedule?
Finding out how often and for how long your child will be able to take a nap during the day can be crucial in deciding whether an establishment is right for you!
What’s your potty training procedure?
Maybe the centre waits for the parents to begin potty training before attempting to start, or perhaps they initiate potty training at daycare by a certain age.
What happens if my child gets sick?
If your child gets sick at daycare it can be reassuring to know at what point they will contact you or another parent/guardian. This can also be a good opportunity to ask about their policy on giving medicines and how they would handle any allergies.
Do you have a waiting list?
Make sure you know how likely it is that you will get a place at the daycare, a long wait list could mean that you may be unsuccessful in securing a spot.
What are your fees?
A question that you are unlikely to forget, but find out how much they charge depending on the hours that you will be asking of them.
What’s your late pick-up policy?
Let’s face it, we can’t be supermums all of the time, things come up and may result in you being late to collect your child from daycare. Find out in advance what the policy is for this and if there are any late pick-up fees, that way you won’t get a nasty surprise!
What’s your emergency procedure?
What happens if there’s a fire? Do you have fire drills? You may want to ask questions about emergencies that are more likely within your area.
How will the centre work with my child’s routine?
It’s best to appreciate honesty here. If your child’s routine does not work with the set routine at the daycare, it’s good to find that out now! It could be something that you can work with, or you may want to look at centres that are a better fit with your child’s daily schedule. A daycare centre where your child is able to follow their own routine can help them to feel more secure – especially in the first few weeks!
Do you provide diapers?
A daycare centre may provide diapers within the fees or at an extra cost, if that’s something that you want then remember to ask if it’s an option! Alternatively, your child may have sensitive skin, a preferred brand, or wear cloth diapers – in which case be sure to find out if this is ok too!
How will you communicate with us?
Find out how staff at the daycare centre will communicate any concerns, milestones, or behaviour issues with you, you may want a daily report about any activities undertaken, food eaten etc, or maybe a conversation at pick up time is enough. Either way, find out what is the norm at the centre before it’s too late and you are unhappy with the service!
What attributes do you look for when hiring educators?
Other people will be caring for your child, so it’s important to know that they have the sort of qualities you are looking for! You may prefer staff who are qualified to a certain level or maybe their passion for working with children is more important to you. It can be reassuring to know that you can connect with the vision and values of both the centre and the staff.
Are your staff trained in first-aid?
Find out whether there is always someone at the centre who has a certification in paediatric first aid/CPR. Perhaps they have a nurse, or a selection of staff who hold the relevant qualifications. It’s good to know that your child is in good and safe hands.
What’s your staff turnover rate?
Knowing for how long staff members have worked at the centre and what their staff turnover rate is can give you a good idea about the kind of a daycare centre that it is. You’re likely to be looking for somewhere with long-term staff who have a sense of community, but if that’s not so important to you, that’s fine too!
How active are the teachers?
The teachers may be incredibly involved in your child’s day; playing, reading, singing and dancing are all great things to look for when visiting a centre! Saying that, you may also like to hear that children are left to imaginative play with their peers at times too.
What learning curriculum do you follow?
This question may be more suited to older children that are starting at day care, but it’s still important to consider what learning experiences (aside from learning through play) your child will be have. For example, is there a focus on learning with iPads/ computers? What kind of learning activities are used to develop literacy and numeracy?
Ultimately, trust your gut! When you are visiting a centre, take the time to notice whether it feels warm and welcoming, are the staff smiling? Are the children playing happily? Your own family life can play a huge factor in determining whether a daycare centre is right for you, so the ability to balance your own work and family life is key in your own compatibility with the centre!