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by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

 For some parents, choosing to put a child into care is a tough one, others take it as expected, and many fit in between the two. Once that decisions is made in favour of a child care centre, how can you choose which centre to use?

 Unfortunately, in some areas there is little choice either because there are few centres or because most centres are fully booked. In this case, parents have to take what they can.

 For other parents, the following points are worth considering when choosing a centre. This list doesnít include every possibility, but it is a starting point.

Comfort Level

 Essentially, if youíre not comfortable with the centre or the staff, donít send your child there. You donít need to be able to say exactly what the problem is, but trust your instincts.

 Obviously, if your discomfort relates to a particular thing, it may be worth a second look.

 Of course, the childís comfort level is important, but this is hard to monitor as the child could be negative towards being left, rather than towards the centre itself.


 Fairly obviously, you need to look at the facilities of the centre itself. Although itíd be surprising that DHS would miss it, a centre without fences, dangerous buildings, a filthy kitchen, unsecured entrances, no fire extinguishers and broken windows would be better to run away from quickly!

 Realistically, though, there are differences between different centres that can help you make a decision.

 Are the childrenís areas bright and cheerful? Is there space to run outside? Is the yard shaded enough to be Sunsmart in summer? Can the children access some books and home corner toys at all times? Are there extras like a vegetable or herb garden or animals?

 By looking at more than one centre, you will begin to notice such differences and judge which are more important to you.

 Activities offered

 Check the centre offers a variety of activities over the course of the day or session; young children want a choice, as they donít have sufficiently long attention spans.

 Likewise, for full time care, ensure that activities change from day to day and week-to-week Ė as long as activities are rotated around and new ones added, itís okay.

Activities on offer should include both indoor and outdoor venues and use of different skills Ė two different painting activities isnít as good as one painting table and one puzzle table, for instance.

 If your child has particular interests, enquire if they are catered for.

 Staff attitudes

 The staff will be caring for your child, so their attitudes are essential.

 Staff need to not only like and respond well to children, they also need to be happy with the centre and be communicative with parents.

 Take your child with you on inspections of centres and watch how staff interact with him/her whilst youíre there Ė no matter how busy, child care staff should still be able to smile at and acknowledge the childís presence as a minimum.


 Prominently displayed, the centre will have a program set up. It will be divided into sections for different skill groups (social, gross motor, etc) and have activities designed to promote certain skills in the particular children in care.

 Look at the program as it will give a good indication of what they do with the children and ensure all major developmental areas are covered by their program each day/week.

 Occasional care centres are likely to have less detailed programs, as they canít predict which children will be present and may have a wider range of ages to cater for at once.


 All childcare centres have various policies they must adhere to. Policies include administrative things like accounts and communications systems.

 More relevant at this stage, are policies about discipline, bullying, illness and safety procedures. Read these policies and ensure that their contents suit your beliefs and your childís temperament.


 Although the decision is yours and has suit your child, talking to parents who use (or consciously donít use) the centre you are contemplating can be informative.

 If you want more reassurance and donít know other parents to ask, talk to the administrator of the centre. Many will be able to refer you to parents within the centre.


 Is the centre well organized, with forms ready to hand, notices on boards, childrenís activities controlled, discipline policies in place, and so forth? Or is it chaotic and unprofessional?

 Most centres will probably be somewhere between, so itís a matter of what areas are important to you. For instance, you want the activities controlled but donít care if the office is a mess OR you only care that the discipline procedure is suitable to your child.


Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and assists businesses in preparing all written documentation and web site content. Tash also writes parenting and business articles for inclusion in newsletter and web sites.
© 2003, Tash Hughes

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