We have compiled a useful checklist on the things parents should note when considering a centre for their child.
Before You Visit/Over the Phone
Think about the days and times you require care and call the centre to make sure it can meet your requirements.
Ask whether you can change your days of care if your work situation changes and ask how much notice you will be required to give
Think about how you will travel to the centre and whether it is in a good location. Would you prefer it closer to home, work or a family member's home and is it close to public transport or car parking?
Ask what the hours of operation are and which days of the year the centre is closed.
Does the centre offer sessional or occasional care?
Can you claim the Child Care Subsidy?
Ask what the procedure is if you are running late to pick up your child and what fees will be charged.
Find out whether the centre can meet your religious and/or cultural requirements.
Find out whether the centre offers an induction program which you and your child can participate in.
During your Visit - Initial impressions
Is the atmosphere relaxed and happy?
Can you hear laughter and the sounds of children playing?
Do you and your child feel welcome?
Do staff members seem interested in your child and did they make an effort to talk to him or her?
Is the reception area clean, tidy and organised?
Do the rooms seem well organised, clean and tidy?
Were you offered introductions of all staff and a tour of the centre?
Has the service been assessed under the National Quality Framework?
If so what was the rating?
Does the service have a Quality Improvement Plan? Can you view the plan?
Does the centre seem safe and secure?
Did a centre employee greet you at the door and sign you in?
Did you notice restricted areas and security access areas?
Are centre staff easy to identify and do they wear name badges?
Health and safety
Are there procedures in place to document any accidents?
Is there an established fire drill and are exits clearly marked?
How will you be advised if your child is sick or has an accident?
What action are you required to take if you child is sick or has an accident?
Are staff members who can administer CPR and first aid available at all times?
Are centre staff able to administer medication?
Does the centre have a sun protection policy?
Are children required to wear hats and sun block whenever they are outside?
Where do children sleep? What sort of mattresses and coverings are used? Are you required to purchase a set of sheets?
Where are nappies changed? Does the area look clean and hygienic?
What is the centre hand washing policy?
How does the centre ensure No Jab No Play is enforced?
What is the procedure in case of a breakout of a communicable illness?
Lines of communication
Were you given a copy of the centre's operating policies and procedures?
Do you agree with the centre's philosophy?
Do you understand what your responsibilities and obligations will be?
Do you understand what the centre will take responsibility for?
Do you understand what you will need to authorise or provide permission for separately i.e medications, extra curricular activities?
How will you receive feedback about your child's day? Information may include preferred activities, food eaten, children played with and so on.
Are there regular newsletters to keep parents informed about what's going on in the centre?
How should you contact the centre if you need to talk to staff about something? Should you call, make an appointment, email or drop in?
Food and mealtimes
Are standards for food preparation and cleanliness high?
Is all food cleaned up after snack and meal times?
What time is food offered? Is food available outside of these times if children are hungry?
Are children allowed to eat at their own pace?
What happens if your child doesn't eat at the designated time?
Is water offered and available all day?
What food/beverages are you expected to provide?
How does the centre cope with food allergies and intolerances?
Can the centre accommodate individual dietary requirements?
Is there a weekly menu on display, does it look interesting and varied?
Does the centre have a nutrition policy and do you agree with the policy?
What is your centre's approach to cakes/birthday treats?
Management, staff and supervision
Who manages the child care centre? Can you meet him/her?
Does the manager also supervise the staff?
What are the child to carer ratios at the centre?
What background checks are completed on staff?
What qualifications do staff members hold?
What is the staff turnover rate?
Is there a balance between older and younger carers and men and women?
Does the centre have staff members from a range of ethnic backgrounds?
What is the centre's procedure for dealing with complaints against staff?
Does the centre hold adequate insurance?
Do staff members interact with children or have a minding role?
Are children supervised at all times?
How do staff members deal with behavioural issues?
Are the staff warm and engaged in what they are doing?
Do you feel comfortable approaching staff to chat and ask questions?
Does the centre have a daily timetable which you can see?
Can your child's individual needs be accommodated if necessary?
What is the procedure for putting children down at sleep time?
What is the procedure for children who don't want to sleep?
Is the building light and pleasant to be in with good ventilation and/or air conditioning?
Does the building seem well maintained?
Is there plenty of space for the children to play?
Does the outside play equipment accommodate children of all different ages?
Is there an outside area with plenty of shade?
Are there places where children can go for quiet play?
Are the toilets and sinks clean and easy for the children to use?
Are the sleeping areas separate to the play areas?
Do children of different ages have separate areas to play or do they interact?
Planned activities and programs
Does the centre follow the Early Years Learning Framework?
Does the service offer documented diaries or learning stories where parents can view the activities of the day?
Are there online/social networking forums where parents can keep track of their children during the day?
Is there a set daily routine?
Does the centre offer a range of programs for the children to participate in?
Do these programs cater for all ages?
How are these programs developed? Are they designed to be educational? Do they take into account the cultural and religious diversity in the group?
What percentage of your child's day will be spent on planned programs and what percentage will be spent on free play?
Does the centre enable children to participate in activities they might not be able to do at home such as painting, water play, collage making and playing in a sand pit?
Does the centre do excursions? If so, what is the cost and how are they managed?
Toys and equipment
Is there a wide range of toys and books provided for the children?
Are the toys at the right height for children to reach?
Can you see a range of toys suitable for children for children of all age groups?
Do the toys look clean and intact?
Can parents and children get involved in decisions about the purchase of new toys and equipment?
Do staff members help children play with the toys?
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