5 Tips what to look for in a daycare

Tips for Choosing a DaycareEven while pregnant more and more mums have the challenge of when they might decide to go back to work and if they will be accessing daycare. Today, we are joined by Lucy Cook, from Amaze Early Education Centre who discusses some important tips to look for when you are considering a daycare for your child.

The thought of choosing a daycare centre can be stressful. Some mums delay going back to work because the decision is too stressful. You’ve been your child’s primary carer all it’s life! How can you possibly find somewhere/someone you feel comfortable and confident enough to leave your little one. Here are 5 tips aimed to help reduce the tears (yours!) and ease the agony of the decision. Lucy shares that are 5 important questions to ask yourself.

1. How do you feeling?
2. What about the Love?
3. Pay attention to the details
4. Who are the educators?
5. What about the education?

How do you Feel?

Have you ever walked into somewhere, a restaurant, cafe, shop, office, and knew it wasn’t right, for no other reason than it didn’t feel right. Choosing a daycare is exactly the same. I know as mum myself, I have visited many childcare centres and when comparing sometimes it came down to the way it ‘felt’. While hard to quantify, it can help to ask yourself a few questions. What was my first thought when I walked through the door? Was I feeling comfortable or ill at ease? Was I feeling welcome or a burden? Did the centre smell ‘inviting’? At the end of the day, feeling comfortable and confident with your choice of daycare is the single most important feeling.

What about the Love?

From the minute you walk in the door, do you feel your centre educators care enough to want to get to know and value your child. This starts from the Director downwards. It is not limited to the Educators in your child’s room. The best centres have Educators that all know your child and take a genuine interest in them. Do you feel a connection with the educators? Watch your child (don’t forget to take them for the visit!). Your child will find the warmest fuzziness Educator in the room (if there is one!). Watch the other children. Can you see this warmth and fuzziness? Can you see little connections happening throughout the room or yard:)

Pay attention to the details

You can tell a lot about a daycare by the details. Are the facilities and equipment in good repair? This doesn’t have to mean brand spanking new. Don’t be distracted by the sparkles. It means that everything has a place in the room. Are pencils sharpened? Puzzles with no pieces missing? There are obvious systems and order, and the centre takes pride in this. Why is this important? Because if you don’t care about the little things, how can you possibly care about my precious child. On a more practical note, a well organised centre will save you oodles of time searching for your child’s lost belongings. Is the drink bottle in the fridge, or outside, in the bag? Where was the jumper taken off? Outside? Oh it’s now dark, I guess I’ll use my phone flashlight to look! It’s the last thing you need to be doing after a hard day of work.


Who are the educators?

Aka carers/teachers etcetera, but definitely not babysitters. Do they have ‘the loving’ gene (see point 2)? Is this more than a job? Educators who are passionate can’t help themselves, and always give more than is required. Let’s face it, they are not doing it for the money (notoriously pitiful pay). Do they look approachable (or are they standing in a group chatting)? Better still, do they come and approach you or welcome you first? Educators that are engaged in children and their learning can be seen with a bunch of children around them. Children are naturally drawn to someone who is interacting with them. These Educators are usually down at the children’s level, bending down for a chat, crawling on the ground, sitting reading a story, singing a song. Good Educators will encourage your engagement with your child’s learning. They will also respect your tradition and cultures and home routine. They will ask you what you did on the weekend AND include it in the program. They will laugh at the funny things your child said AND remember to tell you. They will throw a party in the bathroom with the first poo on the toilet AND get the child to call you. They will cry with you when Grandma passes away or you are simply having a bad day AND give you some phone numbers for referral services. They will form a great partnership with you on the journey of your child’s education.

What about the education?

The education received is purposefully point 5 as without the other four points, even the best education programs will be ineffective. Your daycare should inform you of the centre’s philosophy and how the education program works. In Australia, we follow the Early Years Learning Framework or EYLF (pronounced elf) as it is known. Many centres also offer a government approved Kindergarten program in the year before school which is taught by a Bachelor trained Early Childhood teacher. The best centres run this program 5 days a week. Make sure your child’s learning will be documented. Will they have a portfolio or some way of documenting your child’s learning journey. This should be easily accessed by you at all times but will remain at the centre for the educators to add too. The program should be child centred and child directed. This doesn’t mean that Jessica can choose to go and sit in block corner all day. This means that the Educator has seen the Jessica is interested in blocks and building and has built on his interest by providing a lot of learning experiences around this. For example, the class might use the blocks to measure how tall each child is (maths), some children might choose to be scribes and record this data (English- writing). Sarah’s dad is a builder who might come in and talk to the children (connections with the community). Child centred does not mean there is no intentional teaching. Beware the centre who has a program drawn up at the beginning of the week for the whole week. The program should grow and develop as the week progresses and may draw on experiences from other weeks. This should all be documented with clearly defined curriculum links.

After all your investigations your choice should be easy, follow your intuition, you will just ‘know’.

About Lucy Cook

Lucy CookLucy is a mum of four busy boys, 15 years, 13 years and 11 year old identical twins. She has spent the last 21 years in education, mostly PE and Science teaching across all ages. In 2008, along with her sister Alison, who is also a teacher, they began a kindergarten on the Gold Coast, Amaze Early Education Centre. As Lucy’s children grew, so did Amaze. In 2015, they now have 6 centres across South-East Queensland, including 4 Outside School hours Care Centres, and over 50 staff. Lucy and Amaze are passionate about the communities they serve. As well as running children around between soccer, tennis and drama, Lucy enjoys spending time working with the Gold Coast Multiple Birth Association, Assista Sista (Domestic Violence) and Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation.


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  1. Hey, Lisa! I’ve been looking for a day care facility for my child in my area for a few days now. Now that she’s old enough to walk, It’s time for me to get back to my profession. It’s important to me that she’s learning and progressing her education; it’s never too early to start. Thanks for your helpful tips, Lisa!

    Lily de Grey |

  2. Lisa, that tips that you mentioned about paying attention to the details and knowing the educators sure sound important. You know, it’s something that my wife and I are actually thinking about finding for our son. A child care center is what we’ll need to find pretty soon since now my wife is going to start work.

  3. Hi Andre,
    I am glad you got something out of my article. It is certainly a tough decision as our children are so precious. Good luck with your search!
    Kind regards

  4. So many great ideas! Thanks!

  5. In an after school care, what type of education would the educators or teachers there educate my son on? This is something that my wife has been thinking about. Well, now that she’s going back to work and it was difficult to find a babysitter.

    • Hi Corey.
      Sorry I missed this over the Christmas break. I hope you found a program that suits your child. In Australia all OSHC (outside school hours care) are guided by the My Time Our Place framework which focuses on the children’s development. Though sometimes it is hard when we only see children 1 hour every week. A good program will offer homework if that is important to you, is creative, active and above all fun. After a busy school day most children just need some down time. The connections with the educators are still vital though. Hope that helps!
      Lucy Cook recently posted…New Gen Talks ShopMy Profile

  6. I agree that the feeling of care and attention has to come from the director on down. It’s so evident, if you watch, when a child feels love and appreciation from his or her caregivers. This is one of the reasons I will always bring my child for a visit to a new daycare before making a decision!

  7. I definitely agree with the “feeling” a place gives you. I don’t want my child going to a place that is “cold”, and to void of emotion. I want the teachers to be connected, and not just there because they want to receive a paycheck – I want them to love what they do. Children respond better to that. I think it is good to research the facility as well to make sure they have the proper licensing and see what people in the community think of them as well. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Trusting your gut feeling if the place is wrong for you is good. Make sure that you aren’t confusing this feeling of the place being wrong, with the feeling of not wanting to ever leave your child. You are going to have to really look to be able to tell the difference.

  9. You make a good point about paying attention to how you feel in a daycare. If I don’t feel comfortable in a certain daycare, I definitely wouldn’t want to leave my child there all day. It’s true that the educational aspect of a daycare is also very important. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips!

  10. And every parent must know their child too to know if they can fit in with the surroundings of the day care.
    childcare Capalaba recently posted…Learning Through Pebble PlayMy Profile

  11. Day care centers help parents in taking care of their children when they can’t for circumstances.
    kindergarten care Capalaba recently posted…Learning Through Pebble PlayMy Profile

  12. Choosing a good child care needs to be strict. You must also consider a lot of factors and be strict in checking them out.

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