Five years ago, the day care centre landscape in Sydney was different than it is today. Centres and places were scarce, making it a very stressful world for new parents to enter. I can remember enrolling my son when I was only half way through my pregnancy, knowing I would have to go back to work right after the government’s paid parental entitlement ran out. It was only through persistence and being at the right place at right time, that I managed to enrol him in the centre of my choice.
In 2017, I am noticing a culture change and I will preface this by saying that it is from a Northern Beaches perspective. There are new day care centres popping up on every corner to match the family population explosion. This puts parents in a stronger position. The more day care centres within striking distance, the more choice you have.
Day care centres are proliferating but do the services match up to the image projected?
Not every day care centre is created equal, though and just because it is new, may not mean it is better resourced or offering better services than more established centres in the neighbourhood.
Ekidna- Dee Why Early Learning Centre is a good example of a long day care centre innovating to provide a better service for families (Logo c/o- Ekidna Facebook page)
I've been most impressed by the efforts of one of my local centres. Management has acknowledged growing competition in the market and has strengthened its own offering. The centre Director at Ekidna-Dee Why School of Early Leaning, is working hard to earn every new enrolment. This March (Saturday 18th), Ekidna will hold its first Open Day, with a family-fun morning, showcasing the centre's facilities and its rich resources. The centre knows how to throw a party with face-painting, kindy farm, balloons, BBQ and a demonstration of one of the optional sporting activities on offer to those enrolled.
What I love about this idea is that it gives new and expectant parents the opportunity to see how a centre operates and find out more about its facilities and staff in an informal environment. You would do this with a primary school, high school, or a college, so why not an early childcare service?
A happy and included child is a sign of a good day care facility
Finding the right day care centre is a daunting task for a first-time parent and it is difficult to judge quality from a quick centre tour, google searches or phone enquiries. Openly welcoming parents to a showcase morning is a way to show them you are keen for their enrolments and make them feel comfortable with a centre they are considering.
The me of five years ago, would have loved to know what I know now about child care centres. A few things I would recommend newbie parents to look out for are: -
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Does the centre suit your working hours? Is it long day care (7am - 6pm) or does it have condensed hours?
Does the centre have an in-house cook who provides a nutritionally prepared weekly menu, or will you need to provide meals for your child?
Does the centre foster friendly and open communication with parents? Do they have a social media platform that makes it easy to get updates about what your child is learning and what events are coming up?
Do they offer incursions and any other extra-curricular opportunities that parents can opt into for their children (such as dancing, yoga or sports?)
Does the centre have a good school readiness programme for those approaching school age?
A good centre will invite families to celebrate special occasions
If you do your research and take time to compare fees versus services and the opportunities provided, you may end up finding a lot of variance in the centres in your area. This will put you in the position of making an informed decision and will go a long way to finding the centre that is right for you and your family's needs. The more you can find out about a centre's ethos, the more comfortable you will feel making the choice.