Questions to Ask Childcare Providers

Starting your child in childcare for the first time, or changing centres? After running childcare centres for many years, I have compiled a complete list of questions to ask childcare providers so you are as informed as possible to help you make the right decision.

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Starting a new childcare centre, whether it’s your child’s first time or not, can be overwhelming. So many new faces, so much to ask, so much uncertainty. Well, let’s start with the questions. You may have come up with some questions already, but after running child care centres for many years, I was not only in the position of having to answer a variety of questions, but I was also in the position where I was offering information, answering questions before they had even been asked.

I have compiled a comprehensive list of questions to ask childcare providers so you have as much information as possible before making a decision about where your child attends.

childcare, child with abacus
Starting childcare can be overwhelming! Most parents will have a list of questions to ask, but hopefully this list will help to inform you even further.

Basic Operating Questions

  • What are the childcare centre’s operating hours?
  • What are the fees? What are the late fees?
  • Are they an approved childcare provider for Child Care Subsidy?
  • Does the centre close over Christmas and New Year?
  • Does the centre charge parents for public holidays? (Many centres do)
  • Are nappies provided or are parents expected to bring them?
  • Are all meals (including breakfast) provided? Do they provide puree for babies too? Is there a centre cook? – You may or may not want to ask for a copy of the menu, particularly if your child has allergies or specific dietary requirements.
  • Do they provide any discounts for holiday absences?
  • Do they offer any make up days or swap days if your child is away sick? (Most don’t)
  • Can you attend for extra casual days (on a day your child is not usually booked) if they have the availability?
educator with babies, questions to ask childcare providers
Make sure you have an opportunity to observe the educators around the children. How are their interactions? It can often tell you a lot.

Questions about the Centre

  • Does the centre have a private area for parents to be able to breastfeed their child if needed?
  • How many children is the centre licensed for? How many children attend in each age group?
  • Is the centre at capacity? (Centres that are not at capacity CAN indicate poorer quality, BUT that is not always the case).
  • Are there quieter days?
  • Where do the babies sleep? How many babies sleep in the same space?
  • Where do older children sleep?
  • How long ago did the centre go through Quality Assessment and Ratings? What quality rating did the centre receive? (Significant Improvement Required, Working Towards, Meeting, Exceeding, Excellent).
  • How does the centre communicate with families about their child’s day? (Most centre’s use software/ an app, such as Storypark, Owna or Xap).
  • Does the centre have a current QIP (Quality Improvement Plan). This will indicate that the centre is committed to improving practices, policies and procedures.
educator with toddler, childcare
Make sure you ask questions about the centre’s health and safety policies.

Questions about the Staff

  • Is there a high staff turnover? How long have the educators and Director worked there? (Often, a high staff turnover can be a bit of a red flag).
  • What are the qualifications of the educators? (in the room where your child will be attending). All educators are required to have a minimum of a Certificate III level qualification (or studying towards).
  • Are there any educators that are under 18?
  • How experienced are the educators?
  • Does the centre have spare educators available for when key educators leave the room to go on lunch breaks or when they are nappy changing?
  • Are the educators all First Aid trained? (it is not a requirement for ALL educators to be first aid trained, but it is good practice).
  • Do all the educators have current Child Protection training? (it is not a requirement for ALL educators to be child protection trained, but it is good practice).
  • Do the staff members participate in professional training/development?
  • Ask if you can go into the classroom and meet the educators. Watch how the educators are interacting with the babies or children. Do the educators look like they are warm, responsive, caring and engaged with children? Do the staff look happy, or do they look overly stressed? Do they look like they are neglecting the needs of some babies or children? How do the educators comfort kids who are upset? Some simple staff:child interactions can be very insightful.
toddlers lying on foam block tiles, childcare providers
Ask about the centre’s staff turnover. Low: Green flag. High: Red flag.

Questions about Procedures

  • Are staff child ratios ALWAYS adhered to? (This is law, the centre is required to strictly adhere to the state specific staff child ratio for each age group).
  • What are the processes for pick up and drop offs? What if somebody different from usual will be picking up your child?
  • What does the daily schedule/routine look like?
  • How often do the educators change nappies? (Standard practice would be approximately every 2 hours, unless a child has clearly soiled their nappy).
  • Do you need to bring your own nappy cream? (Usually you do).
  • How do the educators heat up baby bottles? (Microwaves are a no no. Good practice: a bottle warmer, or placed in hot water).
  • What are the centre policies regarding child illness? (fevers, vomiting, loose poos occurring at the centre). When and for how long do children need to be excluded from the centre? Is a doctor’s certificate required upon a sick child’s return to the centre?
  • What are the procedures surrounding potty training/ toilet training? Usually this is something centres and families need to work on this collaboratively.
  • What is the centre’s sun safety policy? What are the procedures parents need to be aware of? Do parents need to apply sunscreen before arriving at the centre? Are thin singlet straps prohibited? How much time do the children have to play outside?
  • What are the centre’s procedures for safe sleep, especially for younger children?
  • If my child is experiencing any difficulties with separation anxiety, settling, with socialising or anything at all, how will I be notified, and how will the educators respond?
  • How do parents provide feedback or complaints if necessary?
questions to ask childcare, babies with educators
Do the children in the centre look happy? Do the staff look happy? This can paint a picture that can tell you a lot.

Questions about the Educational Program?

  • Can you tell me a bit about the centre’s educational program (usually responsive to child interests, play based learning, flexible)
  • Is there a school readiness program?
  • How can parents get involved in their child’s learning?
  • Does the centre run any extra curricular programs? (Such as soccer skills, dance, gross motor, languages, yoga etc). Are these programs at an extra cost to families?
  • Does the centre have a wide variety of educational resources?
  • Does the centre get involved in sustainable practices?
  • Does the centre run any special events throughout the year? (Mother’s Day morning tea, Christmas party, Pre-school graduation, NAIDOC week celebrations etc)
  • Does the centre organise any educational incursions throughout the year (cultural, music or other)

Hopefully this list of questions has helped you on your journey to find the right childcare centre for your child. I have shared these questions with friends and family in the past, and I know it has helped them when visiting centres to narrow down their choices.

kids first aid

Have I missed any key questions? What would be on the top of your list of questions to ask a potential daycare provider? Let me know and maybe I can add your questions to my list!

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