Finding the best pre-school care for your child is a tough call. Entrusting someone else with caring for the most precious thing in your life is certainly not something to be approached lightly.
So you’ve done your research and narrowed down your choices to a manageable short list. But how on earth do you determine that your final choice is the right one? This is decision-making time, but very often the preschool that appears to satisfy most of your requirements isn’t necessarily the right call.
- The location’s great, but there’s no (or little) outside play area … Yes, you need a preschool that’s easy to access, but this shouldn’t be something that determines your decision. There are some acceptable trade-offs, but outdoor space shouldn’t be one of them. Your child is likely to be spending a lot of time there, and it’s outdoor time is essential for well-being and happiness.
- The cost is the cheapest around…Yes, you may need to consider your back pocket but take a closer look at what you’re getting for your money. All education and care services are not alike and value for money means considering what you expect from the service and doing your research
With so many centres vying for your business, it can be a daunting choice. And whilst you do, naturally, demand the best, other realities also come into play when selecting the right childcare provider, such as location and value for money.
So let’s take a look at ways to begin the journey, and narrow down the selection of pre-schools that make the short list due to a number of deciding factors.
But first you need to pay consideration to the ease of access
OK, so while you’re not likely to pick a preschool simply because it’s the closest to you, location will, without a doubt, be a factor.. Only you can decide how much time you can dedicate to pickups and drop offs. Other considerations are whether you have a car, or are dependent on public transport or walking. With these in mind determine a radius around your home within which all childcare locations would be feasible to access.
Once that’s done, you can start to drill down into the meat of your search, and – most importantly – be able to draw up a shortlist of places that you want to visit.
- Determine your requirements: Perhaps you need childcare with a breakfast club because you start work early? Or maybe you work shifts and need flexibility? Maybe you want a preschool that’s Reggio Emilia inspired in their education program? Whatever it is, list the ‘must-have’s so you can quickly discount any that don’t fit the criteria.
- Word of mouth referrals: Ask around for recommendations. Use your network of friends, neighbours, mothers groups, work colleagues… Anyone who’s opinion you trust. If you’re new to an area and don’t know anyone then try avenues such as your maternal and child health nurse or perhaps local social media groups.
- Do your research: Get online and look at the centre’s websites. Here you can get an overview of services on offer, plus, depending on the depth of information supplied, aspects such as staff qualifications, curriculums followed, accreditation etc.
Once you’ve narrowed down your short list it’s time to pay a visit to those that might be suitable. If you can, go with a friend, relative or partner, as two sets of eyes and opinions are always better than one. And when you’re there, don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions, such as:
- About the curriculum
- Teachers and educators qualifications and on-going training
- How will they ensure your childs safety
- Flexibility with hours and days
- How many children are in each room
- Their approach to food and nutrition
- Their policies regarding illness, immunisations and fees
But, most importantly, trust your first impression. Does it feel like a nurturing caring environment? Keep an eye out for how the teachers and educators interact with the children in their room, with each other and with you. Is the actual space conducive to emotional well-being? Is there a decent outdoor area for the kids to play and let off steam?
All of the above are crucial aspects, but that gut instinct is your parental siren telling you whether or not a preschool might be right for your child.
Yes, everything on paper might look wonderful. And if might well be easily accessible and within your budget, but the school doesn’t tick all those vital boxes then, despite the convenience it offers, it probably time to look elsewhere.
Nido Early Schools have locations throughout Australia, and provide a pre-school environment dedicated to nurturing this crucial time of a child’s life. With committed, qualified staff, the highest of accreditations and a policy of working with parents for each child’s individual needs, this local option could well tick all those vital ‘must-have’ boxes.
Discover more at www.nidoearlyschool.com.au, give your local centre a call or simply pop in to find out more.
Written by: Jennifer Bond
Jennifer Bond has 40 years’ experience in the education and care sector, having worked and studied across many areas including long day care services, family and parenting support, maternal and child health, mental health work and teaching. She is passionate about the role she plays in supporting children and continues to learn every day, especially from the children as they communicate with such honesty and vitality. Jennifer is currently a People and Quality Leader at Nido Early School.