Your first step into early childhood education & care
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Choosing a service for your child

Types of education and care

There are many different types of early education and care services.

Most are regulated under the National Quality Framework (NQF) including:

  • Family day care
  • Long day care
  • Kindergarten / preschool
  • Outside school hours care.

Regulated services are required to meet high national standards to ensure your child is safe and is given opportunities for learning and development on a regular basis.  These services are given quality ratings to help families choose the best service for their child and family.

Find your nearest regulated service and their quality ratings.
Watch our video or download our fact sheet on the different types of services. 

Other services like occasional care, crèches, mobile services and some school holiday care programs are not regulated under the NQF, but may be regulated under other state legislation.

If you’re not sure if a service is regulated or not, it’s best to ask the service.

Getting ready for child care, preschool or kindergarten can be an exciting and overwhelming time for you and your child, but the earlier you start preparing, the better.

  • Start thinking about your options before you need it, including the days and hours you might need it for.
  • Research which types of care suit your lifestyle best e.g. family day care, long day care centres, preschools, outside school hours care, etc.
  • Most services have a waiting list so it’s a good idea to put down your child’s name for more than one place to better your chances of finding a service you are happy with.
  • Visit the service. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as a service that is right for others may not be the best fit for your family. 

Key questions to ask when choosing a service:

  • What hours do you operate?
  • What times can I drop off and pick up my child?
  • Do you close throughout the year and how long for e.g. Christmas or Easter time
  • Will I be able to visit my child or call them at any time?
  • Will I be charged fees for public holidays or when my child is not there?
  • Do you provide things like nappies and meals, or do I need to bring them from home?
  • What is the ratio of staff to children?
  • What skills, qualifications and experience do the staff have? 
  • Has your service been quality rated and what was the rating?
  • What ages do you care for? This is important because you might need to think about future child care options if they only provide care for children aged from birth to five.
  • How will I know that my child’s learning and development will be encouraged?
  • What are your internal policies and procedures?
  • Will I be eligible for any subsidies or other financial assistance? 

Read more:

Child care benefits and rebates

The Child Care Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Rebate (CCR) are payments from the Australian Government that might help you with the cost of your child care.

If you’re using an approved child care service, for the purpose of the CCB, for work, training or study-related reasons the Australian Government will give you back half of your out-of-pocket child care costs, up to the annual limit. The maximum amount of CCR you can get is $7,500 per child per year.

From more information and to see if you’re eligible for the Child Care Benefit or Child Care Rebate visit:

Child development programs and the value of play

Play-based learning is one of the most effective ways your child can develop the basic skills they need to help them grow.

Quality services will offer a program that promotes and extends your child’s learning and development through play.

Staff at the service will spend time interacting and observing your child’s play to determine their interests. They will use a variety of playful methods including indoor and outdoor games as well as other resources such as cardboard boxes and blocks to encourage your child to use their imagination e.g. using a box with wheels as a car.

Read our fact sheet on programs for children in child care.

You can contribute to your child’s learning:

  • Share information with your child care service about your child’s interests that can be taken into account when planning activities
  • Ask your child care service about play based learning and what your child can be doing at each stage of their development
  • See our ideas on things you can do at home

The education level of educators – what to expect and what the standard is

Proper training helps to provide better outcomes for your child’s learning and development. It’s a good idea to ask the centre director or family day care coordinator about their educators’ experience and qualifications.

There are three types of early childhood qualifications:

  • teacher level – a bachelor degree or above
  • diploma level
  • certificate level

The qualifications educators need to work in early education and care services are set by the National Quality Framework.

Including children with additional needs

Choosing a service can be hard for every parent, but it can be even more overwhelming for parents who have a child with additional needs. Some feel stressed about how their child will ‘fit in’ to a mainstream environment, and others may worry about how well their child’s specific needs will be met.

If your child has additional needs, they may benefit greatly from attending a quality service. It will provide your child with opportunities that will support and enhance their learning, skills, experiences and development.

It can also benefit your family as a whole, providing peace of mind knowing that your child is in good hands.

What should your child care service do?

  • Work collaboratively with you about your child’s specific needs and how these can be supported
  • Respect and accept your child
  • Show that they see your child as a whole person, not only in terms of their needs
  • Take the time to get to know your child, their strengths and interests, as well as their areas of need
  • Use your child’s interests and strengths as a basis for planning activities
  • Adapt planned activities and daily routines to support your child’s participation, where possible
  • In a sensitive way, help other children and adults to understand your child’s needs and include your child in daily activities
  • Acknowledge and uphold your family’s and child’s rights to confidentiality
  • Provide you with regular information about your child’s progress and experiences, as well as any concerns or issues that arise
  • Record daily information about your child e.g. details relating to toileting, eating habits, and their behaviour with other children etc.

There are many things you can share with the educators at your service to help your child’s inclusion

  • What your child’s main needs are and how these affect their daily lives and experiences
  • Their interests and the things that they do well
  • The strategies you use to support your child at home and elsewhere e.g. ways to calm or distract your child when they are upset
  • The situations or routines that can cause physical or emotional challenges for your child
  • The signs to look out for to see if your child is distressed or is having difficulty coping
  • Details about the support or other therapies your child is receiving and encourage contact between these services

Read our fact sheet on managing children’s special health needs.