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Your first step into early childhood education & care

Choosing the right child care service for your child and family

Choosing and getting ready for an early childhood education and care service can be an exciting and overwhelming time for you and your child, considering there are so many options out there. So, the earlier you start preparing, the better.

Choosing an option that suits your needs

Start with thinking about your child care options before you need it, including the days and hours you might need it for.

There are various types of early childhood education and care services and you can choose the one that suits your lifestyle best. Most are regulated under the National Quality Framework (NQF) including:

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

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.

Read our factsheet on types of child care or watch this video for more information on these services.

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.

Understanding quality

All the regulated services across Australia 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.

These ratings are for the services that are regulated under the NQF.

There are seven quality areas which services are rated against under the National Quality Standard:

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative Partnerships with families and communities
  7. Governance and Leadership

For each of the seven areas, most of the services will be rated either:

  • Significant Improvement Required
  • Working Towards NQS
  • Meeting NQS
  • Exceeding NQS

Services can also be given an overall “Excellent” rating when they exceed in all seven quality areas.

Finding a service

Research shows quality early education and care leads to better health, education and employment outcomes later in life. So, it’s really important for you to know if the child care service your child will be attending provides quality experiences that will cater for your child’s overall growth and development.

You can find your nearest regulated services and their quality ratings using our Find Child Care search.

Asking the right questions

  • 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? 

You can also refer to Starting Blocks' resource on what to see and ask for at your service.

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