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Your first step into early childhood education & care

Choosing quality child care for preschoolers

Research shows that children’s experiences in the early years matter a lot. While the family is the most important influence on a young child, the experiences and relationships that happen at child care are important too.

To help you decide whether a child care service will be suitable for your child, you could visit the service to see what happens on a typical day.

There are some characteristics of quality child care that apply to children of any age and some that are more specific to preschool age children. These include:

Relationships and interactions

In the early years, it’s most important for children to experience a caring and responsive relationship with at least one educator at child care, and as they get older, to have friendships with other children.

The following practices are particularly important:

  • children are given support to help them develop their sense of self-esteem and to build their confidence as learners and active citizens
  • appropriate and effective behaviour guidance strategies are used, and children are encouraged to take an active role in managing their own behaviour
  • children are supported to engage in meaningful and respectful conversations and interactions with other children and adults.
  • there are effective and ongoing exchanges of information between educators and families about children’s needs, routines and experiences
  • positive interactions demonstrate respect for the diversity of families’ cultural, religious and language backgrounds, and the different abilities, lifestyles, values, and composition of individual families.

Experiences

The kinds of experiences children have in a service matter a lot.

The following practices are particularly important:

  • each child is given and has access to a variety of opportunities and experiences that support all areas of their development
  • there are many opportunities for children to play in small groups with peers and to also engage in individual play experiences if they want to
  • children are encouraged and supported to:
    • begin to appreciate being a member of a group
    • value and show care and respect for others
    • be comfortable with differences in people, and appreciate what people have in common
    • appreciate the contributions others can make to their play and conversations
    • experience the benefits of collaborating and working together.
  • routines such as eating, sleeping/resting and toileting are flexible to meet the child’s individual needs
  • children have opportunities to practice and develop their independence and self-help skills
  • educators build early numeracy and literacy outcomes into the children’s everyday play experiences, to give each child a strong basis in numeracy and literacy.

Programs for children

The planned activities provided for your child are based on their interests and abilities, and your child is supported to begin to develop the skills that they will need when they start school.

Quality practice happens when educators make flexible plans and prepare for positive relationships and children’s experiences.

The following practices are particularly important:

  • there are informal and formal procedures in place to evaluate and reflect on every aspect of children’s programs with the aim of improving practice
  • planning allows for children to make choices and builds flexibility into the daily routine. For example, daily routines and experiences are organised so that adjustments can be made to cater for unexpected events and individual children’s needs and interests.

The environment

Resources are a key aspect of a child care environment, and there should be a variety of indoor and outdoor play and learning materials, and equipment that children can use in different ways. These materials should encourage children to explore, think and solve problems, as well as support their creativity and stimulate their curiosity. Children also need to be challenged and need equipment and materials that will allow them to develop, build and extend their skills and knowledge.

In quality care for preschoolers, the following practices are particularly important:

  • the physical environment is organised to support children’s concentration and engagement with meaningful experiences
  • the environment is rich with language and print, and educators talk with children about what is happening around them
  • educators encourage children to communicate, and they respond positively to the verbal and non-verbal communication of children.

Health and safety

Maintaining children’s health and keeping them safe is a service’s fundamental responsibility.

Services should have a thorough understanding of best practice in health and safety and written policies that reflect and support this best practice.

In child care, children are more likely to come into contact with contagious illnesses than at home. It is important that educators have current knowledge about infection control and communicable illness, including infectious diseases.

The following practices are particularly important:

  • implement recommended sun safety practices
  • supervise children effectively, and ensure that children do not have unsupervised access to animals
  • ensure the environment is smoke, drug and alcohol free
  • have a policy to promote healthy nutrition, including when food is brought from home
  • have clear procedures for minimising cross infection through embedded hygiene practices, excluding ill children and keeping children’s individual immunisation status up to date
  • have safe areas, indoors and outdoors, where children can practice their developing skills such as climbing, balancing, running and jumping. It is also important that equipment and spaces can provide an element of challenge for children
  • have an effective process for providing families with information about their child’s health and wellbeing while in care
  • support children to develop an understanding of health and safety issues and practice self-care skills.

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