Thursday 14 January 2016

5 tips for choosing the right daycare or school

Choosing the daycare centre or school that we send our children to is one of the most important decisions we make as parents. After all, these are the people who will be almost as important in our children's lives as we are.

While I've been lucky enough to keep all my children at the same daycare centre and school for years now, I've still approached each new enrolment with these questions in mind.

consider how far you'll travel

Whether you choose a centre or school near to home, or on the way to work, the distance you need to travel should be considered when making your decision. At the end of a long day, do you really want to travel long distances before you get home? Can you get there quickly if your child becomes ill? Is it convenient for other family members to get to if you're unable to?

The daycare centre we use is actually a bit out of our way - when Chloe was little it was the only centre easily accessible from our house and my university campus. We used to catch a bus and walk to the centre, so a 20 minute drive was reasonable, and just a couple of months ago a new road opened that cuts the drive time in half.

consider if you are welcome when you arrive

If you arrive at the front desk without calling, are you greeted in the same way as if you had made an appointment? Are you shown around at that time, or brushed off?

I was a little hesitant when I went to pick up enrolment paperwork for Sophie, I didn't recognise any staff members! Then The lady that owns the centre walked out from a back room, said hi to me, and made a comment to other staff about me being an old hand at sending kids there. I knew then it would be ok.

consider the questions the staff ask

Does the staff ask questions about your previous experience? About the needs of the family and child? Are they interested in your stories?

When we visited the room Sophie would be attending, the teachers asked about her previous experiences away from me, and siblings in the family. This helps them get an understanding for how might interact with the other children in the room.

consider the answers to the questions you ask

Are you invited to ask questions? Do your questions get answered properly?

I noticed on our first play visit that some of the policies have changed since Riley was at daycare, so I asked about them. Staff were able to go straight to a list of children who were allergic to nuts, and inform me that one of them would be in Sophie's room. Office staff have also been able to quickly answer any questions about paperwork or fees that I had.

consider the community

Are other parents treated the same way you are? Do they seem happy with the centre or school? Do they willingly answer questions when asked?

Daycare is a little bit different to school, because parents don't often hang around to chat to others, but the staff at our centre are always chatting to parents in the morning or afternoons.

While I've applied these questions to my recent daycare experience, it's easy to use them when choosing the right school, too. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the community is probably the most important part of choosing a school.

Have you got any other tips for choosing the right daycare or school? How long did it take for your child to settle away from you?



  1. I add in gut feeling - if it ticks all the boxes but still feels wrong, say no. You don't have to justify it rationally. We've made decisions about daycare and primary school abs I'm already start to gnaw over high schools!

  2. Thankyou for your new linky with Toni! I shall do my best to link a parenting-related post each week. This topic is so good. I really find the 'surprise' visit is a good hint. I worked as a K-6 consultant to 8 Early Childhood Learning Centres from 2012-2105 and could see some minor differences at times in each centre depending on who the leader was. Yet, I also saw that each child there was well-cared for and content. Win for the children is most important. Cheers, Denyse

  3. I think popping in for a random visit would be the biggest indicator for me. I went to pick up Aaron's brother one day and his daycare was horrible, turned me off ever sending my kids there.

  4. Good on you for starting your own link up guys! Hopefully I'll remember it's on each week and link up. Great advice Cate!

    Anne xx

  5. My eldest took weeks and weeks to settle into daycare, she would weep and wail and cling to my legs as I tried to leave. Heartbreaking. My littlest guy was a superstar - just walked in and started playing, turned and waved when I said goodbye!

  6. We are going through a child care dilemma at the moment! Miss M has been previously going to a CC centre near my work (half an hour from home) and now that I've had another baby, I still want her to go one day a week, but don't want to drive all that way - especially when trying to get the new baby into a day time sleep routine, so we are enrolling her in another centre closer to home, will start visits soon, but not feeling confident with how she'll settle.
    Lesson learnt - choose a centre close to home!!


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