Hey, I’m Nicola, the newest member of the Educa team, doing awesome work supporting early childhood education. I’m also a mother of three – including two preschoolers – and I’m passionate about sleep (haha!), cauliflower and spending time outdoors.
As a busy, working mother I’ve used home based care, day care (or nursery), and pre-school in my parenting journey. Along the way, I’ve gained experience and learned some lessons as a parent using early learning services, which I would like to share with you.
As a Head Teacher, Manager or Director of course you know what parents look for first when choosing a childcare service – the physical environment, happy children and the ratio of qualified staff to children are just for starters. But here are 5 additional factors I look for as a parent, that may not be so obvious.
Let’s dive in – these are in no particular order…
1. Natural Environment
How does your child care service incorporate the wonder of nature into your setting? Are your outdoor areas places kids want to play? Do you bring the outdoors inside? Do you have healthy trees or pot plants inside? What about a pet or fish tank? And if you do, how are the children encouraged to be guardians of these special living things?
2. Half Day or Short Day Rates
A commercial one here – can your service offer “short days” at a different rate?
Many pre-schoolers in your care probably have siblings at school who need to be collected at 3pm. Some services offer a 9.00am – 3.30pm day rate, and manage their staffing accordingly. Flexibility in attendance times is a real benefit to many families and can set you apart from others.
3. Logistics – Ease of Access to your Childcare Service
What about the logistics of dropping off/picking up at your childcare service? While the quality of care and education for children is paramount, logistics also play a part when parents select a child care service. Think about the experience of a parent when entering your service twice each day. Step through this experience with your team, on a cold rainy day while juggling two small children and 3 bags! It’s worth considering some of the following:
- Are your doors secure from little fingers yet easy to open?
- Is there enough space in your entrance/foyer for families at peak drop off, pick up times?
- Is there somewhere families can store a pram for the day?
- Do families step out onto a busy driveway or main road? If so, what (if anything) can you do to make this safer?
These factors might seem trivial but with some thought they can make the time-pressured and sometimes stressful drop off and pick up process much easier for your families.
4. Your Team
It goes without saying that meeting and engaging with your team will be important to all parents who visit your childcare service. What can also be important is how long your staff have been with you. If you have long serving, experienced staff – sing this from the rooftops!
If your team is newly formed explain to parents what your management team is doing to bring the team together.
5. Quality Resources
The type and quality of toys and resources available to children can often be overlooked as factors for parents viewing a childcare service. Sure, they will see that children are interacting with the resources around them. However, it’s often important to parents to know how you choose the toys and resources, where you source them from and, most importantly – how the children’s interests influence your choices of resources in your early learning environment.
For example, parents won’t know that the books currently on display are rotated regularly if you don’t tell them! Do you clean the toys regularly? Do you set up inquiry tables for children to proactively interact with? Tell your potential families this! These things may seem so obvious to you as an educator, but to a parent visiting, they won’t know unless you explain!
These 5 factors that I look for in a childcare setting can be less obvious or over-looked by busy educators. But I know that all families and children are different, as are all child care services – you might have different things you emphasise to families who visit you. Perhaps you show families how you communicate with them using Educa!
Share what’s important to you in the comments below.
Finally – here’s us. Squatting on a kiwi. Happy days.