Childcare – What to Look for When Choosing Care

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When you leave your child with another person/s this is childcare. Nearly every family at some time uses some form of care for their child. 

Childcare is what a teacher-led early childhood education centre and home-based services provides. 

Using a government licensed childcare service is one option. Another option is to organise work around the child or make your own childcare arrangements with someone you know such as another parent with a similar aged child. Research published in the NZ-International Research in ECE Journal found that parents of young children prefer to have caregivers that are known to them. 

What to Look for in Choosing Childcare

The childcare arrangement must suit you as well as being good for your child. A childcare, preschool, kindy, family daycare or other childcare service which is most likely to be good for your child is also one that is most likely to be stress-free and good for you (see the six signs of quality)

A good childcare service is one in which you can easily tell by looking at other children that a high standard of childcare is provided.  The children will be 

  • happy,
  • safe,
  • being kept healthy (e.g. handwashing before eating), and
  • have activities that keep them busy and stimulated.

Who will be a good carer?

Childcare fun

Some people connect well with young children, and other people don’t. 

Not everyone has the personal qualities of liking and being able to connect easily with young children because teacher training can’t teach this. 

The adults or childcare teachers should show enthusiasm, warmth, energy, and  a genuine interest in your child’s world. This is MOST important.

The adult(s) must be able to connect at a personal level with your child, and have the knack of knowing just what to say and do at the right moment to interest and make your child feel safe, cared about, and in-control (rather than being controlled).

Are you searching for a good childcare service in your area?

Take time to look around and decide

We recommend you go to the MyECE  (short for “my early childhood education”) website as it has a good directory with information on services and their features.

Do not make a final decision too quickly.  Get your free copy of the Kiwi Parent Guide to Early Childhood Education – in it you will find a checklist to help pick the best service.  

Have a trial period. If you are considering enrolling at a centre or home-based service have some short visits with your child before officially starting and stay with your child to observe. Also have some spontaneous/unscheduled visits, “We were just passing and thought we would pop in to say hi”.

Ongoing monitoring 

Ongoing monitoring of the childcare arrangement and how well it continues to be good for your child or not is important, especially as your child gets older and as the peer-group and the adult(s) working in the service change.

Parents’ and teachers’ stories

Over the years parents and teachers have submitted many stories of situations that have not been good for individual children. There have been deaths and serious injuries. Some examples of things going wrong include:

  • A child hated going to kindergarten because he was often kicked and teased by another child.
  • A parent was told that her child could not be given individual attention because the needs of the group had to come first
  • A mother was told not to breastfeed her child at the centre because it was not in her child’s best interests as children are best left to develop independence.
  • A child who felt ignored and unsupported by the adults in the service.
  • A 3-year-old child left the centre unnoticed by teachers and waited at the gate on a main road for at least 30 minutes for his parent, until a stranger noticed and returned the child to the centre.
  • A child was left in an inner city playground unnoticed by teachers who crossed the busy city intersection and returned to the centre. The child was helped to cross the road and return to the centre by a stranger. The teachers did not tell the parent when collecting her child what had happened, but later put responsibility onto the child, saying the child must have been hiding
  • A toddler was left on a beach for several hours until found by a stranger.
  • A nanny who stole food and other small items from the family.
  • A nanny who with the parents gone, watched television soaps and talked to her boyfriends and others on her mobile phone.
  • A child who engaged in sex play and knew adult language having learnt this from observing other children at a centre.
  • A child who received injuries the caregiver could not explain including a broken limb.
  • A child who received injuries the caregiver blamed on the child.
  • Teachers who talked to one another while children played unattended and unnoticed.
  • The manager of a centre telling a student teacher not to give a child who was hurt and crying a cuddle because it would be unfair on other children who would then want personal attention and staff did not have time to sit with one child only.
  • A toddler left sitting in a highchair for an hour and a half while other children had their lunch, teachers ate their lunch and talked and then cleaned the area and put out new activities on the tables.

These are not mentioned here to scare you, but so that you are aware that things can sometimes go wrong. 

Have your mind and eyes open to the possibility that problems can arise as a good childcare/preschool service is only truly good if one is aware of and knows what possible problems could occur.

The characteristics of our NZ childcare 

Watch the video below if haven’t visited an early childhood centre before or know little about childcare services.


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