Tips for Choosing a Childcare Provider
With many parents now in full-time employment, childcare has become an integral part of modern life. In Ireland at present there are three main options for childcare – crèches, childminders and family support. Choosing the right option for you is important, as your chosen provider will play a big role in your family’s life.
Every option will come with its advantages, and possibly challenges, so it’s important to think carefully about these options and to gather as much information as possible. This way you can ensure that you choose a childcare provider who best meets your family’s needs.
The following are some guidelines to help you in this decision making process:
1 – Your Work Schedule & Lifestyle
The first thing you need to do is to assess your work schedule and how this will impact on your childcare arrangements. For instance;
Do you work full-time? Do you commute to work? What hours do you work?
These factors will all determine the type of childcare you need or that will work best for you and your family. For instance, parents who work a couple of days a week may rely on Granny or Grandad for part-time care, whereas parents who work long days value the flexibility that crèche hours provide. At Park Academy Childcare we open from 7:30 – 6:30pm (and from 7am at our crèche in Greystones) in order to accommodate parents with a long working day or commute.
For those availing of public transport, finding a provider close to their DART or Luas station may be a priority. For instance the proximity of our Sandyford centres to the Luas Green Line is a big advantage for many of our parents who commute to the city centre on a daily basis. In any case, as a working parent it is vital to have childcare that you can depend on. Choosing a suitable provider from the start will save unnecessary stress and hassle down the line.
2 – Identifying a High Quality Childcare Service
Once you have decided on the type of childcare you need, the next step should be to research quality childcare providers in your area. The most important thing to begin with is to determine that the childcare provider is Tusla registered and that they have appropriate policies and procedures in place to ensure your child’s protection. Being enrolled with a Tusla registered provider is also necessary requirement in order to receive the Universal Childcare Subsidy. You can read more about this and other childcare subsidies here.
Qualifications are also important, as is the provider’s experience and training. As of December 2016, all childcare workers must now hold a minimum of FETAC level 5 in order to work in a crèche. This has ensured that high standards in childcare are maintained. All new members of the Park Academy Childcare team receive three months induction training as well as training in first aid. Our team also participate in regular training workshops throughout their career. Encouraging and supporting our employees to enhance their skills is a key part of our employee culture at Park Academy Childcare. It ensures that we attract and retain the best childcare professionals, who can deliver the high quality service that our families trust us to provide. Find out more about our fantastic Care and Education team and the role that they play in staff development here.
Nutrition is another important consideration for many parents and at Park Academy Childcare we are committed to providing fresh, wholesome, chef prepared meals for our children every day. All meals are prepared onsite in our crèche kitchens and our chefs are always happy to chat to parents about our menus and to accommodate any special dietary requirements that a child may have. Your child’s nutrition is an important aspect of their care, so don’t be afraid to bring this subject up with a potential childcare provider. Read more about our nutrition policy here.
In today’s economy childcare is one of a parent’s main expenses, so it is important to ensure that you are receiving a high quality service. Work out your maximum budget for childcare and decide what is most important to you in terms of your child’s care. Then assess potential childcare providers on this basis.
3 – Safety and Security
When it comes to quality of care, safety and security should be a huge consideration. Ensuring that your child is safe and happy is the main responsibility of any childcare provider and parents should investigate this area thoroughly. After assessing your childcare providers’ qualifications, you should check references and speak to other trusted sources who have used their service. Also take the time to view the premises where your child will be spending most of their day and pay attention to the facilities such as the crèche’s changing rooms and gardens.
Be sure to also enquire about the company’s safety and security policies, as well as the procedures they have in place for child protection. At Park Academy Childcare, we go further than most to ensure complete peace of mind and our parents value this greatly.
We operate an open door policy which means parents can pop in at any time of the day, by using the special keypad code. We also have extensive CCTV networks throughout our centres, with cameras on every external door, in all common areas and in all changing areas and cot rooms. A crèche’s website should include information on security so always check this out prior to your visit. Any parental concerns should be addressed with the crèche manager during the initial visit.
4 – Activities and Stimulation
When it comes to choosing childcare, it’s important to consider how much stimulation your child will receive. Children will typically spend most of their day with their carers and this daily routine will impact hugely on their overall development and happiness.
Therefore if you are considering a childminder, don’t be afraid to enquire about their lifestyle and the kind of activities your children will be doing with them. Young children particularly need lots of stimulation and attention so this should be a top priority for a caregiver. A good crèche will provide lots of fun and educational activities for children, which enhance every aspect of their development. At Park Academy Childcare we facilitate sensory play, arts and crafts, music and baking among many other activities. Our team can fully commit themselves to the children’s care, ensuring that they receive the attention, affection and stimulation they need. You can read more about the activities we provide here.
When viewing a crèche pay attention to the facilities and come prepared with a list of questions. Enquire about the children’s routine, the activities they will do and ask why parents choose that particular crèche.
5 – A Nurturing Environment
Above all, the biggest consideration for any parent will be the love and nurture that their child will receive in someone else’s care. No matter what type of childcare that you decide on, this will rightly be the number one priority. When assessing potential carers, spend some time getting to know them and trust how you feel in their presence. When viewing a crèche, pay attention to the atmosphere in the rooms. Chat to the team and watch as they interact with the children. Ask lots and lots of questions and listen to the language that is used. A good childcare provider will be happy to answer all of your questions and will want to put your mind at ease.
As mentioned above, checking references is highly recommended, even if you know the person. Likewise with crèches – trusted recommendations are invaluable so ask a friend for their opinions. A huge amount of our parents have been referred to us by a friend and this is something that we are very proud of. Word of mouth will always be a very reliable indicator of customer satisfaction.
Lastly, preparation is key when it comes to childcare so give yourself as much time as possible for this process. The earlier you begin investigating your childcare options, the better options you will have. At present, crèches in particular are experiencing very high levels of demand so waiting lists have become a necessity for many centres. Therefore you may need to make a decision early on, to ensure availability for your chosen start date. There is nothing worse than finding the perfect crèche, only to discover that they have no places available!
Wishing you the very best of luck on your childcare journey.