All the FAQs on Childcare Options in Melbourne (2023)

Choosing the right childcare for your child can be difficult, but it's important to consider the benefits of early education. Being a first-time parent it can be confusing and hard to get your head around all the terms. 


Recent research has shown that high-quality early education is just as crucial as later schooling in promoting optimal social, cognitive and language development outcomes for children - especially those who may be more vulnerable. 


By investing in quality care and learning programs during these critical formative years, parents can give their children a strong foundation for success in school and beyond. 


Childcare centres are established by various types of organisations, including committees composed of volunteer parents, workplaces or universities, community organisations or local councils and private businesses. 


Top Tip - Additionally, some gyms or aquatic centres offer childcare services while parents are utilising their facilities. Furthermore, certain retailers also provide childcare while parents shop in-store.


With so many childcare options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your family's needs. Some of the most common types of childcare services are centre-based long day care, occasional care, family day care and in-home care. 


Centre based Long Daycare

For families with working or studying parents, long day care centre-based care (also known as Early Learning Centres or ELCs) can provide a reliable solution for their child's care. 


Advantages of Centre Based Daycare

Qualified educators - These centre-based programs offer several advantages, including the presence of qualified early childhood teachers. 


Structured learning  - and development programs with age appropriate curriculum which prioritises routine. 


Socialising - Children also benefit from socialising and playing with other kids in a group setting. Long day care caters to children aged from birth to age 6, typically operating between 7:30am and 6pm. 


Extended hours - Some centres may have extended hours or morning/afternoon sessions available for added convenience. 


Greater flexibility - With these options at hand, parents have greater flexibility in managing their work schedules while ensuring their child receives quality care and education during the day. 


Set price - If you're a working parent with a busy schedule, long daycare centres can provide the convenience of nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day. Additionally, these centres typically charge a set cost for the entire day, making it easy to budget for childcare expenses. In case one of their educators is on leave, they generally have casual staff ready on hand.


Sun Smart - When it comes to outdoor play, long daycare centres are committed to minimizing UVR exposure by following a strict set of policies and strategies. 


These include providing ample shaded areas for children to play in, ensuring that they wear longer-length clothing that covers their skin as much as possible, and making sure they have broad-brimmed or bucket-style hats on hand. In addition, all staff members are required to apply broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen to any uncovered areas of the children's skin before going outside. 


Clear policies - Long daycare centres also have clear policies in place if a child becomes unwell during the day. They will be isolated from other children immediately and sent home as soon as possible. This not only protects other children from getting sick but also helps ensure that any illness is treated promptly and effectively so that the child can recover quickly. 


Kinder - Some childcare centres have kinder programs attached. This means your child can go to childcare in the morning, and then kinder at the same location. Then back to childcare. Makes it much easier for working parents. 

 

Excursions + Incursions - Many childcare centres offer incursions and excursions for the children.

Altona North Guardian Childcare Centre


Disadvantages of Centre-Based Daycare


Waitlists - However, due to ongoing demand, these centres may have long waitlists. For children up to and including preschool age, the ratio at long daycare centres is set at 1:11. 


Higher ratio - For children over preschool age, the ratio increases slightly to 1:15. It's important to note that these ratios are calculated across the entire service—not individual rooms—to ensure consistency and fairness for all children in care. This gives providers more flexibility when it comes to allocating educators based on the needs of each child within their facility.




Occasional Care

For families who require childcare on an irregular or sporadic basis, certain childcare centres offer occasional care services. This is especially helpful for parents whose schedules are unpredictable or need to attend appointments or complete household tasks. 


By expressing interest in occasional care days, parents can be added to a waiting list until other children are absent. This type of childcare is particularly beneficial for those with less formal needs, such as needing a few hours for an appointment or time to rest and recharge. 


With occasional care, families have peace of mind knowing that their children are in good hands while they tend to their other responsibilities.


Family Daycare

faqs-childcare-options-melbourne

Advantages of Family Daycare

There are many benefits to choosing family daycare. 


Small numbers - Family day care involves an approved educator looking after a very small number of children in their own homes. 


Strict ratios - Strict ratios dictate that one educator may supervise a maximum of seven children at any given time, with no more than four of those children being under school age. This ensures that each child receives individual attention and care while also allowing for a manageable environment where all needs can be met effectively. 


Strict regulations - Compliance with these regulations is critical to the success of family daycare services and is essential in creating a nurturing environment for young children's growth and development.


Comfortable and familiar environment - that feels like a second home for your child. Learning and development programs are offered that specifically focus on children's needs which can help them thrive. Smaller group sizes ensure that individualised learning programs and different styles of learning can be catered to.


Socialising - Family daycare offers ample opportunities for young ones to socialise with other children their age while engaging in playtime activities they enjoy. 


Quieter environment - Family day care may be an ideal option if your child prefers quieter environments since it takes place in the caregiver's residence rather than at a busy childcare centre. 


More flexible - This form of childcare is often flexible enough to accommodate different schedules - whether you only need part-time coverage or require full-day supervision. 


Sun protection - Family day care centres adhere to sun protection policy and are encouraged to sign up to sun smart programs to ensure up to date sun protection measures are undertaken. 


Flexible hours - Family daycare providers have flexible operating hours that vary according to the educator's schedule. This type of childcare option provides support for parents during standard weekday hours, as well as after-school care and evening care outside of regular school hours. Family daycare can be an ideal choice for parents who require overnight or weekend childcare options in order to balance their work schedules with family responsibilities. 


Cost - When it comes to the cost of care, family day care can be a more budget-friendly option for families. This is because the fees are calculated based on an hourly rate instead of a daily or weekly rate, which can add up quickly and become costly. With family day care, parents only pay for the hours their child is in care, making it a flexible and affordable choice.

 

No staffing turnovers - If it's a one man band family daycare, there is no staff turnover. At many of the larger daycare centres there are higher staff turnovers, which can be upsetting when your child becomes attached to a particular educator. 


Disadvantages of Family Daycare

Possibly only one caregiver - While family day care has many advantages over traditional daycare models such as centres; It should be noted that reliability concerns might arise from time to time since caregivers may fall ill unexpectedly requiring back-up arrangements to be made. One alternative may be that the children are cared for by another caregiver in a different location. 


What is and isn't included - One factor that needs careful consideration is the family day care location, work and/or commute times to home address. Food and nappies are also often not included in fees in order to keep family day care costs low. 


Less children - As there are less children on site, that means less likely that your child will have children of a similar age to bond with


No kinder - Children will not be able to do Kinder on site. This makes it tricky for working parents.



In-Home Care

Organising home-based childcare may be an option you to consider due to the limited availability of other forms of child care, or because they do not meet your specific requirements. 


In-home care, which involves the carer taking care of your child within the comfort and familiarity of your own home, is typically referred to as a nanny or au pair. 


It should be noted that certain forms of at-home childcare such as babysitters and nannies are not regulated by the Department of Education and Training; therefore, it's important for you to thoroughly vet potential caregivers before entrusting them with your children.


Community Childcare Vs Private Childcare

When it comes to choosing childcare options, one important factor to consider is whether you prefer community-owned or private services. Community-owned childcare centres and programs are run by parent committees, councils, non-profit organizations or other community groups. 


Their primary goal is to provide high-quality education and care for children with any profits reinvested back into the service to benefit families and their children's development and wellbeing.

 

On the other hand, in a private childcare service, profits go towards owners, directors and shareholders. Ultimately determining which type of childcare service, you should choose depends on your personal preferences as well as what's most important for your family's needs - so take some time before making a final decision!


Enrolling your child in a community-owned service has numerous benefits that prioritize your child's needs over profits. With the involvement of families in decision-making, parents can have a say on what services would benefit their children and how profits should be utilized for the greater good. 


The committee of management comprises members from the local community who have better knowledge about local issues and access to resources to address them effectively.

 

Additionally, every family in the community is guaranteed equal access to the service, while those facing challenges can access other services within reach without hassle. 


Overall, enrolling your child in a community-owned service is not only an investment towards their future but also a step towards building stronger communities through collective efforts and welfare decisions.


Australian Government approval of the majority of community centres is beneficial for families who use their services, as they may qualify for the Child Care Subsidy. 


This financial assistance can help alleviate some of the costs associated with childcare and make it more accessible to those who need it. It's important to check the eligibility requirements before utilizing this subsidy but knowing that government-approved community centres are an option can be a great relief for parents trying to balance work and family responsibilities. 


When searching for the right childcare option, there are several important factors to consider. First and foremost, location is crucial as it should be easily accessible from your home or workplace. Additionally, it's essential to check policies to ensure they align with your values and priorities when it comes to quality care. 


Taking a tour of the facilities can also provide valuable insight into how well-maintained and safe the environment is for children. Lastly, finding a childcare service that has a kindergarten attached may offer added convenience if you have older children in need of schooling as well. 


Many families opt for a combination approach, incorporating two or more types of childcare into their routine. 


Kinder Programs

Enrolling your child in kindergarten is a vital step towards their educational journey. Although not compulsory for Australian children, the Department of Education strongly recommends that all children attend a high-quality kindergarten program in the two years before starting school. 


It's during this time that research shows their brain will develop faster than at any other time in their life. Early education helps set children up for success and provides them with essential skills that they can use throughout their lifetime. 


Quality, play-based learning is especially powerful as it improves health and wellbeing, develops social skills, and fosters an eagerness to learn more - benefits which last well into primary school years and beyond. Moreover, two years of quality kindergarten has added advantages; making the transition to primary school smoother by helping young learners become more independent and confident in themselves. 


When it comes to choosing a kindergarten program for your child, there are two options to consider: sessional kinder programs that often operate from stand-alone centres during school terms only or integrated kinder programs in long daycare centres that continue to run throughout the year. Integrated programs offer several benefits, including continuity from previous education and care programs at the service. 


This means that educators already have an understanding of your child's strengths, interests, and learning styles - allowing them to tailor a program specifically designed to meet their individual needs.

 

Additionally, children who attend integrated programs often form secure relationships with familiar educators over time which can continue from birth right up until they start school. Your child may even have formed friendships within these settings which will continue into their kindergarten experience. 


Choosing between these two types of kindergarten programs ultimately depends on what works best for you and your family's schedule. 


Kindergarten programs are available for three-year-old’s, who can attend between 5 and 15 hours per week, while four-year-old’s get a full 15-hour program. It's important to note that although your child may be eligible for more than one Free Kinder program, they can only enrol in one at any given time.

 

 

Written by Laura Agrimi, Melbourne based mother of 2 and owner of Grace & Maggie.

Grace & Maggie

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