Anxious about picking an early learning centre? Don’t worry. It is only natural for us to be concerned about matters that are close to our hearts. And nothing is closer to our hearts than our own children and their future.
On the face of it, there seems to be a mountain of aspects to consider about which early learning centre is right for your child. As an early childhood expert, we can help you by giving some pointers to the key aspects to consider when choosing one. After all, that is our area of expertise.
The most basic considerations for an early learning centre include:
The basic requirement for any early learning centre is whether it adheres to regulations, in particular the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) that is part of the National Quality Framework.
- Proximity to your home or workplace
Your daily schedule is important, and an early learning centre located in the general vicinity of your home or workplace would make drop-offs and pick-ups less stressful.
Always have a budget in mind. Check with the centres if they are an approved long day care service provider and if you can claim the government’s child care subsidy.
Check the age ranges that the centre caters to, and if it has available time slots on the days you plan to send your child.
Choose an environment with smaller group size as this allows your child to respond and bond better with educators. Moreover, educators can devote more attention and effective intentional teaching and care.
Find out their operating hours and whether the centre’s programmes fit with your routine. Also ask how the centres would handle last-minute change or bookings, if there is a cut-off period or if there are any financial penalties.
With those essential aspects squared off, let’s dive a little deeper into what an early learning centre has to offer. These finer points can be divided into activities, facilities, and people.
Curriculum and Programme
To adults, the notion of ‘play’ sounds like leisure time. However, to young children, it is an essential part of their formative process. A child’s boundless curiosity and appetite to experience the world around them is expressed through play. That is why most early learning centres adopt a ‘play-based learning’ approach.
It isn’t all just fun and games though. High quality early learning programmes have educators who are present to engage and intentionally guide a child’s play activities. It is through this holistic approach to play and learning where every child can develop to the best of their potential.
When it comes to their activities, the key aspects to consider in a early learning centre are:
- Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)
At the heart of every early learning centre is its curriculum. Find out if it adheres to the Early Years Learning Framework.
- Curriculum activities
Learning can involve music, art, reading, or games. You know your child best, and your early learning centre choice should have activities that suit their interests, as well as offer a bit of time for free play to explore.
- Activity Log
Early Learning Centres are required to produce a daily activity log so that parents can see what their children are doing each day for themselves.
- Daily routine
Find out what the routines are, especially for your child’s age group. Having a routine is beneficial for a child’s development, however an overly rigid one can stifle opportunities in a child’s development.
- Special events
Getting a day out of the classroom is great! Experiences like visiting community libraries and public spaces helps children build an understanding about the world around them. Also having special educational and cultural events will be a great addition to the syllabus.
At the heart of any early learning centre’s modus operandi is its philosophy. Understand a centre’s direction and view on early education and childcare and see if it fits your child’s individual needs and strengths.
The physical environment of an early learning centre plays as big of a part in a child’s learning as its educators. The appearance and design of a space can influence a child to be energetic, contemplative, or socially engaged.
An early learning centre with a good variety of spaces, both indoor and outdoor, would be beneficial to a child’s development as it allows them to explore and test their thinking for themselves.
Here are some of the facilities that should be considered in an early learning centre:
- Equipment and resources
Play-based learning is heavily dependent on various resources and equipment to keep children engaged. Is the equipment kept up-to-date, modern and well-maintained to facilitate the curriculum?
- Indoor and outdoor spaces
Having a good mix of indoor and outdoor spaces allows your child to explore and learn more. Also check and see if the indoor spaces stimulate your child’s curiosity? And do the outdoor areas have adequate shade for hot days?
- Food and meal preparation
It is not fun learning on an empty stomach. Find out if the centre provides meals, and if so, ask for a sample menu and find out if they have special arrangements for children with allergies.
- Cleanliness and comfort
It is no secret that children do like to get their hands dirty. A good hygiene policy is important. Ask about the centre’s hygiene and cleaning routines for the whole facility. Also see if the sleeping area is quiet and comfortable for your child.
The last, and not any less essential, part of consideration in an early learning centre is the people behind it. Any great early learning curriculum is built on a healthy relationship between its educators and you, the parent. They are the connection to your child’s development and those who would guide their growth. It would be wise to take their interactions and involvement into account.
Here are some pointers to consider:
- Educators and Staff
Early learning requires a lot of energy and passion, and children can easily pick up on that. Does the staff seem warm, engaging, and passionate about what they are doing? Especially when it comes to interacting with children and one another.
- Accreditation and experience
Not only is accreditation important, but experience plays a huge part too. Do discuss with the centre about their staff’s experience in early learning programmes.
- Parental involvement and feedback
Early learning is a collaborative two-way street between the educators and the parent. Find out if the centre welcome’s parental input in decision-making and if they provide regular feedback and reports on your child’s development progress.
- Cleanliness and healthiness
A healthy and happy child learns the best. Do the staff appear clean and well presented, and does the centre have adequate health and safety procedures? Especially when it comes to handling sick children, administering medication, or attending to special health needs.
- Staff-to-child ratio
Having too many children to educators can be overwhelming. They can only divide their attention between so many young’uns! The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority lists out the ratio requirements for centres across the country.
How does an ideal Early Learning Centre look like?
Congratulations for making it to the end of the list! It might seem daunting at first, but it gets simple once you familiarise yourself with the points.
With all the right elements in order, an ideal Early Learning Centre should look as welcoming to your child as a second home. At Bright ELC we are committed to creating a harmonious and educational place for your child to learn and grow.
Book a tour with us and see for yourself all the activities and facilities that our centre has to offer.