Questions to ask when choosing a childcare centre

Choosing the right childcare centre for your little one can be a daunting task, so we put together some questions to help you pick the right one.

Questions to ask before choosing a childcare centre

The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) sets national guidelines for childcare centres, which cover staff qualifications and ratios, health and safety, nutrition, and hygiene.

While you want to make sure any centre you choose is adhering to these guidelines, there might be other factors that are important to you, such as family or cultural preferences.

Questions about staff:

  • How qualified and experienced are the staff? The guidelines require 50 per cent of staff to have (or be working towards) a diploma level education and all others to have (or be working towards) at least a certificate III level qualification. You might like to ask about how many years staff have been working in the industry or at the centre itself.
  • What is the educator to child ratio? Adequate staffing levels help make sure your child is safe and has the attention they need to foster growth and development.

Questions about sleep:

  • What is the centre’s policy on safe sleep - and how often is it reviewed? All childcare centres must have a sleep and rest policy. We recommend that you read the policy and make sure it aligns with our six safe sleep recommendations as well as your values.
  • How often will my child be checked during naptime? Just like at home, it’s important that sleeping children and their environments are monitored. Children should always be in sight and hearing distance of a qualified staff member so they can check on their breathing and colour of their skin – and intervene if something goes wrong. Red Nose recommends that monitoring of sleeping children is done physically at the bedside, rather than through a monitor or viewing window. This is so the carer can listen to the child’s breathing and really see the colour of the child’s skins – in young children the signs of a problem can be very subtle so carers need to physically check the child.
  • Are short term sleeping devices being used during sleep periods? It’s dangerous to sleep infants and children in sleeping devices (like bouncers, rockers and prams). Make sure the childcare centre is aware of this and doesn’t use them. Babies should be slept in a safe cot, and older children should sleep in the designated area appropriate for their age group.
  • Is the centre a Safe Sleep Champion, or have they done similar training with Red Nose? We are the National Authority in safe sleeping practices for infants and children. Ask if the staff at the centre have done our training, so you can be sure they know how to follow our six safe sleep recommendations to help keep your children as safe as possible.
  • Are sleep routines structured or based around individual children’s needs? Every child is different, and so are their risk factors for sudden unexplained infant death. Risk can be influenced by age, medical conditions, health history, and sleep issues. Sleep and rest policies at childcare centres should take this into account.

Questions about the day-to-day activities:

  • What food is offered? Food is an important part of children’s growth and development, and if your child is spending a lot of time in care, it’s especially important. Ask about their policy on food and nutrition, how meals are prepared, and how they manage food allergies and intolerances.
  • How much time will my child have to play outside? Playing and spending time outdoors is another important part of your child’s health and development. It helps them to develop imagination, creativity, fine motor skills, cognitive and emotional strength. Find out how the centre facilitates time outside and what the schedule is.
  • What happens if my child gets sick at daycare? All children have the right to quality education in an environment that looks after their physical and emotional wellbeing. If your child becomes unwell, your centre will contact you immediately to collect your child. We don’t recommend that you send your child to daycare if they’re unwell. This is especially important for younger children, as being unwell can increase the risk of sudden unexpected death.
  • What about toileting? All childcare centres should have policies and procedures around toileting and nappy changes that maintain hygiene. You might like to ask them about any specific family or cultural preferences you have to make sure they align with the centre’s practices.
  • How do they practice sun safety? Protecting children against UV rays and sun damage is a crucial preventative measure for skin cancer later in life. Childcare centres can also help children learn good sun safe habits. Ask about their specific policy to make sure you’re satisfied with their precautionary measures.

Last modified: 23/12/21