There comes a time for many families, where child care becomes a topic of conversation. Often parents need to return to work and find themselves in a position where finding care for their child is a necessity in order to do so.
Many parents begin to hear about how beneficial socialising can be for a child, so consider child care as the ideal opportunity to provide that socialisation. Parents may also consider child care in order to have a day or two for their own personal self-care and home duties.
Deciding whether child care is truly worthwhile can be challenging without understanding all that child care entails.
Leaving ones child with a group of strangers is extremely daunting. Our children depend on us; we know the difference in the tone of their cries and we know their little quirks and comforts. Having to be absent from part of our child’s day really ‘pulls at the heart strings’. I was teary on the drive to work, every work day, when I first needed to leave my son. It’s tough. The demands of personal or professional commitments don’t initially feel significant enough to result in leaving your child with unfamiliar faces and other needy children. So many families do it, for so many different reasons.
As any educator can tell you, quite simply; it’s the learning and care that make child care so valuable.
The highly governed and guided practices and professionalism of the educators and the educational programs that they offer are well worth consideration. Despite first appearances, children are not just wandering around a room of 8 (or more) other children, waiting for Mum or Dad to return. It’s hard to fathom the amount of growth children can achieve within a setting full of people; adults and children. The work of child development theorists has prompted guidelines and curriculums to be created to ensure that the services we send our children to are consistently providing more than just a healthy lunch. A child care service is a setting completely oriented to building secure trusting relationships and to begin the education of life skills, the early concepts of math, language and science, and the development of emotional and social wellbeing. It’s been said that 90 percent of brain development occurs before the age of five – before school age.
Child care comes in many forms – private nanny, centre based child care (or early learning centre as many are becoming these days) and family day care – being the main options available. Mostly, when the term ‘child care’ is used, it is in relation to child care centres or early learning centres. These services are often purpose built buildings or old houses converted into a centre ideal for children. Most services employ a chef and provide cooked meals and snacks, and all services provide indoor and outdoor play spaces, bathroom facilities, sleep facilities and nappy change spaces.
As parents, we expect child care to be exactly the obvious – a place where our children can be cared for in our absence. Whilst sometimes that alone can be all we actually need, the benefits of supporting and furthering our child’s development, whilst providing social opportunities and foundations for early learning, makes child care well worth considering.
Child care in Australia, most commonly refers to the paid-for care and education available in a child care centre or early learning centre. Educators; who are trained in first aid, CPR, anaphylaxis, asthma management and child protection, will work in the service to provide care and educational programs for the children enrolled. These educators are legally required to update all of the aforementioned certificates – most, on an annual basis, in order to continue their careers in the industry. They must also be trained (Certificate 3 in Children’s Services or equivalent) or qualified (Diploma in Children’s Services or equivalent) in order to work in contact with children. Many services also have at least one teacher (Bachelor of Early Childhood Education or equivalent) employed within their service.
Child care services are governed by state and territory governments through the Department of Education and Training. There is an independent statutory authority called the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) who works with the state and territory governments to monitor each services commitment to upholding the Education and Care Services National Law, and works to support services in providing quality learning and care programs children from birth to 13 years old (and most commonly from birth to five years old).
Whilst child care is the care and supervision of children, generally within the birth to five year old age group, it is also so much more.
As parents, we often hear about the social benefits for children when enrolling them into child care, but those social benefits alone are not the only value in the $100+ per day fees.
Child care educators are obligated to work within the Early Years Learning Framework – a curriculum based on the developmental areas and needs of children. This national framework was designed to ensure that all services and educators are offering educational experiences and scaffolding children’s learning. This is lead by the interests and needs of each child as an individual, and all based within play. By fostering children to achieve individual successes within the learning outcomes of the framework, children should be relevantly prepared for formal schooling within a primary school setting.
Every child care service is required to create planned, developmentally appropriate and encouraging learning programs. Essentially, child care is a foundation for schooling. It’s a foundation for the tuned development of fundamental life skills, for furthering all that we teach as parents and for introducing children to the ‘big wide world’ and what expectations they may face from others. Fundamentally, it is a beneficial environment built to foster our children’s development, whilst providing for their basic needs – and ours.
The benefits of child care reach far beyond care, supervision, meals and naps alone. Whilst leaving our children when they are still young can seem daunting, it can be an incredibly rewarding step to creating a solid basis to their learning journey.
The interests of the children serve as the main guide for all individual learning goals and experiences. This interest based program results in quintessential fun for our children.
They begin to create social understandings, boost their immune systems, learn to cope and enjoy routine (both structured and flexible) and are offered many appropriate opportunities to experiment with ideas and skills through play.
If it means us parents also have that time to work, study, facilitate self-care and home duties, or even just go to the bathroom in peace, it’s probably a consideration just as worthwhile for us too.