When should you start figuring out childcare? It’s one of the many questions that expecting parents have on their minds. You should start your childcare search by comparing the different types of care available against your needs and preferences.

The urgency to find the right childcare services for your child will depend on your individual circumstances and the availability of childcare near you. Finding the right service is one of the first important decisions you will make in your child’s life.

Your preferences for childcare will also determine who you choose. Because of limited childcare availability in some locations, you may need to be flexible when searching for daycare centres near you. Convenience is often a factor but there may be other options available.

Throughout this article, you will find helpful tips to improve your childcare search. We cover:

  • When should you start to look for childcare services?
  • How to start looking for the best childcare near you?
  • What is a good age to start daycare?
  • Is convenience critical when searching for daycare centres near you?

Child with flower balloon art enjoys centre open day as parents continue their childcare search

Get organised early with childcare services

While you can’t enrol your child without their birth certificate, you can start to look for childcare services in your area at any time. Knowing what care is available and how to access it will make life less stressful. You’ll also have a better chance of enrolling in quality care.

Your childcare search begins based on a range of factors. If you’re seeking a particular type of care or a learning program, you may want to start looking sooner rather than later. For parents returning to work, childcare availability and location may play a significant role in your search.

If you’re new to using childcare services, start your search by finding out what type of care is available. In Australia, there are several types of childcare, including long daycare, family daycare, preschool, kindergarten, in-home care, nannying and au pair services.

Your childcare search depends on:

  • The types of childcare available to you
  • What you know of the services available in your area
  • Whether you’re planning to return to work or studies and when
  • Your preferences for the type of care and learning programs for your child
  • Other children you may have who already attend a childcare service.

Children play in secure outdoor environment of a childcare service.

Use a checklist to find the best childcare near you

Enter the search terms: childcare near me into your favourite search engine, and you’ll find immediate results. While this exercise lists many services close to your location, it may not always display childcare services that reflect your values.

Before you begin your internet search, work out what type of care you want for your child. Create a checklist of the essential qualities and the things you’d like your child to have access to during their stay. You can use the list to narrow your search for quality childcare services.

Aspects you could consider include:

  • Meals: Does the carer provide nutritional meals?
  • Environment and safety: Does the service have a closed outdoor play area?
  • Community: Does the carer encourage links with their community?
  • Health and fitness: Is there a focus on children’s physical ability?
  • Diversity: How important is cultural diversity?
  • Early learning: Does the carer’s learning philosophies reflect your own?
  • Support: How does the carer approach transitions?
  • Values: Do the service’s values match or complement your own?
  • Location: Is the childcare service easy to access from work and home?
  • Availability: Do the opening and closing hours suit your circumstances?
  • Communication: How do they provide feedback to parents?
  • Families: Do they encourage participation at the centre?
  • Extracurricular Activities: Do they offer additional programmes like yoga or dance?
  • Belonging: Do they have community excursions?
  • Inclusion: Do Educators cater to children’s and families’ needs?

Be prepared to compromise on a few items on your list. Availability and convenience often play a part in finding the best childcare near you. If you’re not satisfied with your selection, widen your search to include care between your home and place of work or study.

Once you’ve found the services that tick the most boxes on your list, you can narrow down your choices by reading reviews and booking in for a centre tour. There’s nothing like a tour to get a feel for a place and its people.

Mum in front of a popular chalkboard talking to an Educator about a tour of a childcare centre near her

What is a good age to start daycare?

Children attend daycare from birth to 5 years of age in Australia. The age that your child starts childcare will depend on your individual preferences and circumstances. Quality daycare centres are designed to cater for different age groups, development and growth.

Babies thrive in clean and safe environments where they receive personal attention. Many daycare centres have dedicated nurseries where trained Educators provide individualised care and attention.

Toddlers also respond well in environments with low carer to child ratios. But they also need room to explore and learn. Between 18 months to 3 years, toddlers begin to socialise. Daycare centres offer children a greater variety of early learning experiences and activities.

Preschoolers have an opportunity to socialise and practise language skills at daycare. Some daycare centres also offer kindergarten to children who are preparing to go to school. Children with full-time stay-at-home parents can also benefit from time at preschool.

Babies play together in the nursery of a quality daycare.

Is convenience critical when searching for daycare centres near you?

Sometimes your choice for care will be limited by where you live, the hours you work, what you can afford and availability. Quality childcare centres frequently have waiting lists and give preference to children who have siblings already attending the centre.

If your choices of care are limited, you should still be mindful of the options available. Knowing what’s available can help find the best childcare and daycare centres near you.

Researching your childcare options and understanding how the National Quality Standards and Early Years Learning Framework affects your child’s learning, growth and development, gives you more power to make informed choices about their care.

Mum and child hug in a daycare centre where their childcare search is over.

Start your childcare search with Petit Early Learning Journey

Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the choices of childcare and childcare options available? Sign up now for a tour at your nearest Petit Early Learning Journey centre. We’ll provide you with the confidence you need for your childcare search.

At Petit ELJ, we value a holistic learning approach where children come first. We believe in partnering with families on things that matter most to you. Our Educators are also dedicated to developing your child’s emotional, social and cognitive intelligence and giving them the best start for lifelong learning.

Book a tour now