Choosing A Daycare: Detective Style

Posted by Nikki Roberts on

As parents, we all get to a point where we need/want to go back to work - or the washing pile has reach
ed Mount Everest proportions - or we just need a day (or five) to ourselves. The task of finding suitable care for your little one can be super stressful and overwhelming. For most of us, the choice is already made, whether by availability, cost or distance from work or home. Fortunately, we live in times where ch

ild care organisations are met with stringent
standards to uphold, and even if your selection is limited, you can rest assured that your child is in safe hands when in a nationally registered facility (search your suburb here). However, If you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to live surrounded by billions of daycare options and face complete and utter decision paralysis, there are some ways to narrow down your list.

Regardless of whether or not you’ve got good ol’ grandparents or siblings available to mind your minis, you find yourself on the net, searching ‘daycare near me’. The google results alone, can be enough to slam your laptop shut when terms like ‘ACECQ’ and ‘CCB/CCR’ come jumping across your screen. When I (read: first time mum and helicopter parent who would babywear til my daughter is 18 if I could) entered - somewhat blindly - into this overwhelming process, I yearned for x-ray vision into the ‘feel’ of the centre. The fact is, a day care centre/home may tick all the boxes on paper, but it often takes a good chunk of fly-on-the-wall observation to ensure that your expectations - and those of the law - are being met.

Firstly, I made sure those on offer aligned with my gentle parenting style, in particular their views on discipline and conflict resolution. Other main considerations for time-poor me (ahem, us) were the standard inclusions of nutritious meals, nappies and bed linen. Addicted to my phone, I also wanted somewhere able to send me texts or emails of Poppy’s day. But how do we decide between family daycare or centre daycare? Find out the difference here.

Still with too many options, I decided to channel some mother’s intuition into the process, and conduct a ‘mumspection’ of some potentials on my list. Note: some of these can be done on the phone, but if you have time (ah, the elusive ‘spare time’) to pop in, you may get a better feel for what they’re like.


Book a date with the Director. It is important that the leader is well aware of the goings-on in their centre, so having a chance to get to know them and give them the third degree about their employment history/vision for the centre/favourite colour will shed some light on their involvement in your child’s care. Extra brownie points for them if they know the kids by name and are warm and friendly with staff.


When you are meeting the potential-carer-of-your-little-person, ask how long they have been working there. Longevity of employment can be a good indicator of a happy employee. Don’t fret, though, if there seems to be a lot of ‘new’ staff, as it could be a brand spankin’ new centre or just coincidence. In the same vein, a centre with a wait list (though incredibly inconvenient, am I right?) can indicate the centre is the bee’s knees.


While you are asking a gazillion questions and continuing to examine the very VERY busy room, take note of where the employees were when you entered. Were they on the floor under a pile of kids? Did they up their pace when you entered? Happy, confident employees will calmly greet you/wipe a snotty nose/pick up three kids/juggle sippy cups whilst navigating a room full of colourful trip hazards and paper mache. Their sense of calm amongst the tears/paint/shouting tiny people/pillow forts indicates that they are capable and in control.


Devoted carers will proudly display their children’s artwork and photos around the room (imagine a rainbow of pasta shells and cardboard and imagine it exploded). Amongst the mayhem, there should be dedicated areas for certain activities and record keeping. Trying to look past the adorable finger painting of the frog that looks like a beach ball, keep your eyes peeled for what info you can access at a glance. Things like:

  • A sunscreen register with records of each application plus a hat storage area
  • A daily workbook per child with sleep time/food & water consumption/poo explosions/mood, and any notes from carers such as ‘today, Billy loved eating playdough’
  • Areas for hygiene such as strategically placed hand sanitiser/industrial strength gloves for said poo explosions
  • A clean, secured, organised kitchen area with viewing access to the rooms
  • An accessible folder for each child’s learning journey complete with pictures and comments from carers on little Billy’s development
  • A daily, up-to-date summary of their activities in the room, for each parent to read upon collection of their child

The above measures make it easy for anyone, whether parent, visitor or grannie, to gain a thorough snapshot of their child’s day.


Once you have toured the facility, it is a good idea to randomly ‘pop in’, to see how your child interacts with both the carers and other children. When I first took Poppy for a visit, I noticed her awe-struck little face as she saw the pasta creations on the walls, the enviable amount of toys/play equipment and the laughing, playing kids. I sat down on her level and watched as she ventured bravely into the welcoming and inviting space (let’s face it I had sandpit envy). The educators were spread out; in the sandpit (jelly), in a pile of cushions singing songs with a group of enraptured toddler-sized fans, and always available and approachable to kids and parents alike.


The centre I ended up choosing told us to drop in a few times, before the start of Poppy’s enrolment. This not only gave Pop more time to get to know the other kids and the carers, but also allowed me to sneakily spot-check the employees and see if their previous awe-inspiring behaviour was actually a facade (it wasn’t. They actually are multi-tasking legends). It also gave me a chance to ask those annoying, pesky nitty gritty questions I had forgotten on my first visit (yes I had a list, I am THAT mum) when I was distracted by the beautiful glitter-and-glue creations on the wall.


It was crucial to me that the centre I chose made me feel like Poppy was the only girl in the world (cue Rihanna song). During enrolment, I filled in a form about Poppy’s favourite songs/colours/toys/settling methods - all things I thought were just a cute opportunity for parental bragging. It wasn’t until Poppy started singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ at sleep time at home that I realised they had been singing to her when she was upset, as I had written on the form. Their dedication to meeting the individual needs of the child is priceless.

Sometimes, when we are faced with far too many options, friends’ recommendations or a flash new facility is just not enough to know if it’s the right fit for you and your mini. If, like me, you live in daycare-mecca, I ask you to sit down with your family, focus on what is important to you and if you have the time, really get your ‘mama feelers’ into the decision making process to choose a centre that is most closely aligned with your needs.


We've found a few kindy must haves that we'd love to share!


Hats: The number one accessory for daycare down under is great hat, one that will stay on (adjustable chin strap) and the kids will want to wear, in fun prints and designs.  

Backpack:  A brand new product from our favourite mama Mrs Paulie.  A great design
 and built for smaller kids with chunky zippers, adjustable chest strap for extra support and padded shoulder straps for 



Comforter Because they'll need something to cuddle! Made with eco friendly fabrics, organic cotton and natural water based inks, these cuties are baby safe and super cute.  



Lunchbox   Forget the glad bags and plastic wrap, keep your
wastage down to a minimum with these great compartment lunch boxes.  Encouraging you to provide a healthy variety of bits and pieces for your little one to munch, we just love a little bento.




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