If you are a parent looking for a child care centre in Australia, then the amount of choice available can be almost overwhelming. It can be difficult to decide which child care centre is the best fit for the needs of your family. Here are some things to consider in your search.

Educational needs

National regulations lay down the minimum standards with which all early learning programs and child care providers must comply, but you shouldn't be looking for mere compliance with a minimum standard. As a parent, you should be seeking an educational environment in which your child will thrive. You need a child care centre that will provide the best possible early learning experience.

There are also important practical considerations in your choice of centre.

What's the location?

You can only choose a child care centre from among those that exist in your locality, so start your search by creating a list of those centres which are near to you. Don't forget to think about your daily routine. Consider the drop-off and collection times at the centre and decide whether it makes more sense to look for a child care centre that is closer to your home or to your work location.

What are the costs?

When you talk to the child care centres, ask them for a list of their annual fees and find out what those fees cover. Is all catering included? What special events could see the price rise and how frequent would those events be?

What will your child be doing?

The Early Years Learning Framework sets out the principles and practices that child care providers should be following, but it doesn't mandate a particular curriculum. You should search for a child care centre that follows a curriculum that aligns with your particular beliefs and interests and which suits the personality and needs of your child.

Staffing ratios

When comparing child care centres, asking about the staff /child ratio can be helpful. A centre can claim to follow a great curriculum and make a lot of promises about the activities they offer, but it will always be down to the staff to carry through on those promises. Ask the centre about the number of staff that will be on duty at any time and the skills and qualifications which they have. If possible, try to visit the child care centre when it is open so that you can see how well the staff interact with the children and whether the children appear engaged and happy with their activities.

Keep these things in mind when looking for a child care centre near you.