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Philosophy, location, cost, environment, size - when it comes to choosing an early-childhood education option for your child, the decision can seem overwhelming.
While your options may be limited by where you live, some key questions to consider include:
- Location - are they close to your home, work or study?
- Hours - will they be open when you need them?
- Cost - what are their fees and what is included in them? They can vary between providers, and some provide foodwhile others ask you to supply it.
- Parent involvement - how involved do you want to be and would you like a say in how things are run?
- Style - does the provider have a specific learning philosophy which appeals to you?
- Size - what age group does the provider cover and how many children attend?
- Space - check if the service has space on the days and times you need it, you may have to go on a waiting list.
Don't forget how valuable word-of-mouth is. Ask other parents, friends and family members for their experiences with providers.
You can also check the Education Review Office (ERO) report, which covers things like learning environment, processes and procedures, how educators relate to students, and their vision and philosophy.
After you think you have narrowed it down, the best thing to do is go for a couple of visits. You can then get a feel for the space, the staff and what it is like for the children.
How are the staff interacting with the children? Do you and your child feel welcome? What sort of play facilities do they have?
While there you can also ask any specific questions you might have, such as how your child's day will be structured, how sickness and accidents are handled, and what the child-to-adult ratios are.