With next generation childcare centres popping up all over the country, how exactly does a centre stand apart from the rest? Is it the addition of a chook pen? The incorporating of a Barista Bar? Maybe an overpriced SMART board for the kids to get their fix of technology?
BubDesk asked their parent network and you’d be surprised at what we found.
It’s pretty easy to get blown away by the bells and whistles of some childcare centres, but strangely enough it’s often the most simple of services that win the hearts of new parents when they’re looking for appropriate childcare solutions.
Below are the Top 10 features of a centre that came up during our parent discussions (in no particular order):
- Older Carers: At one particular BubDesk centre, a MercyCare centre in Wembley, many of the educators are well into their 50s and 60s. The staff retention is like nothing we have ever seen before and many of the staff have their own children and grandchildren. This is a bit of an anomaly in the world of childcare where so many centres seem to be staffed with educators straight out of school and it certainly puts the parents at ease knowing that these carers have “seen it all before” and can handle just about anything!
- Healthy Menus: okay, it’s pretty easy to be impressed when your childcare centre offers parents a freshly brewed coffee and straight-out-of-the-oven muffin as you walk out the door, but what makes a parent even more happy than caffeine is knowing that their children are being provided with a healthy menu throughout the day. I have spoken with a number of parents who have moved their children to another centre because they were less than impressed at the vegetable intake of their child or the overload of cereal, bread and spag bol. Now we all know that kids can be picky, but the centres that win out are the ones that manage to incorporate healthy options into the menu AND tell the parents all about it.
- Animals: I’m sure you’ll find the occasional parent who is anti-animals, in fact I do know of one centre where the parents got so upset that the centre was using freshly laid eggs from the centre chickens that the chickens had to go! ☹, but for the most part, animals are a welcome addition. Many families are so busy these days or travel so much that having pets at home is not an option, but we know the importance of taking care of pets and being gentle and kind to animals and the positive effect this can have on children. One of the stand out centres over here in Perth has a pet pig and that centre has a waitlist about 200 families long!
- Make Up Days: If you’re a parent you’ll know how frustrating it can be to enrol your child in care and then lose so many days (& so much money) due to your little one getting sick. It’s so hard to avoid a sick baby when you first start down the childcare route and we work with several centres now that appreciate this inconvenience and offer a set number of make up days per year in the event of illness. It’s not endless, usually 10 annually, and only where it doesn’t throw the staff ratio out. It makes a MASSIVE difference to how the centre is viewed by parents.
- Cleanliness: Now I’m not saying that your centre has to be brand new and resemble something of IKEA. Sure, there are parents who love that look, but an equal number don’t mind at all if your centre was built in the 80’s providing that it looks and feels clean. A light-filled room that is well kept is an instant crowd-pleaser. On the contrary though I visited a centre once and was there for a good 45 minutes – morning tea had ended, there was food all over the tables and floor and in 45 minutes no one cleaned it up, which made me wonder if they were just leaving it that way until lunchtime figuring no point in cleaning it in between?
- Happy Babies: You simply can’t beat happy, smiling, laughing children and let’s face it, even if you tell all the children to be on their best behaviour during the parent tour (yeah right!) you’re bound to have one that is crying a river. That’s okay! We get it! Separation anxiety is a big thing, but no parent wants to witness that distraught child in the corner, crying alone, with no one consoling them, because they instantly think “that could be my child”. With staff ratios sometimes, it’s not possible to pick up a crying baby immediately, but if on the tour no one even makes mention to the poor baby and in fact pretends that the distraught child is not there, that new parent is not enrolling their child in your centre.
- Friendly Carers: What a difference it makes when you walk into a centre and are greeted by everyone you meet? I’ve been in centres where all staff introduced themselves and were full of smiles. I’ve been in others where there was no eye contact as you entered the rooms on your tour and they were obviously hoping you wouldn’t ask them anything.
- Inclusions….and fruit specifically: We’re all busy – the reason we pay a gazillion dollars a year for childcare is ultimately to make our lives easier and it doesn’t feel particularly easy when your childcare centre gives you a list of things to bring or contribute to the running of the centre. We all know that childcare centres are costly to run and we all wish that there was a way to pay educators more without the fees increasing, but what’s with the fruit? Surely, at $140 dollars a day plus you can budget in a piece of fruit? Most of us are okay with supplying nappies and linen, but the request for fruit is actually more of an inconvenience than maybe you realise.
- Parent Lounge: Separation anxiety can really take its toll on families and I think it can often be harder for the parent than it is for the child. Centres that have managed to incorporate a parent lounge where people can sit, drink coffee, surf the net, and read for an hour or so, while their child settles in, are often the crowd favourites.
- BubDesk: Taking it a step further, many centres now registered as BubDesk friendly centres, allowing parents to stay all day and work if they’d like to. With most centres equipped with WIFI and usually an underutilised programming room, it’s little inconvenience to allow parents to set-up a laptop and work once or twice a week, while their baby settles in and perhaps while they’re still feeding. Families love that centres are thinking outside the box with a more holistic approach to supporting families and centres love that it’s strengthening their family and community relationships, which of course helps them with their R&A.
To learn more about registering your centre as “BubDesk friendly” please drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org