A Childcare Centre Equipment Guide

Children Furniture

Providing the right childcare equipment is important because it will help keep the children in your care secure whilst also helping them:

  • Reach their developmental goals
  • Develop their curiosity
  • Promote their desire to learn
  • Enrich their experiences

Whether it’s for a centre-based service or any other kind of family daycare setting, here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of equipment needed. 

Furniture and Storage
Any furniture installed in your childcare setting needs to be accessible to children so it’s crucial that you get the right size and height from the floor. It’s also important to ensure that heavy furniture is safely secured to the walls so that it doesn’t topple onto children. 

Basic child-focused furniture includes: 

  • Child-sized table and chairs suitable for both mealtimes and activity times. 
  • Bookshelves and storage units that are within easy reach and at appropriate height.
  • Soft furnishings such as cushions and rugs for children to sit on. 
  • Appropriate sleeping furniture such as beds, mattresses and bedding for nap times.  

Learning Resources
The range of learning materials will need to cover all age groups in the early years setting, anywhere from first skills to preparation for primary school. 

First Skills
Appropriate equipment includes soft developmental toys, teethers, push-and-pull toys, gym playmats and walkers. 

Manipulative and Developmental 
Manipulative play encourages children’s coordination of hands, muscles and eyes. 

Suitable equipment includes tactile and sensory materials such as play-dough, cutters and lids, sorting and posting, mazes and puzzles, stacking and nesting, and lacing and threading games. 

Building and Construction
Building blocks are a great way to encourage children’s creativity and problem-solving skills. They also help to develop their hand-eye coordination, language and logical thinking. 

Literacy and Numeracy 
In early years childcare settings, children begin their understanding of words and numbers. 

A wide variety of books catering for different age groups is essential, as well as a mixture of board books for children to explore and longer story books that can be read to children during story time. 

Other useful literacy and numeracy materials include magnetic numbers and letters, flashcards, wipe-clean writing practice books, and, of course, pencils and paper. 

Role-Play and Home Corner
A well-equipped home corner will allow children to develop their confidence and self-expression, and help them make sense of the world.

Dolls with clothes and blankets, play kitchens with utensils, tool sets and dress-up costumes will all promote imaginative play. 

Music
Music promotes both physical and social confidence. Equipment should include musical instruments for all ages (shakers, tapping sticks, bells, xylophones), as well as CDs or playlists that expose children to a variety of music styles.

Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts lets children develop their creativity as well as their fine motor skills and concentration. 

Arts and craft supplies should include: 

  • Drawing materials including pencils, crayons, felt-tip pens 
  • Scissors
  • Glue, brushes and collage materials such as coloured paper, buttons, beads, fabric, ribbons
  • Paint and paint brushes

Outdoor Play
Not only does outdoor play promote physical activity, but it helps children improve their coordination and social confidence. 

Equipment includes: 

  • Balls of various sizes
  • Push-and-pull toys like prams, cars and lawn mowers
  • Boxes and blocks for construction
  • Ride-on toys such as scooters and tricycles
  • Sand and water play materials, including a sandpit, spades, scoops, funnels, large water containers, floating objects and sponges

Health and Hygiene
Health and hygiene equipment is necessary to ensure that the childcare setting adheres to health and safety standards.

Basic health and hygiene materials should include:

  • Cleaning solutions and sprays
  • Paper, towels and tissues
  • Soap and hand sanitisers
  • Dispensers and waste bins
    Gloves, wipes and nappies
  • Feeding equipment, including bowls, spoons, forks, cups and bottles

Staff Resources
In any childcare setting, it’s important that staff have the appropriate equipment. This should include:

  • Appropriate furniture including chairs, desks and storage
  • First aid kits
  • Teaching resources such as miniature whiteboards, tablets, stationery, reward charts and bulletin boards
  • Visual resources such as white or blackboards and weekly planners

In Summary 
It’s essential for childcare providers to equip their centre or other childcare setting with the right materials to promote learning and development, while ensuring that children are kept safe from harm. This useful checklist provides the fundamental items but keep in mind that it’s by no means an exhaustive list. 

Different Kinds of Childcare Programs

girl and boy at childcare

Australian families have a wide variety of childcare options available, ranging from home-based care through to specialist care for disabled and vulnerable children. 

That being said, it’s not easy for first time parents to make sense of the available choices. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make the right decision for your family. 

Home-Based Childcare 
Home-based childcare is any education or care carried out in the home. This can either be done:

  • Informally by parents, family or friends
  • Formally by nannies, babysitters, or by certain types of Family Day Care (FDC) or In-Home Care (IHC)

Family Day Care (FDC) 
FDC is a flexible form of Early Childhood Education and Care (EDEC) which can be casual, full-time, part-time, overnight, or before and after school, catering to parents who want a more tailored experience for their child. 

It’s carried out in the family home by a network of trained and registered early years educators. These are supervised under the Education and Care Services National Regulations. 

In-Home Care (IHC)
IHC is similar to FDC, except that it’s provided in the family home rather than in a Family Day Care centre. 

Day Care Facilities
Day care facilities provide early education and care for children in a dedicated centre, such as a nursery or a preschool. 

Long Day Care
Long Day Care (LDC) takes place in a dedicated centre either as a part-time or a full time option. They offer a range of early years programmes for children. 

LDC can also be provided as a “wrap around” childcare option for before and after school as well as during school holidays. 

Outside School Hours Care (OSHC)
This is a centre-based childcare programme targeted at primary school age children for before and after school, as well as during the school holidays. 

OSHC is usually carried out by private individuals or organisations and typically covers the following times:

  • Before school: 7am – 9am
  • After school: 3pm – 6pm
  • During school holidays: 7am – 6pm

Occasional Care
Occasional care is centre-based and can be accessed on an ad hoc basis, making it helpful for parents who work irregular hours. 

Preschool/Kindergarten/Prep
Preschool (sometimes interchangeably referred to as “Kindergarten” or “Prep school”) is a formal, planned educational programme targeted at children in early years (usually aged between 3 and 5 years old). Preschool can take place in school, a long day care centre, a community centre or even a mobile visiting service. 

Preschool usually takes place on weekdays between 9am – 3pm, similar to primary school hours. 

Activity Groups and Clubs
This describes the range of other childcare options including playgroups, after-school clubs, and parent and child groups. 

Disability Childcare
Parents of children with disabilities can apply to receive in-home childcare services such as Family Day Care or In-home Childcare. 

Early Childhood Inclusion Australia (ECIA) is collaborating with Early Childhood Australia (ECA) to make sure that all children, regardless of their disability, race or gender, have the same opportunities and access to the right childcare. 

They work together to support all childcare services to enable them to offer inclusive, safe and high-quality experiences. 

In Summary
To help you find the right childcare programme for your family, first consider your requirements: how many hours you need, available options in your area, your budget, your family values and interests and whether you want your childcare to be at home or in a dedicated childcare setting. 

Given the wide range of childcare programmes available to Australian families, you will likely be able to find an option that suits your needs. 

Why You Should Invest in Professional Development as a Childcare Worker

Women on Ipad while holding baby

Whether you’ve been working in childcare for a few months or a few decades, one thing’s for certain: you want to provide the best possible care for the children you work with. And if you can do that while also improving your career and self-confidence? Even better!

Professional development will let you do all of this and more. 

Here is a round-up of some of the biggest benefits of professional development: 

Develop Your Skills 
Childcare is a skilled job. You’re responsible for ensuring that the children in your care are safe, happy, and developing their social, physical, emotional, creative and intellectual capacities — and none of that is easy. 

In addition, there are immense differences between the needs of a two-year-old and a four-year-old child, and you might have children from different backgrounds and with different capabilities in your group. Add to that any potential problems at home or separation anxiety, and it becomes clear just how many skill sets a childcare worker might need to use every single day. 

Professional development will help you further polish these skills, whether you’re role-playing behaviour management strategies or honing your child protection responses. In doing so, it will set you up to better nurture the children under your care. 

Stay Up to Date 
Child development theory is constantly developing, and so are government regulations. National Quality Standards, health and safety guidance, inclusion programs, early learning practices for gifted children are just some of the topics which may have been updated since you last underwent training. 

Investing in professional development will help you stay informed and ensure compliance. From empowering children with learning disabilities by better meeting their needs to applying the latest childcare theories to play activities, you’ll be able to make sure that your little charges are safe, happy and developing.

Improve Your Career Opportunities 
Whether your aim is a pay rise, more responsibilities, a management or administration role or even to open your own childcare centre, professional development will help you achieve it.

It starts with the small things: impressing your boss with how well you handle tricky situations, how knowledgeable you are about childcare theories and regulations, and how you constantly suggest ways for the centre to improve. Then, when you apply for promotions or a new job, you have both the qualifications and the experience. 

And if one day you strike it out alone? You’ll have all the knowledge you need, thanks to the training you’ve attended.

Boost Your Confidence and Feel Fulfilled 
Childcare workers who have undertaken professional development are more likely to suggest innovative ideas, apply for promotions and handle stressful situations well. They have confidence in their knowledge and abilities, and they know their own value.

Professional development won’t just improve your self-confidence but it will also make your work more fulfilling. You’ll be constantly learning and growing. Plus, you’ll have the rewarding experience of seeing the improved development and happiness of the children under your care.

Professional development is a valuable investment for childcare workers. It will empower you to provide better care and education, advance in your career and know your self-worth.

At Kidsoft, our tools help childcare centres and workers focus on the things that matter, like making sure children are safe, healthy and happy. We do this by simplifying the admin processes and making sure you have all the knowledge you need ahead of each shift. Get in touch today to find out more about how we can help. 

5 Things Parents Look For In a Childcare Centre

Woman holding young baby girl

The big first day at a childcare centre can be nerve-wracking for everyone, not just the children. Parents and guardians want to know that their little ones are going to be looked after and cared for in the best way possible. Here are five things that they want to see in a childcare centre:

1. A Warm, Caring Environment
It’s no surprise that a 2019 YouGov Galaxy survey of working mums found that the most important factor for them in choosing a childcare centre was the “warmth of caregiving”.

We know that warm, caring environments help children grow up to be confident, mentally resilient, emotionally mature and kind. It helps them to learn better, make friends, and most importantly, be happy. 

During open days, parents and guardians will pay close attention to the atmosphere of the centre and how attached their children are to the carers and educators. When there are smiles and laughter all around, their minds are put at ease.

2. Valuable Learning Experiences 
Parents and guardians are increasingly aware of the fact that the early years are a valuable time for education. They want their children to have a head start in life, whether that means learning to count, picking up basic Spanish or Mandarin through the ELLA program, or something as simple as working on their creativity and motor skills. 

In addition, it’s also important for parents and guardians to know that their children are going to work on activities that will help them flourish in learning social skills, developing their emotional intelligence, and other soft skills. 

3. Frequent Updates About Their Children
Little updates can put parents’ and guardians’ minds at ease about their children’s time at daycare. Providing them with a video of their child singing the alphabet song, a quick message celebrating that they happily shared their toys today or even a photo of the tower they made with building blocks can make a huge difference in making them feel like their children are happy, growing emotionally, learning and making friends. 

The more a parent and guardian knows about what their child does at daycare, the more they can help them practise the same tasks and skills at home. What’s more, they will feel like they can trust you to communicate with them — whether the information is good or bad. They will also be more receptive to potential bad news because they know that you have their child’s best interests and wellbeing at heart. 

4. Flexibility
Life can be chaotic at times for everyone – but especially for working parents! They need flexibility and childcare that is going to make their life more manageable, not harder. For more than 1 in 3 working mums, flexibility is one of the top three factors they look for when choosing a childcare centre. 

Parents and guardians look for childcare centres that are going to accommodate their ever-changing schedules, everything from being able to amend existing bookings and signing up for half-days, to reshuffling their schedule on a weekly basis. Ideally, this would be without penalties or restrictively long notice periods.

5. Easy Enrolment, Booking and Payments
Is flexible booking really useful, if parents and guardians need to ring you between 3.00pm and 6.00pm on weekdays to make any changes? 

With tools like iEnrol, iCheck-In, and iParentPortal, parents and guardians can do everything online: enrolment, documentation, payment, booking and more. It’s quick, simple and easy. They won’t need to print off lengthy forms at the internet café or arrive at work late because there was a long queue to pay this month’s fees.

Get in touch with Kidsoft today to learn more about how we can help you provide better services for children and parents alike. A free demo can easily be set up for you to see for yourself. 

No such thing as TMI when it comes to new enrolments

Woman and man with young child

Many of our readers will be familiar with the acronym TMI, which stands for “too much information!” and is usually used when someone is telling us way more than we need to know about a personal or sensitive topic. 

When it comes to children newly enrolled in a childcare program, however, there is no such thing as TMI! 

While parents sometimes feel like they are sharing too much information about how their child sleeps, eats, and behaves, all of these “tips and tricks” are invaluable to educators, offering the next best thing to an instruction manual of preferences and personality quirks. 

Armed with information, educators are much more likely to settle children into care, and help them to be happy and safe. 

Once a family has made the decision to enrol in care, the transition process begins, and often involves two or more short visits to the service, which allow the child to get a feel for the space, and gives the parents the opportunity to ask any questions they may have of the team.

During transition visits, parents often spend time with the child in the room, observing the educators and the rhythm of the day. 

The transition process is also the time when educators can get to know the child’s individual routines, and learn a little more about them. 

Questions such as “how does X like to go to sleep?” or “what sort of games do you like to play at home?” show parents that educators care about them and their child, but also help educators to work with already established behaviours and routines, maintaining consistency between home and care. 

While specifics are recorded as part of the child’s enrolment paperwork, transition visits are an opportunity for parents to discuss things such as sleep, bottles, food and the kinds of activities their child likes.

These visits also allow educators to get a glimpse into how children may respond once they are enrolled in care permanently. Asking parents to step out of the room for five minutes gives educators the opportunity to observe how the child will manage the transition away from their parent, and to plan accordingly. 

While making the decision to allow someone outside of the child’s family to care for them is a monumental step for many parents, relationships are quickly established, allowing children to thrive in care. 

For more information about managing new enrolments, from an educator perspective, please see the further resources below. 

Settling toddlers into childcare 

Promoting positive education and care transitions 

Using mindfulness to help settle children into care

5 Ways To Improve Time Management In Your Childcare Centre

Female Teacher with young children

Time management is a common pain point for childcare centre managers: it just feels like you’re never going to reach the end of that lengthy to-do list. 

But the issue of time management is bigger than just your personal schedule. By utilising the latest time management tools and techniques, you can optimise your whole childcare centre, upping your productivity without hiring any more staff.

Here’s how. 

1. Keep a Time Log 

When it comes to tackling time management, there’s only one place to start: find out where all your time has been going. After all, you’ll only be able to organise your time once you have all the facts and stats of how long all your different tasks take, and where you’re losing time. Ask your team to record where they’re spending their own time too, so you can get an overview of the whole childcare centre. 

2. Prioritise

What are your priorities? The tasks that absolutely must get done in your childcare centre? Consult with your staff and make a list of these priorities. Assign them to yourself and members of your team. If you’re all accountable for one or two priorities each day, they’re much more likely to get completed. Once this is done, look at the next most important tasks, assign them between your team, and so on and so forth. Consider also whether there are any tasks that are surplus to requirements that you could cut or reduce the frequency of? 

3. Schedule Each Day

At first, scheduling may feel like it’s taking up more time than it gives you, but once you get into the swing of it, you’ll begin to feel its myriad benefits. Scheduling doesn’t have to be a headache — it’s less about huge books filled with indecipherable scrawl, and more about slick apps that make scheduling a cinch. 

Google Calendar is a great option: not only can you fill up your own calendar with tasks, but you can see each of the team’s own calendars. It’s super easy to assign workers to different rooms or tasks, and gives you a handy overview of where everyone should be at every point in the day.

4. Use Tools To Streamline Processes

We’re lucky enough to live in a world with numerous productivity tools that supercharge our manpower. Before you decide which is the right one for you, examine the current jobs and processes within the centre. Which are taking up too much time? Which could be streamlined? 

Often, the tasks taking up the most time include the endless admin that comes with running a childcare centre — such as registering children or taking bookings — and communicating with parents, whether due to an emergency, a change in plans, or simply to let them know how their little one got on that day. 

Tools like iCheck-In and iParentPortal tackle these admin and communication time drains by streamlining registration, booking, payment, and communication processes. 

5. Block Out ‘Do Not Disturb’ Time

If you’re the sort of childcare centre manager who is always on hand to help, this one can be tricky. But it is important. In many centres, while the team is busy caring for the little ones, the boss is sat in an office dealing with the business side of running a childcare centre. Wrapping your head around the myriad tasks that come with running a business is hard enough — and it can be near impossible with babies crying in the background or constant interruptions by staff asking questions. 

Set aside a day or two every week where you shut yourself away and stick a big ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door. Assign a different member of staff to man the phones and answer emails from parents. Delegate staff questions to the next most senior member of your team, and set out the exceptions to the rule — for example, if there is a genuine emergency, you will want to be disturbed. Not only will this help you get through your trickiest paperwork, but it will make you a better, more present manager the rest of the time. 

Interested in learning more about how tech can further help you improve your time management? Reach out to us at Kidsoft today!

Dial back the drop off drama! Simple tips to help children and families to settle in to care

Man and woman with two young children playing with blocks

For some children and families, the ‘daily drop off’ is a simple and quick process – a kiss on the cheek, and the child runs off to play. For other families, however, dropping children off for a day of fun can be anything but. 

For a number of different reasons, navigating the big feelings of drop off time is a complex mix of feelings, bribes, distractions, and long long looooong goodbyes!

There is a light at the end of the tunnel! These easy to implement tips can turn drop off from drama to dream.

Consistency

When children first start attending childcare, drop offs are crucial in helping them transition to care. If parents are anxious, and hovering ready to jump in at the first sign of distress, children will pick up on this. 

The aim should be for low key departures and excited reunions. If parents and families are able to consistently use the same routine and messaging when dropping their children off, putting all the emotional energy into a happy reunion, children will settle in to care much more quickly. 

Using the same language each day (“Mum is leaving for work now. Shall we stand at the fence and wave goodbye?”) can help children to feel more comfortable with transitions. 

Educators have a part to play here too. Wherever possible, educators should be consistently rostered in the same rooms at drop off times, so that the child and family have a familiar face to connect with. 

Keeping one or more activities or areas of the room the same can also be very calming for children – they then know where they can go in the room to engage with something comforting. 

Don’t be sneaky

While it can be tempting for families to “sneak off” once their child is engaged with an activity, this can do more harm than good in the long run. 

When parents sneak off, children respond by being hypervigilant the next time drop off happens, perpetuating the cycle of anxiety by clinging even tighter. 

Parents and caregivers should give children a warning that they will be leaving soon. Simple words on the journey to care, such as “First I’ll drop you off at childcare, then you’ll play with your friends. After lunch and a nap, I will come to pick you up again, and we will have spaghetti for dinner” can orientate the place of care in the child’s day. 

When it comes time for a parent to leave, the same technique can be used to create a smoother drop off process. 

“I’ll finish this puzzle with you, then I am going in to work. Do you see someone here you’d like to play with when I go?”

Communication

Communication, on both sides of the fence, is a really important component of the drop off process. 

Parents should communicate with educators, letting them know about any changes for the child since they were last in care.

Educators can communicate with children about what exciting things the day holds, and everyone involved can communicate with each other through tools such as Storypark, which gives parents a “real time” window into their child’s day, alleviating worries. 

Nothing soothes a worried parent mind more than a photo or video of the child they left crying 10 minutes ago happily engaged in play. 

Parents can also use resources such as Storypark to share more about their child’s world beyond childcare, making the transition from home to care even smoother. 

For more ideas on how to tackle drop off drama, see the further resources below: 

Settling your baby into childcare

How to deal with separation anxiety at childcare

Leaving your child for the first time: tips to help with the dropoff