All about child care

Child care provides opportunities for children to engage with other children the same age.

By Melissa Grant

Many Australian families use child care.

Child care provides opportunities for children’s development and social engagement, while allowing parents to engage in paid work.

It encourages play, can help children socialise with others their own age, foster independence and ease the transition into full-time school.

Child care options in Australia include centre-based care, home-based care and family day care.

In 2017 there were around three in five children aged 0-4 (59 per cent or 925,000 children) attending some form of child care, according to Australia’s Children Report 2020.

It was estimated that 72 per cent of kids aged two were in child care.

Home-based care is when a relative, usually a grandparent, a friend, babysitter or nanny cares for your child at your family home.

Family day care is care provided by an approved carer in their home.

Centre-based care includes long day care, kindergartens/preschools and occasional care. In Victoria, kindergarten programs are offered at child care centres and standalone kindergarten centres.

What type of child care you choose will depend on how many hours of care you require each week, your family values, the cost and what you want your child to experience.

Long day care at child care centres, for example, typically suit parents who work weekdays, want structure and are happy for their child to play and socialise with lots of other kids.

If you are after long-day care, or think you may use it, it pays to put your child’s name down on waiting lists to ensure you can get the days you are after, and to apply for the Child Care Subsidy as soon as possible.

While the number of children in child care dropped last year as Covid hit, attendance rates are pretty much back to normal.

In fact, the number of parents using child care services has mostly returned to pre Covid-19 rates despite parents having better access to working from home arrangements, according to a Family Studies (AIFS) report.

“Many parents initially withdrew their children from childcare in response to a range of factors, including parental job losses, increased rates of working at home, and financial and health concerns,” lead researcher Dr Jennifer Baxter said.

“Parents deciding to return to using formal child care reflects the important role that child care services have in contributing to children’s wellbeing and development and supporting parents’ employment.”