Choosing a service for your child
There are different kinds of early childhood education available, and you can choose the service that best meets your child and family’s needs.
Aside from helping your child learn, early childhood education can also support your child to become more independent, to make new friends and to transition to school.
There is more information about the benefits of early childhood education in the early childhood education section of our website.
You can also use the department’s guide to choosing a quality service to help to decide what service is best for your child.
Types of early childhood education providers
Long day care
Long day care services operate for most of the weeks of the year, and are open for approximately 10 - 12 hours a day. They generally take children from 6 weeks of age, and your child can attend for some or all of the day.
At a long day care service, your child will have the chance to meet a larger number of other children and be cared for by different educators.
For preschool aged children, long day care centres and preschools should have similar educational options. However, long day care centres will make allowances for children spending more time at the service.
You may be able to get fee help for these services through the Australian Government's Child Care subsidy.
Long day care centres can apply for government funding to help support children with additional needs. They can make reasonable adjustments to help your child learn and join in activities on the same basis as the other children.
If your child is eligible, they might also be able to receive support from a support teacher at their long day care centre, family day care or preschool, as part of the department’s early intervention resource support.
Family day care
Family day care services can take children from the age of six weeks until the age of 12. They can run outside business hours and on weekends, depending on when the educator is available.
In a family day care service, your child is cared for by an individual educator in their own home, with a small group of other children of different ages. Family day care can be more flexible than long day care centres, but you may have to find back-up care if the educator is sick or away.
You may be able to access the Child Care Subsidy to help with the cost of family day care, and family day care providers can access funding to support children with additional needs, including putting in place reasonable adjustments for your child.
In-home care allows families who are in a remote location, have complex needs or work non-standard hours to get early childhood education and care for their children.
It is aimed at families of children who can't go to other types of early childhood education outside the home. This can include a family with a child with additional needs or disability, who cannot be cared for in other types of childcare, government or community services.
Eligible families may also be able to access the child care subsidy to help with the cost of In home care.
You can find out more about access in home care though the In Home Care Support Agency.
Preschools are usually for children aged three and above, and there are several kinds that run in NSW.
Community based, not-for-profit preschools have any surplus funds raised by their fee put back into the preschool. There are two types:
- Stand alone, where the preschool is often managed by a committee made up of parents and community members, and
- Sponsored, where several preschools are run by an organisation, such as the local council, with parents and community members sometimes being advisors.
There are also:
- Department of Education preschools: The Department of Education runs 101 preschools across NSW, which enrol children for one year in the year before they start school. These preschools give priority to children from financially disadvantaged families and children living within their catchment area.
- Preschool services run by long day care centres.
The Early Childhood Education Disability and Inclusion Program gives funding to help children with disability or additional needs join in an early childhood education program. It helps community preschools to support these children with their participation at preschool .
The department also runs early intervention classes for eligible preschool-aged children, which children can attend alongside their regular early childhood education service.
Disability-specific early childhood education services
There are also some early childhood services designed specifically for children with disability - for example, for children with autism or high support needs. Your local NDIS Early Childhood Partner will be able to tell you what is available in your local area.
Use the NDIS website to find an Early Childhood partner in your area.
What to consider when choosing a service for your child
Aside from the service’s location, cost, and rating, it is also worth thinking about what you'd like the service to do for your child. Do you want it to:
- Look after your child and give them the chance to play with other children?
- Give your child a specialised education?
- Introduce your child to a range of new people, or care for them in a smaller group?
- Have educators who have experience teaching children with disability?
- Be an environment specially designed for children with a specific disability?
When speaking to the services you are interested in for your child, you can ask them:
- Have they had experience in caring for children with additional needs?
- How would they approach looking after your child's eating, sleeping and toileting needs?
- How would they make sure your child is fully included?
What kind of education do early childhood education services give your child?
All early childhood education services must provide an education program using the Belonging, Being and Becoming Early Years Learning Framework.
This is a set of guidelines that has been developed to support your young child’s learning and help them make the transition to school.
This Framework has five learning outcomes for all children, which are developing:
- a strong sense of identity
- connections with their world
- a sense of wellbeing
- confidence in their learning
- good communication skills.
The Framework communicates the highest expectations for all children’s learning from birth to five years, and places children's learning and development at the core.
Children are viewed as active participants in their learning and have the right to participate in decisions that affect them.
The framework can support your child’s understanding about themselves and develop attributes such as confidence, engagement, collaboration, creativity and imagination. The Framework sets children up to become lifelong learners.
Find out more about Belonging, Being & Becoming - The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia and what it means for families at the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and employment website.
All approved early childhood education services are rated against the National Quality Standard. You can find the ratings on a certificate which is on display at the front of the service itself.
You can also see these ratings using Service NSW’s Early Childhood Education and Care finder.