With so many types of early childhood education and care services out there, how do you know which is which? It can be confusing, to say the least. In this blog, I intend to shed a bit of light on the subject and clear up a bit of the confusion.
In my many years working in Long Day Care, Family Day Care and Pre-school, I have found that Long Day Care and Pre-school have a similar sort of environment with a few differences, whereas Family Day Care is entirely different. However, all three programs follow the same National Quality Standards, Early Years Learning Frameworks, and National Education and Care services regulations and laws.
Here is a quick overview of Long Day Care, Pre-School and Family Day Care from my experience.
Long Day Care
Can be community-based, not-for-profit or privately owned.
- Children can attend full-time or part-time. It is not uncommon for Long Day Care to be open for up to 10 hours or more per day, usually from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm and staff work in shifts.
- Provides care for children aged from 6 weeks to 5 years.
- Uses child-centred / child-initiated approach.
- Children are served three meals a day at regular intervals.
- The program is flexible, children learn through play.
- Children also get immense opportunities to socialise with other children in Long Day Care as opposed to family day care where the maximum number is seven.
- Many Long Day Care centres also offer kindergarten or pre-school programs, which are run by qualified early childhood teachers. That means children will benefit from an approved program within a familiar environment and parents don’t have to pick their child up at 3 pm from pre-school and drop them off at Long Day Care In this way, Long Day Care services meets the needs of most families.
However, along with the benefits of Long Day Care, there are some drawbacks as well. For instance, children can feel very tired due to the long hours compared to pre-school where children may only have to stay for five hours - it finishes early and the children may feel happy and more relaxed.
Offers early childhood education to children ages 3-5 years old prior to the beginning of formal education at primary school.
- Experienced early childhood teachers run the program and it is highly structured as the focus is on getting the children “school ready”.
- Pre-school programs run for fixed hours; the children arrive together and leave together just like a school.
- Meal times are more relaxed, with children bringing their lunches from home. There are no set timings to have their lunch. Most centers prefer children to have lunch at the same time while others prefer progressive lunches.
- In Pre-school programs, children are more independent in regard to their self-help skills. No nap time for children unless requested by parents.
Most parents find it hard to send their children to Pre-school due to the disparity between the timings even though their first preference is usually a Pre-school program. Some parents use a mix of both Long Day Care and Pre-school depending on their work routine and child care benefits / child care rebate.
Family Day Care
Flexible home-based care to children in educators’ own homes. Educator works alone as a sub-contractor with a Family Day Care scheme.
- The educators may provide care for up to seven children, including their own, in accordance with National regulations (four under school age and 3 school age children).
- Hours of care vary and are negotiated with the scheme’s supervisor or between the carer and the parent.
- Do not offer kinder/preschool programs.
- Most Family Day Care services are approved childcare services and are eligible for Childcare benefits and Childcare rebate.
- Children benefit from homely environment and lots of excursions on a day-to-day basis to the library, shopping centre, play grounds etc. However, children get little opportunity to socialise with other kids of same age and develop their social skills.
Family Day Cares work under the same umbrella as Long Day Care and Pre-school. The same standards are required and the same rules and regulations are applied to Family Day Cares. To support Family Day Care educators, one field coordinator is allocated by the Family Day Care service who visits monthly to ensure home safety and compliance issues are being observed by the educator and to provide support with planning and documentation.
One big difference in the above services is the cost involved and the affordability for the parents. Family Day Care costs quite a bit less than Long Day Care or Pre-school. On the other hand, Family Day Care has only one educator that is involved in caring for children. Some parents may be apprehensive about the quality of care their child will receive and child protection issues and as a result, they may prefer to send their children to Long Day Cares and Pre-schools.
The best solution for parents regarding their child’s care is to spend some time and consider what suits their interests and needs and then decide.
The same goes for new educators or students while choosing their career path. Examine the characteristics of each type of early childhood education and care service and choose the one that suits them best according to their own passions and interests.