This post is sponsored by Department of Education and Training
Are you a Mum or Dad to a bub or toddler who will be using child care this year? Putting your little one in care is not an easy decision to make, but with the never-ending number of tasks that pile up when you don’t get a moment to yourself, who can blame parents for wanting some time to focus on other aspects of their lives? I booked in my just turned 2-year-old twins in one day a week child care when my youngest was born, as I knew it was going to be a struggle to get out and about with 3 young kids, I wanted them to have some social interaction with other kids (none of my friends or family had kids which made this difficult). Having the kids at child care gave me some time to start and work on my business and organise all the other bits and bobs in my life. Although I have to tell you I had very mixed feelings about their first day, I did shed a tear, but I was also so excited for them and myself. Knowing that the twins were in a safe and happy environment where they were making friends and learning a thing or two was really comforting, so having that peace of mind made working on the business and managing day-to-day tasks a very welcome change.
I found child care had its benefits:
- Great way to build social skills – to interact with other kids their age
- Kids love routines – they looked forward to kindy days
- Academic structure as per appropriate curriculum – head start on learning
- Interaction with other adults – helps their social development
- Smoother transition into primary school – helps them build confidence for the next step
- Social benefits for parents – I enjoyed dropping off to kindy as I chatted with other mums and from there have some lovely friendships that continue today
- It gave me time – work on my business, do some housework and grab coffee with friends. I needed the time to allow my brain to adult again and not be always just about the kids.
Navigating the New Child Care Package
It’s essential to keep up to date with the current entitlements as this will help you to plan and budget your upcoming finances. From 2 July 2018, the Child Care Rebate and Child Care Benefit will be replaced by the single Child Care Subsidy. It’s worthwhile to get a good understanding of the changes and how they are going to help your family.
One of the biggest benefits of the new Child Care Subsidy is the removal of the annual cap for low and middle-income families. Last year all parents were restricted by the annual cap which limited families to only getting a maximum of $7,613 back, but now that the cap has been removed (if you earn under $185,710), this means families will be able to claim as much subsidy as they are entitled to without having to worry about the cap. Higher income families will still benefit because the current $7,613 cap will be increased to $10,000 per child per year. The extra money you’ll get as a result of the removal of the cap can be so helpful for your budget, you could choose to be practical and put it towards bills or groceries or perhaps use it for fun weekend activities with the kids. An estimator is available for families to get an idea of how much Government subsidy they may receive under the new package, take the online estimator here.
There are 3 things that will determine a family’s level of Child Care Subsidy:
1. Combined family income – A family’s income will determine the percentage of subsidy they are eligible for.
2. Activity level of both parents – Both parents in a family (unless you’re a single parent family) need to be doing an “activity” to be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy. The more hours of activity parents do, the more hours of subsidised care they can access. There’s actually a really wide range of activities that are recognised for the Child Care Subsidy, so take a look at the list on the Department’s website to see where you fit in. Activities can also be combined, when the twins started school I had my youngest in care as I spent many hours in a volunteer role at the school and had my own Tupperware business. So now, if you work 8 hours a week and volunteer 10 hours a week, both activity hours will be recognised to maximise the number of hours you can get subsidised care for. You can really work the system to your advantage by combining all the activity you do to get more hours of care – even travelling to and from child care to your place of activity counts for recognised hours!
3. Type of child care service – These days child care isn’t just limited to centre-based day care, there is also family day care and outside school hours care. Each of these different services have a different hourly rate cap, you can view the rates here.
There’s also a new Child Care Safety Net to ensure vulnerable children still get access to great quality early learning. This is a fantastic component as we want all children to succeed and have the best possible start in life.
Find out more information at education.gov.au/child care.
It is a tough decision to decide if you want to put your child into child care, emotionally and financially. I have put together some tips to help you and your child feel more at ease when the time comes.
1. Do some research
It’s essential to have a positive feeling about a centre, which is why I love that parents can visit centres to talk to the directors and teachers and get acquainted with the environment before making the big decision. Most centres will allow parents to attend with their child for a couple of hours to slot into the daily routine for a couple of days leading up to the child’s commencement date. It’s important to talk with your child about the exciting things they will do at child care, like painting, reading, making friends, eating lunch with their friends and try to add into the conversation about when you come to pick them up in the afternoon what exciting things you may do together at home or on the way home.
2. Child Care Routines
Most centres will be happy to support your child’s daily routine. This will help your child understand the daily tasks and get used to having morning tea at a particular time, play time, sleep time etc. This will continue throughout schooling, and most children love a routine.
My kids have used my routine charts since they started kindy… well I made them a few weeks after I realised I was continually repeating myself and getting cranky at the same time. Find more details about these routine charts here.
3. Have everything for lunch boxes in one place
Some Child Care Centres provide a cooked meal. But if you do take along a packed lunch for your child, being prepared is the way to go. We make lunches the night before to make our busy mornings easier. I say we, as my kids are now old enough to make their own lunches. But back in the day, I found my mornings easier if I made them the night before, leaving them in the fridge overnight. However, at times this wasn’t possible, and I had to make them that morning. I keep all lunchboxes, lunch bags, plastic cutlery, silicon cases etc. in one cupboard, so I don’t have to go hunting, saves so much time and makes the process easier.
It’s important to find a lunch box that your child can open easily. See my recent guide to choosing the best lunchbox for your child here.
4. Checklists to make your mornings chaos free
When the kids were younger, I would often blame forgetfulness on ‘mummy brain’. I no longer have little kids, and I am still just as forgetful but can’t use that as a viable excuse anymore being that my kids are all teenagers. Anyways… moral of that story is that I relied heavily on checklists then and still now, I would have a list of everything that I needed to pack into the kid’s kindy bags. Not only was this great for me, but if I happened to be having a sleep in… gasp…. and hubby was taking the kids he knew what to pack and didn’t have to wake me.
Check with your Child Care centre if they have a list of essentials to bring each day, although I have put together a checklist to help you pack the essentials for your little one’s child care bag.
DOWNLOAD: thanks to the Department of Education and Training you can use coupon code CHILDCARE to download this checklist for free until 28th February 2018. Click here to download from my shop.
It’s important to label everything that goes to Child Care with your child. This will eliminate lost property, as well as help the Teachers determine who it belongs to with ease. Find some of my labelling tips here.
Some products I can recommend for the kid’s backpack:
5. Be prepared for drop off
Be prepared for the first drop off and understand that almost ALL parents go through this and you are not a bad person for walking away while your child may be crying as you walk out the room.
In the lead up to this day, keep talking to your child about the process. That you will help unpack their bag and see what all the children are doing before you say good morning to the teacher and that perhaps he/she could wave at the gate with the teacher. Some children will respond better if you stay with them for 5 minutes and read a book or an activity. As you and your child settle in and become more comfortable, you may be able to leave more quickly. Always ensuring you let your child know when you are going and that you will be back this afternoon. Give your child a kiss and hug, before leaving him/her with the teacher as you say bye.
If you are feeling worried or anxious, most Child Care centres will encourage the parents to call so they can let you know how your child has settled in.
What do you do with your day’s when your little one is in child care?
This post is run in accordance with my disclosure policy.