Updated 07 October 2016

Choosing the right day-care centre for your child

Many parents, single parents included, face the dilemma of finding proper day-care for their children.


Here's a checklist on choosing the right day-care centre for your child:

Economic realities and the spiralling cost of living have resulted in most South African households needing a dual income to survive. Consequently, many parents, single parents included, face the dilemma of finding proper day-care for their children.

In many cases, relatives are available to take over the childcare duties of the parents, but many have to look further afield to find proper care for their children.

If a person is looking after six or more children, they are required by law to be registered, to have certain facilities and a certain level of training. There are regulations with regards to space, toilets and washbasins as well as prescribed menus to be followed if a day-care centre receives a food subsidy from the Provincial Administration. The extensive requirements are laid down in a manual titled “Early Childhood Development” issued by the Department of Health and Social Services. This manual is available on request should parents wish study it.

The most important stipulations regarding sanitation are that there should be one commode/ potty for every five children and one toilet for every 20 children. The sanitation type is determined by that which is in use in the area in which the facility is situated. There should be one hand basin for every 20 children.

There must also be at least two square metres per baby and one and a half square metres per toddler. If there is no outdoor space, one square metre of space must be added per child to the indoor space.

The kitchen must be separate from the playing area and there must be a sickbay. The menu, which must be available on request, must contain the following foodstuffs:

  • Beans
  • Brown bread
  • Cereal products
  • Cheese
  • Cooking oil
  • Eggs
  • Fresh fruit
  • Jam
  • Margarine
  • Meat, fish and chicken
  • Milk
  • Peanut butter
  • Potatoes
  • Sugar
  • Tea
  • Vegetables

Details regarding the number of servings of each of the above can be obtained from the Department of Health and Social Services.

These are questions you could ask to make sure your child is getting the care you are paying for:

  • What does the daily programme look like?
  • Is the person looking after the children a trained caregiver?
  • Who will stand in for this person if she gets ill?
  • Are there other adults on the premises during the day who are not involved with the running of the day-care centre?
  • How many children are catered for at the day-care centre?
  • Who decides on the menus and their nutritional value?
  • Does the caregiver have any first aid training?
  • What will this person do if there is a crisis of any sort?
  • Are parents welcome to drop in any time?
  • What would the caregiver do if your one-year-old drew on the wall?
  • What is the policy with regards to illness?
  • Are the other children vaccinated against diseases such as polio and smallpox?
  • What stimulating educational activities are there for the children?
  • Are the fees payable per month or per term?
  • What is the ‘notice period’?
  • What are the opening and closing times?
  • How much will parents have to pay extra if they are late in fetching their children?
  • How safe is the outdoor playing area and what sort of ongoing supervision is there when children are playing outside?
  • Are any active steps taken to ensure that no bullying takes place?
  • What happens when it rains?
  • What sort of security is there on the perimeter of the property?
  • What is the procedure if someone else needs to drop off or collect the child?Remember that you are the client, you are paying for the service and your child deserves proper care and attention when you are not around.

Feel free to go with your child to a few places and see where he or she feels most at home. After all, it is not you who will spend 40 hours a week there!

(Health24, updated October 2009)

Read more:
Childcare at home the best option?
How to choose a babysitter you can trust


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