Making the Choice

Information on how to make the best possible choice of childcare for your child.

Making a Start

> Check in with Early Childhood Ireland – we can provide advice and information. Use our Childcare Search.

>  The Child and Family Agency (TUSLA) in Ireland regulates and inspects all pre-school childcare services. Check out their website for more information.

Other sources for locating Early Years Services include:

> County Childcare Committees

> Local newspaper advertising

> Work place notice-boards

> Recommendations by friends or family

Checklist Before your Visit

This list should include all the childcare options that are convenient to you. Should you find that there are no services close to your home, some alternatives could be those located en-route to or nearby your place of work or training.

Save time – by telephoning and asking a few key questions, such as:

> Are they a member of Early Childhood Ireland or any other professional body?

> Is there a place available for your child?

> Have they fulfilled their legal obligation to register with Tusla?

> Will the Service provide you with their latest Tusla Inspection Report?

> What are the opening hours of the service?

> Do they offer the ECCE scheme or an early education programme, and for what ages does it apply?

> Have they signed up to the More Affordable Childcare Scheme?

> What is their cost structure?

> Can they send you out a brochure or their website link to review before your visit?

Visiting the Service

Visiting a service for the first time is an exciting experience. During your visit it is important to gather the information you require, through observation and by asking questions. If you forget to ask a question – ring back later for clarification.

Preparing for your Visit

> Make a fixed appointment, this way the manager will have time to spend with you and answer all your questions

> Have your list of questions ready

> Bring a pen and paper to take notes on any questions that may occur to you during your visit

> If possible bring your child and a friend or family member with you, to get a real feel for the service


What Should you Expect when Visiting a Service

Make sure that you allow yourself time to look around to see the facilities, to see  staff working  with children and to sit down and discuss your requirements with the manager or owner. Remember it is unlikely that every service will offer everything that you require, so choose the one that best meets your needs.

The Premises

The service should be large enough to offer freedom and space to each child, yet the area should not be so large as to hinder supervision.

What you Should See

> An environment that encourages and provides opportunities for children to play
> A clean, spacious and child-friendly environment.
> Bright and stimulating rooms.
> For infants and young children, a quiet and comfortable sleeping area.

What you Need to Know

> The service meets its statutory and good practice requirements
> How age groups are mixed or managed in the service (integrated or in separate areas)
> The spaces both indoors and outdoors that your child will be in while attending the service
> Do siblings get to meet and play together at times during the day?


The premises should have an overall sense of order and cleanliness that is balanced with a sense of creativity and fun. Remember, the facility is for children and children’s play can sometimes look chaotic and be messy. The specific facilities that you require will depend on the age of your infant, toddler or pre-school child.

What you Should See

> Materials for interactive play and learning activities
> Equipment and space for art and creative work
> Construction and block equipment for building
> Puzzles and table top toys
> A quiet area for rest and relaxation
> Sufficient materials, toys and equipment available to children

What you Need to Know

> A good variety and quantity of play equipment, materials and toys are available to all children
> All the equipment in the  service is safe and well maintained
> Each age group has access to a range of stimulating equipment and toys
> The provision in place for sleep or rest is suitable for your child’s routine and requirements
> There is a policy around the use of radio, TV, video and technology in the service

Food Preparation and Diet

What you Should See

> A separate kitchen area that is inaccessible to children
> Babies’ bottles, if supplied by parents, are stored in fridges and correctly labelled
> A designated area for preparation of baby food and sterilising equipment
> A safe and hygienic system for the handling and storage of all food
> Cleaning and sterilising chemicals are stored separately from food and drinks
> A sample menu is available for you to see

What you Need to Know

> The schedule for snacks and meals during the day
> Who supplies the food? Is it you, the service or is it brought in by another company? If you are not providing the food, what steps are in place to ensure your child receives a nutritionally balanced diet?
> That children do not have access to the food preparation or storage areas
> That the menus are balanced and varied.
> That the menu does not include junk or processed food on a regular basis
> Special dietary requirements are catered for and understood by all staff
> The only drinks offered during the day are milk, water and natural fruit juices
> If you are still breast-feeding, that adequate provisions are in place such as a quiet area for feeding

The Curriculum/Programme

The service you are happiest with should offer a curriculum that includes physical activity, play, quiet time, group and individual activities, creative activities, meals, snack time and free time. Children of all ages learn through play, so look out for services that place high value on children simply doing activities they enjoy. The programme offered by the service should be flexible enough to respond to your child’s needs and there should be some activities through the year that include you as a parent.

What you Should See

> Children engaged, playing and learning through play
> Examples of children’s work on display and shared with parents (individual and group work)
> Both child-led and adult-led activities with play supported by the adults.

What you Need to Know

> How does the service use Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum, to guide their work in supporting children’s learning and development
> The type of programme/curriculum that the service offers (for example Play-Based, Montessori or High Scope)
> The programme/curriculum that  is in place for the Under 3’s

The Atmosphere

What you Should See

> Children and adults playing, talking and listening together
> A warm and loving fun atmosphere where you feel your child will flourish and grow
> Children looking comfortable and relaxed
> Friendly, welcoming and attentive staff who are available to and relaxed with the children

What you Need to Know

> The number of children in the group
> The approach used in helping children manage their own behavior, which is agreed and shared with parents
> Good communication is encouraged between children
> How the service and the staff will manage and settle children who are upset either coming in or during the day.

The Staff

What you Should See

> Staff being attentive and listening to the children
> Staff communicating children at the child’s level
> Staff dealing with issues as they arise
> Staff being friendly and interested in you and your child
> A notice-board showing the staff/child ratio for each area in the nursery

What you Need to Know

> The staff member that will be looking after your child (A key staff member is allocated to each child)
> Staff members are experienced and trained childcare professionals
> The staff has all mandatory training undertaken (for example, first aid and child protection training)
> Student workers or those on placement are not left unsupervised or in sole charge of children
> The service has an acceptable rate of staff turnover. This is particularly important for younger infants where one to one bonding is vital

Communication/Parental Involvement

What you Should See

> A policy welcoming and actively promoting parental involvement
> The system for receiving feedback and information relating to your child
> Practical opportunities to get involved in the life of the service (for example outings, activities or parent committees)
> Time and opportunities to discuss your child’s learning, development and well-being
> Regular written communication from the service to parents e.g. newsletters

Health and Safety

What you Should See

> A visible safety statement and evidence of a system in place.
> No accessible flexes, sockets or trailing cables.
> An accident and incident book.
> Evidence of fire safety equipment.
> Clearly marked and accessible emergency exits.
> No broken or dangerous equipment or toys.

What you Need to Know

> Does the service have public liability insurance?
> Is there a written policy for reporting accidents or incidents to parents?
> Is there regular fire drills or fire inspections?
> What is the procedure for emergencies; under what circumstances will the service contact you?

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