- Is the indoor and outdoor environment spacious, bright and welcoming?
- Are the premises in good repair, clean, secure and safe?
- Do all children have easy access to the toys and learning materials?**
- Is there evidence of the children's work displayed throughout the service?
- What learning opportunities are offered through the curriculum, e.g. physical play, outdoor play, individual activity, group activity, creative activities, construction opportunities? Etc.
- Do the children seem content, comfortable and happy in their surroundings?
- Can you observe caring and respectful interactions between adults and children?
- How is daily information about children communicated to parents/guardians, i.e. diaries, scrapbooks, etc.*
- What will a typical day for my child look like? Is independence promoted and encouraged?
- How will staff help my child during the settling in process?
- How often do the children go outside?
- What curriculum approach is used?
- How many children in your child's age group are being cared for in the room?
- How do staff manage difficult or challenging behaviour?
- Do I need to make an appointment to visit the service?***
- Am I allowed to enter the service?
You will need to consider the health guidance on non-essential visitors to a service during COVID- 19, please contact your service providers directly for guidance on visiting the service.
*Communication with parents throughout the period of COVID-19 remains essential and a service provider should choose the means of communication which best suits their parents and carers. Information may be provided through the website, email, on-line platforms, phone calls, video and text messaging systems. (FAQ on Practices on Reopening of Early Learning and Care settings, 2020)
**During health guidance for COVID-19, the “play pod” model is a safe and playful approach to restricting interactions between closed groups of children and adults-in this way there will be limits to interactions between children in different play pods and to the sharing of toys outside of the individual pod. This public health guidance is subject to change.
***During Covid-19, parents visiting for meetings with staff should be by appointment when possible and should be facilitated in a way that observes social distancing requirements due to COVID-19 guidance. (Infection Prevention and Control Guidance Emergency Early Years settings providing childcare during COVID-19 V1.2 31.07.2020) Infection control guidance is subject to change.
- Entry and exit points to building and rooms that are clear and clutter free.
- An area that displays information about who is the designated person in charge.
- An area that displays information about who is the First Aid Officer, the Health and Safety Officer and the Designated Liaison Person for Child Protection concerns.
- Evidence of fire safety procedures such as fire evacuation assembly points, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, fire exits, record of fire drills and record of evacuation procedures.
- Outdoor play area, nappy changing area, sleeping and resting facilities that are safe and appropriate.
- Hygienic food preparation areas that are inaccessible to the children.
- Who has access to the building?
- Is there a safety statement and can you view it?
- Is food prepared on the premises?
- Transport: Is there a school drop off/collection service in place? Does the vehicle have seatbelts and /or booster seats as appropriate? Is the vehicle appropriately insured with a qualified driver and staff member?
- Child Safeguarding: Is there a Child Safeguarding Statement in place? Is there a procedure for reporting child protection concerns? Have staff attended child protection training and hold up-to-date certification? Is there a Designated Liaison Person and Deputy Designated Liaison Person? Have all staff been Garda Vetted and references checked?
- Drop off and Collection policy: Who can collect your child? What measures are in place to ensure only those authorised to collect your child have access to your child? Are there late collection penalties?
What measures are in place to drop off and collect children safely during COVID-19?*
- Illness and Exclusion policy: What is the setting’s illness policy and their policy around the administration of medication? What are the exclusion periods for illnesses? What happens if my child falls ill on the premises? If my child has specific medical needs, how will they be accommodated?
Is there changes to the illness and exclusion policies due to COVID-19?
What is the procedure for a suspected/ confirmed case of COVID-19 within the setting?
- Accident / incident / emergency care: What procedures are in place in the event of a medical emergency? At what stage of an emergency will you be contacted? How are you informed of any incidents/accidents relating to your child?
- Outings: Are the children taken on outings? How frequent are the outings? What is the adult to child ratios while off the premises? Are these outings covered by insurance? Ask to see the Outings Policy.
- Healthy eating policy: Do parents supply food or does the service provide food? Are there sample menus available to view? Can the service cater for specific dietary requirements that your child may have? What are the meal times? What happens if your child does not eat their dinner? What types of drinks and snacks are permitted in the service? Is water available throughout the day?
*Your service provider will talk to you about the arrangements in place at your setting for dropping off and picking up. Parents should follow the service’s Drop Off and Collection policy. During this period of COVID-19, it is important that parents and guardians are physically distance from each other and from staff when dropping off and collecting their children. (FAQ on Practices on Reopening of Early Learning and Care settings, 2020) This guidance is subject to change.
- Confirmation from the designated person in charge that all staff meet the qualification requirement, are Garda Vetted and Police Vetted (where necessary), and references are checked before working with the children.
- Adequate number of adults in each room to meet the adult:child ratio requirements as set out in the Early Years Regulations 2016 and School-Age Childcare Regulations 2018
- Staff that are positively interacting with the children and colleagues, e.g. at the child's level, positive verbal and body language, and communication that is respectful and encouraging.
- Signs of a professional and caring approach to working with children, colleagues and you as a potential parent of a child in their care.
- Who will be looking after your child?
- Does the setting operate a "Play Pod" system and how does it work?*
- Is there a high turnover of staff?
- Are the staff Garda Vetted and references checked as required by the Early Years Regulations 2016? Do new staff members complete an induction followed by adequate supervision?
- Is there a designated person in charge on the premises at all times during hours of operation?
- What opportunities are there for parents/guardians to get involved with the service (e.g. outings, plays, family events, etc.)?
- How are concerns about children, staff or the service dealt with? Is there a complaints policy/procedure?
*During health guidance for COVID-19, the 'Play Pod' model is a safe and playful approach to restricting interactions between closed groups of children and adults as an alternative to social distancing, which is not possible with young children. The purpose of 'play-pods' is to limit the number of people a child has contact with, to facilitate contact tracing, and to support close, positive interactions between children and their adult caregivers, like in a key-worker system, which is characteristic of many childcare settings. This system will also reduce the amount of contact adults have with each other. (FAQ on Practices on Reopening of Early Learning and Care settings, 2020) This guidance is subject to change.
- What is the weekly/monthly charge for the childcare you require? How often are fees paid? What is the preferred method of payment? What period of notice do I need to provide when I no longer need childcare?
- Is a deposit required? When is the deposit refunded? Always ask for a receipt of deposit.
- Are there any extra/optional charges e.g. late collection, additional hours?
- What are the payment arrangements regarding holidays, e.g. Christmas and mid-terms?
- If transport is supplied to and from school, is this an extra cost?
- Does the service participate in any of the Childcare Funding programmes? Are you eligible for any of the programmes? Information on the various Childcare Funding programmes are detailed in this guide.
When you have visited services, you may feel you are in a better position to choose the right one for your child and family.
Once you have chosen a service, there are some simple steps to take next:
- Contact the service provider to begin the enrolment process.
- When paying a deposit, ask for a receipt and be clear of the criteria around refundable/non- refundable deposits. Please note: Deposits for ECCE only sessions cannot be more than the amount paid to the service by the Government for 4 weeks of ECCE sessions for your child.
- If your child's name is placed on a waiting list, ask for written confirmation and for the service's procedure in managing the waiting list.
- Arrange a start date and settling in period in line with the procedures of the service.
- Prepare your child for their new experience by talking about the service, what they might do there, about their new teacher and friends they will make.
- Share as much relevant information as possible with the staff caring for your child such as any illnesses, allergies or medical needs, likes and dislikes, eating and sleeping patterns, etc.
Ensure you have enough time to do this. The more information you provide about your child the easier it is for staff to meet your child’s needs, and the easier it is for your child to transition from home to the service.
- Ensure the service is provided with everything they require to care for your child such as nappies, food, bottles, etc.
- Request a copy of the policies and procedures.
- If you are availing of a funding programme, ask for clarification on the associated notice period (e.g. if you choose to move to another service, what is the notice period and if the funding stays with the child or with the service in these instances).
If you have any queries related to the Early Learning and Care sector, contact your local City/County Childcare Committee, contact details are