Guide: Different Types of Childcare & What’s Best for Your Family

Most parents choose to book their kids into childcare for any of the following reasons:

  • They can’t be in two places at once (at work and at home with kids)
  • They want to invest in their child’s development and social skills
  • They need time to themselves to rest or run errands without kids around
  • They might need to focus on a smaller sibling (often a new baby) without the older child around
  • There’s not always family/friends available who can help out

Fortunately, there are lots of wonderful childcare option here in Australia for parents to choose from. So, you can usually find the right childcare solution for your situation. But the problem with lots of options is that it can be a little overwhelming at first. It’s just not practical to look into every possible option.

Narrowing your childcare choices down to a single category that you know is going to work best for your situation can make it a lot easier to pick out just a few candidates in your local area. So today, we’re going to talk through the different types of childcare to help you decide what’s best for you.

Before & After School Care

Usually this type of care is for kids who would are school aged (from prep upwards). Usually this type of care runs from 7-9am before school starts, and then from 3-6pm after school finishes. This type of care is most often used by parents who need to head to work before school starts or don’t finish work until later in the afternoon.

The benefit of this type of care is that kids can easily transition to and from the classroom without parents needing to be there or provide the transport. Because the care is only for a couple of hours, activities are usually play-based in a supervised environment.

Your child may be provided meals, depending on the time they are in care, or the type of provider, so please check this with individual centres.

Need before & after school care recommendations? Take a look at our listings here.

Family Daycare

Family Daycare Centres offer care and learning for children within the home of the carer, who is a qualified and registered provider. FDC is usually a more close-knit group, with limits on the number of children who can be in care at a time (no more than 7 in total, including 4 younger than school age).

FDC offers a degree of flexibility, including part days, full days, overnight, and weekend options, depending on the availability and working hours of the carer.

Families who choose FDC love the familiarity of having their child cared for in a home, and the ability to get to know the carer personally. It should feel like you’re dropping your child off with a trusted family member.

Although FDC is a little more relaxed and homely than centre care, educators are monitored and must adhere to national standards to help ensure the safety and quality of your child’s care.

Sonia from Harmony Kids Day Care creates a stimulating environment where children can learn through play. They aim to promote a child’s awareness of the environment through the physical environment and teaching interactions and also provide a balance of indoor and outdoor activities.

Harmony Kids Day Care provide an environment where the children can experiment, explore and develop their inquisitive nature. They provide children with opportunities to problem solve and make decisions in a safe environment.

Interested in checking out some of the best family daycares? Have a look here.

Long Daycare Centre

Long Daycare Centres offer professional care for parents who need someone to take care of their child for longer than the standard centre hours. These centres are open at least 10 hours each day during the week, but are often open for even longer to accommodate parents’ busy work schedules.

Meals are often provided, but this will vary, so it’s best to check if you’re not sure.

Most Long Daycare centres include an education component with age-appropriate activities. Usually children who attend long day care are not yet old enough for school, though some daycares cater for up to 12 years old.

Long Daycare can be an ideal option if you can’t pick up or drop your child off during standard hours due to other commitments.

Leah from Zig And Zag Long Day Care provides care in a small family-owned child care centre which provides a fun, caring and homely environment for your little one.

They place importance on play-based learning which has long been proven as an effective way for children to learn. They provide a socially inviting environment with positive and meaningful interactions from educators and peers.

Zig & Zag child care centre provides children with new experiences through indoor and outdoor learning, media and technology, music and movement, nature and sustainability as well as excursions and incursions, ensuring each child has a meaningful, all-encompassing learning experience.

Take a look at our recommended Long Daycare listings here.

Occasional Care

Occasional Care is very similar to other types of professional Daycare, with age-appropriate programs, but on a casual basis.

Parents who might be interested in Occasional Care could be shift workers, anyone who has casual or less predictable work hours, or families who might only need someone to watch their kids once in awhile. For example, you might have an appointment to attend, or need to travel a long distance to complete an errand.

To check out our list of Occasional Care providers, head here.


Preschool is designed for children who are at least 4 years old by June 30th in the year they participate, but who aren’t yet at school.

Generally, preschools operate during school hours (approximately 8:30-2:30) and school terms, and focus on providing education through play-based learning to get them ready for early primary school years. Children do not usually attend every single day, but average 5 days per fortnight.

Interested in finding out more? Take a look at our Preschools here.

Vacation Care

Vacation Care is a specific type of outside school hours care that is run during school holidays. Usually these programs include a mixture of inside and outside activities, and are primarily play/activity focused, rather than strictly educational.

Usually Vacation Care is located within school grounds and offers care for children aged 5-12.

This type of care is often essential for parents who are unable to take time off work to care for their children during school holidays.

To take a look at our vacation care providers, head over here.

What’s right for YOU?

I hope that by now, you have a pretty good idea of the type(s) of childcare that are going to work in with your family’s current situation. You might need just one, or you might call on a mixture of childcare types.

Take your time with researching, visiting, and trying out centres to see if they are a good fit for you and your child. It’s also worth realising that you might need to change to a different centre if your situation changes, so if your current childcare arrangement isn’t working, it might be time to review it and try something else.

Most of the Childcare types I’ve spoken about are usually eligible for rebates to help you cover the cost of your fees, but the cost can vary, so if you’re on a budget, it’s worth keeping this in mind when you are comparing Childcares.

Finally, be aware that some centres may have waiting lists and take longer to get into than others. So, if you urgently need care, make sure you enquire about waiting times up front.

While you’re here, don’t forget to check out our directory – we’ve got some of the best providers in Australia listed right here. If you have had an experience with an Australian Childcare provider, please share your review with us.


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