Child care (aka day care or child minding) is the supervision and caring for of a child or children, usually from ages 0 to 12 years. As a child care worker, you’ll be responsible for the care of children within a centre, or child care facility. You’ll get to work with families and communities to make sure you provide the best care possible based on the needs of each individual child. Part of your job will be to help create, and put into practice the child care programs at your centre. A more senior child care professional, such as a group leader or the centre manager, will supervise you and provide direction if it’s needed.
In Australia, child care professionals are now commonly known as Early Childhood Educators. Professionals who specialise in providing care and appropriate development activities for children aged 5-12 after school hours and during vacation periods are called Out-of-School Services Workers.
What are the key responsibilities and duties of child care workers?
Child care workers enjoy an exciting, active role in which they get to help shape the growth and learning of children. There are a wide range of duties a child care worker may do on a regular basis, including:
- Keeping children safe – your first priority is always to make sure the children stay safe and healthy. You should be on the lookout for children using toys or other supplies in a dangerous way, bullying or fighting, or kids wandering off into unsupervised areas.
- Teaching social skills – child care is one of the first places many children will have regular social interaction with other kids their own age. Good manners and values don’t come naturally to all kids, so you’ll need to show them how to play, share and communicate with each other nicely.
- Preparing food – you and your team will work together to prepare and serve food for the children at mealtimes. You must keep food preparation areas clean, well-stocked, pay attention to dietary and allergy restrictions provided by parents and make sure you wash your hands and follow other sanitary procedures.
- Meeting with parents – you might be spending nearly as much time with a child as their parents, so regular communication is essential. Keeping parents up to date with what their child is learning, how they are behaving and how they are developing is important. You might notice problems the parents haven’t seen yet. The child can also develop new health and dietary requirements you need to know. In the end, you both need to work together to ensure the child’s happiness and growth.
- Educating through play – you’ll help to establish a routine of fun, play based activities to help children learn and develop. Play rooms can have a range of toys, puzzles, games and materials children can use. These can be used to introduce concepts like math, sorting, cause and effect, social abilities and narrative skills. You can contribute new resources to play rooms as long as they are safe and appropriate. Children also need some free time throughout the day to explore their own interests and follow their own natural curiosity.
- Overseeing children’s hygiene – babies and small children need help keeping themselves clean and are also learning basic personal hygiene skills. You may need to change babies and toddlers diapers, and teach children how to use the toilet. Children also need to be reminded to wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before eating, and to wipe their nose when it’s running or cover their mouth when coughing and sneezing.
- Nurturing – a key responsibility is creating a nurturing, loving and supporting environment for children to learn and develop. You will need to be patient, caring and willing to intervene when there is a problem, without becoming angry or frustrated. You will also need to balance praise and freedom with positive discipline.
What are useful attributes and traits for a child care worker?
In general, it’s useful for child care workers to have:
- Good physical fitness to be able to keep up with children and lift them when required.
- Good observation skills and be able to stay alert throughout the day.
- Team work skills to help out with shared activities like preparing food.
- Good communication skills to work with children and their parents.
- Patience to cope with the normal demands of children and their care.
- The willingness to accept responsibility for the health, safety and well-being of other people’s children.
Training to Become a Child Care Professional
The minimum qualification required to work in childcare is the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care. It’s designed to develop the skills you’ll need to work with children aged 0-5 years in long day care services. Click here for more information about the course.
CHC40113 Certificate IV in School Age Education and Care
The Certificate IV in School Age Education and Care is designed to develop the skills you need to care for children aged 5-12 after school hours and during vacation periods as an Out-of-School Services Worker.
The Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care is designed to develop the skills you will need to work as a group leader, child development worker or child care centre manager in long day care services. This qualification also includes the skills you learn in the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care. You can now enrol directly in the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care without needing to complete the Certificate III first.
Child care regulations require at least half of early childhood educators working in many types of child care services to hold a Diploma qualification. This means Diploma qualified educators are typically in high demand across Australia. Click here for more information about the course.
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