As your child gets closer to school age, it's important that they start following a daily routines. Since the average school day is structured very rigidly, your child may be jarred when they start school if they have little to no experience of following a schedule. That's why it's a good idea to find a day care centre that has a great schedule in place to help your child adjust in advance. Of course, the schedule itself isn't the only important part—you also need to look at what types of activities are on that schedule.

Here's a list of 3 essential daily activities to look out for when perusing day care centres for your toddler or preschooler.

Outdoor Time

Without a doubt, one of the most important activities to look for on any day care schedule is outdoor time. One of the biggest benefits of outdoor play is it usually involves running, jumping, and other physical activity that develops health and fitness. Did you know that 2 out of 3 Australian children aged 2 to 5 don't get enough physical activity? According to national guidelines, your child should get at least 3 hours of 'exercise' (active play) per day. So, if you work long hours and your child will spend much of their time at day care, you should find one with 3 hours of outdoor time on their schedule. If you have time to play outdoors with your child for an hour at home each day, find a day care with at least 2 hours of scheduled outdoor time.

Quiet Time

While 'day care' often conjures up an image of children laughing and playing loudly, 'school' presents a mental picture of children sitting silently while they learn. That's why it's important that your little one learns how to sit and engage with activity quietly while they're still in day care. Quiet time also helps toddlers and preschoolers to calm down and recharge after getting overstimulated during play. Depending on your child's age, quiet time may or may not overlap with nap time, so it's difficult to determine the exact amount of time it should take up on a day care schedule. However, a good ball park figure is 15 to 60 minutes of quiet activity like reading, playing with puzzles or drawing.

Free Play

Finally, while schedules are important, that doesn't mean young children shouldn't get any unstructured time during the day. In fact, free play is a crucial part of development in young children. When toddlers and preschoolers engage in activities of their choosing, they develop a range of important skills like independence, problem solving, and cognitive thinking. As with quiet time, the amount of free play time you should look for on a schedule will depend on how close your child is to school age. It will also depend on how many hours they spend at day care. If you'd prefer a general figure to work with, a quarter of the day (for example, 90 minutes at a 6-hour day care) is a good amount of time to dedicate to free play.

Keep these activities in mind as you look for the right day care centre for your child, and you should be able to find a good fit.