A childcare is the start of your child’s learning adventure and should promote a lifelong love for learning, while providing a safe, loving and happy environment.
It is understandable if you are confused and struggling to make a decision that is right for your child. You are not the only parent struggling with choosing the right childcare.
In this blog we provide some tips toguide your decision-making.
- Trust your gut feeling. You know your child and his/ her needs better than anyone else. So, when you visit a childcare and it gives you the happy vibes, don’t ignore these instincts. Let them play an equal part in your decision.
- Explore all options and do your homework on them. Visit a few different centres in your locality, including home-based childcare options. Make an informed comparative on which option is most suitable to your child’s unique needs. Ask parents for reviews or look them up online. See the ERO report for all centres to give you an indication of quality based on Ministry of Education’s audit of these places.
- Observe carefully during your tours of the centres. Spend time at every centre and take note of how educators are interacting with children – do the kids look like they are having fun? Are the teachers being helpful and paying the attention required? Do the children look calm and settled? Do children look engaged? Are there hugs and smiles from teachers?
- Curriculum and learning. In your tours of the centres, did you notice lots of learning taking place? Were teachers supporting the learning and explorations by a child? Ask the teachers about how a child’s development and how frequently is it shared with parents? Investigate the curriculum of every centre in detail. Is it play-based? Does it incorporate nature-based learning? What does the transition to school programme look like? How is the curriculum designed to meet the development milestones of your child?
- Child ratios and group sizes. Caring for even one or two children is a full-time job for any adult. It is beneficial for children if an adult has to care for fewer children in the childcare, allowing more quality interactions. Also important to note group sizes – large, noisy centres with larger groups can be unsettling for some children, especially if they are infants or less social.
- Does the centre feel safe and welcoming? When you walk into a centre, it should feel warm, calm and clean. Feeling welcomes will help your child relax and settle quickly into his/ her new surroundings. In the current times, hygiene is more important than ever before – make sure you enquire about the health and safety policy.
- Nutrition policy. It is important that the centre has a clear nutrition policy and this is particularly critical for long-day centres where your child will be a eating a significant number of meals. A good eating approach will ensure that your child is learning the building blocks for healthy eating habits throughout their life.
- Get familiar with the routines and rituals. These are different for every centre. Eating, nappy changing, toileting, sleeping … are they suitable to your child’s needs? Does the centre adapt their rituals to meet your child’s needs, particularly if they are infants?
Choosing a childcare will never be an easy decision. Basing your review of a centre is a great way to evaluate what fits the needs of your child and family the best. Take time to reflect on every centre. Make shortlists and revisit a centre if needed. Ask questions and once you’ve made a decision, support your child’s settling.