Choosing a child care centre for your little one is an important decision. If you are putting your child into care for the first time, it may be a stressful experience since you want what’s best for your child, but you don’t know where to start. It isn’t always an easy decision to use childcare in the first place, but factors outside of your control mean that you must. The good news is that child or infant care centres can have a positive impact on a child’s emotional, cognitive, and behavioural development.
The most important influence on a child’s development is where and how they spend their early years. A child’s brain develops drastically between the time of birth and the age of five – so positive stimulation, learning, and nurturing during this time is vital in a child’s mental and emotional health. It’s your child’s early experiences that will have a lasting impact on their future habits and resilience.
This is why choosing a quality child care centre is essential. It is in this environment your child will be exposed to new skills, stimuli, and interactions with other children. This new environment must be conducive to a happy, healthy, and overall well-rounded child who can learn to establish healthy relationships as well as engage with playtime and be well-taken care of while they are not in your direct care. If you are beginning your search for the best child care centre in Singapore, there are a few questions you should ask to ensure you are getting what’s best for you, your child and your family.
Child care is regulated in Singapore by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), who oversee key aspects of children’s development below the age of seven. Child care centres in Singapore typically cater to children 18 months and up, although there are some services available to cater for infants as young as 2 months. Since child care centres cater for working parents, they are run all-day (generally from 7am-7pm) and may also be open for half-days on weekends. Before choosing a childcare centre, make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for and how your personal schedules or work requirements will impact on when and for how long your child will need to be taken care of.
Finding a centre that reflects your personal philosophies and beliefs is an important deciding factor when choosing where your child will go. Elaine Chia, senior director for education (early childhood) at Mindchamps, says that the preschool’s philosophy, beliefs and values must be aligned with yours. If you value academics and want to continue nurturing your child’s educational development, then a child care centre whose focus is on curriculum rather than play may be a more suitable option for you. Conversely, if you want your child to be exposed to more playtime and interaction with other children, choosing a centre who provides a range of activities and fun outings for the kids would be best for you.
You should find out what teaching methods are employed by a child care centre, and how they incorporate learning & development into their program. You want a program that stimulates and challenges your child intellectually, socially, physically, emotionally, and linguistically – according to Sally Pang, curriculum manager at Pat’s Schoolhouse. It’s also important to find out if a centre’s teaching methods and curriculum meets the individual learning style and personality of your child. For parents with a child who has special needs, you will need to look for a child care centre that is sensitive to children with learning or cognitive disabilities and who offer a multifaceted programme that includes services that enrich the child’s life and developmental needs.
Your child’s health and safety are paramount, especially when they are in the care of someone else. Children often become sick – whether it’s a cold or flu, an ear infection or gastroenteritis. Because there are other children within the same space, it is often a case of when not if they get sick. It’s here where you need to be sure that the centre you are considering has a strict health & safety plan. From the moment you enter the centre, you should have a good idea of their approach to health & safety. Check to see if they encourage children to wash their hands after play and before meals and if they follow proper meal preparation practices, and what their protocol is if your child becomes injured or sick while in their care. Supervision is the most important factor, and enquire about the centre’s overall security measures including CCTV and child-proof locks.
While it may seem obvious, the convenience of the location should not be an overlooked factor when deciding on a child care centre. Making sure the centre is within easy access to either your home or workplace will ensure that you don’t run the risk of being caught in traffic jams or are in unfamiliar territory when dropping off and picking up your child. If there is an emergency, you want to be able to get there quickly. So, try to find a location that won’t impact on your commuting time or won’t cause you to become stressed every time you have to get there. Some centres charge extra fees if you arrive late to pick up your child, so be sure to factor this in.
The way carers discipline the children should be in alignment with your personal and family values. If you do not believe in physical punishment, please check that the child care centre doesn’t employ physical punishment. Do they have a ‘naughty corner’ where they send children for ‘time out’? Or is the centre lax when it comes to discipline, tending to use softer measures to break up conflict or calm an unruly child? Many parents discipline their child their own way at home, but find out that their child care centre disciplines children another way. If you prefer your child to be disciplined the same way as they are at home, inquire about this and find out the measure’s carers take.
It’s important to know as a parent that the child care centre your child is at serves healthy, nutritious foods. Healthy food gives children the energy and nutrients needed for them to grow and develop. If your child is treated to healthy foods at a young age, he or she are setting up healthy eating habits for life. It’s a good idea to ask the childcare centre for sample menus to make sure you are happy with the options and healthy meals provided. Also, some centres allow you to pack lunches and snacks for the child to bring with them so make sure you ask about this too and whether they have a ‘no junk food’ policy.
Every childcare centre offers different enrichment programs or activities. These can include cooking classes or painting lessons. These type of enrichment programmes add value to your child’s day-care experience and is a great way of learning while having fun. A project-based programme, for example, helps your child to develop confidence as well as their learning skills and communication skills
It’s important to find out the staff ratio at a childcare centre – how many staff are on rotation during the day? How many staff will be supervising your child? Is the staff roster consistent? These questions will help you decipher whether you are happy with the number of staff caring for your child and if there are enough staff to closely supervise all of the children.
Basic Subsidy (BS) is available for all children who are Singapore Citizens and currently enrolled in an ECDA-licensed child-care centre. The Basic Subsidy amount is based on the primary applicant’s working status. If the main applicant works for more than 56 hours a month, they will receive $150 for a Half-Day Programme, $220 for an Extended Half-Day Programme, or $300 for a Full-Day Programme. You can find out more about the Infant/Child Care Subsidy framework at the Early Childhood Development Agency website.
Some childcare fees are all-inclusive while others may incur extra costs which cover things such as outings, activities, learning materials, etc. The centre should outline the full costs and fees within their application and information guides. Aside from this, childcare is an added cost that you need to factor into your monthly and yearly income. Costs can vary significantly depending on the facility and location. Some centres offer assistance with payment schedules so that you can work out more accurately how to cover the cost of your childcare.
If you have enrolled your child into a childcare centre and have noticed some signs to suggest that your little one isn’t enjoying their time there, you need to pay close attention. Some of the tell-tale signs that a childcare centre isn’t right for your child include:
Choosing the best for your child when it comes to a childcare centre is essential. As a parent, your child’s safety and health is number one. The right nutrition will get your child through the day and aid in their learning & development. Check out our full range of organic infant food or find your local stockist today.