Choosing the right infant or childcare centre for your child gives you and your spouse the peace of mind to pursue your respective career. If you are a first-time parent, the woe of choosing the right childcare for your child to spend most of the day in is very real. Understandably, your decision will be fraught with uncertainties as you navigate the many childcare options available. But fret not, as we round up some important considerations to help provide clarity to your ultimate decision:
#1 Proximity to Your Home
Your colleague or relative may swear by a certain childcare. But if it’s a long drive away, you’ll probably want to strike it off your list. As if waking up on weekday mornings to prepare for yourself and your child is not enough hassle (do not forget possible morning tantrums), you’ll have to leave home earlier to drop off your child before heading to office. And then there’s that detour from office to home to pick up your child after a day’s work. Having a centre that is too far off or inaccessible can prove to be too demanding in the long run.
Fees of childcare centres differ widely. While fees at government-run centres start from about $600 (excludes subsidies), fees at private centres can go up to about $2,000. Some premier centres offers extras like private nurses with the premise, or specially prepared meals to justify higher costs. While these frills seem good to have, you certainly need to consider the burden on your wallet. If your priority is a safe place where your child can receive a wholesome education, some of these frills are really not needed.
#3 Centre accreditations
Ensure that the centre is licensed or accreditated. In Singapore, centres can be accredited under the Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework (SPARK) to recognise the centre’s quality of programmes. Since your child will be interacting with the teachers a lot, check the minimum qualifications of teachers, and ensure that they are certified.
#4 Safety and hygiene practices in the centre
Does the centre practise good hygiene? The last thing you’ll want is a child who is frequently falling sick, as a result of viruses picked up from other children. It helps to have good hygiene practices to keep sickness at bay. Safety is also of paramount importance when you are away from your child for long hours. Ensure that classrooms are child-proofed and look out for possible safety hazards.
#5 Curriculum and Values
Every centre will have a different curriculum or teaching method. Some might be more play-based, while others will focus a lot more on academics. Find a centre that is a good match to your preferred curriculum, and the best learning approach for your child’s personality. Also find out the values that teachers will inculcate in your child. During the formative years of your child’s life, you’ll want him or her to embrace all the right values.
#6 Teacher-to-student ratio
As things can easily spiral out of hand when there are too many children, find out the teacher-to-student ratio to ensure that your child will receive adequate attention. Depending on the level, Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) has set requirements for the ratio of teacher-to-students in preschool.
#7 Availability of enrichment classes
If you are a working parent who struggles to find time to bring your child for music or dance class, it is a bonus if the centre offers these programmes as enrichment. Such programmes can include piano lessons, science classes and art classes, usually conducted by third-party vendors at an added cost.
#8 Centre reputation
Read up about shortlisted centres online. Browse online forums to find out what parents, whose children are already attending, or have previously attended the centre, have to say. These feedback are usually more authentic and honest, and offer good insights into the centre.
To sum up, we suggest that you research extensively online and visit shortlisted centres to get a good idea or what goes on in the centre on a daily basis. Observe how the children are behaving, as well as how the teachers interact with the children. Also speak with the principal to get a feel of the school’s culture. With these tips, you will be better equipped to make a decision.
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