How to find the right Childcare Centre
By Cherene, Childcare Consultant
It can be a daunting task finding the right childcare centre for your child – the thought alone is often scary enough! You have spent all this precious time with your child and know them better than anyone, and now you are suddenly asked to leave them in someone else’s care.
Often the process of actually finding the right centre is the hardest part. Once your child is settled in a centre it is likely that they will begin to really enjoy their time in care, form new special friendships and develop wonderful early childhood memories.
Over the years the stigma of early childhood being no more than a ‘babysitting’ service has steadily declined. Centres now offer amazing educational programs and experiences for children, whilst at the same time provide a caring and nurturing environment for children to grow and develop.
What is the ‘right’ centre can mean different things to different people. Some parents may place their importance on the atmosphere or the ratios, while others may be more concerned with fees or location. It is a very individual choice, and sometimes the deciding factor is often that the centre just ‘feels’ right. However there are definitely some key indicators you can look for to ensure that you are selecting a high quality childcare centre.
Some things to look out for when visiting a centre are:
- How are the children behaving? Is the boisterous, active child being stimulated and engaged, is a hurt or sad child being responded to appropriately and acknowledged, are the children collectively running amok with no visible control or structure? While for a first time visitor any centre may seem as though it is loud and busy, the attention to detail may mean the difference between a well-run centre and a poorly run centre;
- How are the teachers interacting with the children, with one another, and with you? Are you made to feel welcome when you arrive? Do the teachers greet you or smile? A centre is only as good as its teachers and its management. You could have the most beautiful centre with all the bells and whistles, but if the teachers are unhappy and not passionate about their jobs then it is like an empty present.
Often you are able to get a feel for these things when you visit a centre, but it can be hard to notice the finer details when you don’t know what to look for and/or you are already so overwhelmed at the idea of placing your child in care. However it is important to take your time and not rush this important decision.
Be sure to compare centres and ensure that you have a good understanding of your options. Also if your child is with you on your centre visits be sure to watch them and read their reactions and emotions. How are they responding to this new environment, and to the teachers and other children around them?
Many of you are probably thinking at this point that you simply don’t have the ‘time’ to compare several centres – or the capacity to look after your own child, handle your emotions regarding placing your child in care, as well as focus on all the details needed to properly assess a centre. Never to fear, that is where I come in – but more on that below.
Once you have chosen a centre, your child’s transition into care should start with ‘settling in’ visits before your child’s official first day in a centre. These are short visits to the centre where you will stay with your child during their time there.
How many of these visits there will be can vary from centre to centre, but in general, the more opportunity you have to settle your child into care, the easier the transition will be. During these visits with you present, your child will slowly learn that it is a safe environment. Ideally, you will want them to start exploring away from you and interacting with the other children before you have to leave them by themselves at the centre for the first time.
When you are carrying out settling visits be present with your child, however try not to jump in and do things for them, or conversely try and push them to venture away from you. Your child will do this when they are comfortable, irrespective of their age.
If you are comfortable and relaxed the chances are your child will be too; if you are stressed and anxious then then they are more likely to pick up on this and mimic your emotions. Try instead to talk to the teachers and interact with the other children if they initiate it. Eventually your child will learn that this is a safe environment and a fun new place where they are valued and respected.
When it comes time to physically leave your child, whether it is for a short period or for the entire day, in my experience I have found the most important thing to do is to say goodbye, and not to try and sneak away from your child. If you sneak away from your child while they are happily off playing, it is likely that at some point they will stop playing and look across the room seeking you out. Your child may then become panicked when they realise that you are no longer there, and this only likely to cause prolonged stress for your child – as well as a feeling of abandonment that they may associate with the centre from that point forward.
So it is important to address your child before you leave and to tell them that you are going now, but that you will return. Try to make it a positive goodbye, even though it will be difficult for you emotionally, as if you are sad that you are leaving then your child will also be sad. Also, do not be upset if your child simply says goodbye and then happily skips off; they still love you, and this is a great sign that they are happy in your chosen centre and feel comfortable – they will still be happy to come home with you at the end of the day, this is guaranteed!
Once you have said goodbye it is also important to then leave, even if your child is crying and begging you to stay. While this may be devastatingly difficult, to go rushing back to your child is sending them mixed messages and will only confuse them and the situation further. In my experience, a child who cries when their parent leaves for the first time is often happily playing with other children in no time. The more the act of leaving is drawn out, the more upset a child can get.
After a child has been left in care a few times with swift and honest goodbyes, they will learn that although you are going, you always return. Soon enough the tears will subside and if you have chosen your centre well you may soon find it hard to get them in the car to take them home!
This short article only touches on some of the many aspects involved finding the right childcare centre. At the end of the day, the desired result is that you are happy in your decision, and your child is too.
My services as a Childcare Consultant are designed to assist parents in making this important decision, and to help take some of the mystery and stress out of the information gathering process. I would love to support you in taking this big step.
Please visit my website for further information – http://www.childcareconsultant.co.nz