When is it a good time to start looking for a childcare centre?
My answer as soon as you are pregnant or even contemplating the idea of returning to work.
The reason, it is so important to start this search, is so that you do not have to take ‘whatever’ come available. Trust me, there is childcare and there is QUALITY childcare.
First, go to as many as you can!!! You might really feel very happy with the first one you see but you need to understand that staff are very good at selling their centre. To an inexperienced eye you might get carried away with the sales pitch.
Have a look at the space. How much room do the children have to move. Small classrooms and play areas, might look safe but they also can feel overcrowded and the noise level can become overwhelming. Many new centres look beautiful and clean but the classrooms have been built to the minimum requirements for space. (Floor space:child ratio per regulations). Studies have shown that children that have alot of space to move are happier (just like the chickens in the egg farms).
What does the inside and outside environment tell you? What do the posters say? Art work? What do they value enough to display on their walls of the rooms? If you find that the walls are empty, ask why?? If all the artwork is all uniformed, ask does this centre encourage creativity? Does the centre feel like a comfortable place, or does it feel a little sterile? Are there gardens outside? Vegetable gardens? Trees? All of these things can help you to see whether the staff put ‘love’ into their environment. Many passionate carers believe the environment to be the ‘third’ teacher. This means that they will put alot of effort into making the environment as inviting, wondrous, warm and exciting as possible. Remember learning begins at play (but thats another post).
What are the children doing? Can you hear lots of disagreements? Are the children playing in ways that are dramatic, constructive, creative and friendly? Or are they walking around aimlessly, sitting by themselves with security ‘toys/blankets’. How are the children using their environment?
The biggest resource in any centre is the staff!!! If this resource is faulty, it doesn’t matter how beautiful everything else is, it won’t work. How are the staff interacting with the children and their environment? Are the staff sitting with paper and pen away from children? Are they talking to other staff? Are they sitting down with children around them adding information to the children’s play and learning? Can you tell that the staff love the children? When you walk into the room, the staff are on their best behaviour!! So if you see something you are not happy with and this is their best, imagine what could be their worst. I have seen and heard of some terrible things and not all centres are QUALITY!!
If your are able to answer these questions about your centres you are looking at then you have looked at them with more educated eyes!!!
This is for the first visit. The next visit needs to be at a different time and we need to ask questions to see what responses we get!!!!
Well done you have completed the first stage of what is a very emotional and important decision.
Like if you would like to know the questions for the next visit!!!!