If you are a working parent who is looking for a childcare centre, you are not alone.
Demand for childcare centres in Singapore has rocketed in recent years with more dual-working parents. Over the past four years, there has been a 53% increase in childcare centre places to meet the rising needs of young families, according to figures from the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).
In response to the growing demand, larger childcare centres have opened over the last few years. These new centres provide enrolment capacities between 300 to 1,000 places, about three to five times larger than centres situated at HDB void decks.
By 2020, another five mega childcare centres will open, raising the total number of large childcare centres to 14.
But are bigger childcare centres always better?
We weigh in on the pros and cons of mega childcare centres in Singapore.
Pros of large childcare centres in Singapore
More opportunities for outdoor learning and play
A key focus for large childcare centres is the incorporation of outdoor learning and play in their lesson plan. Little nature lovers will delight in the wide open spaces with lots of natural sunlight.
Having access to the great outdoors allows children to exercise their gross motor skills like running and jumping in a fun way while keeping fit and healthy at the same time.
Dedicated learning spaces
With greater luxury of space, stimulating learning environments and age-appropriate play areas are customised for children across different age groups.
Such dedicated learning spaces provide more meaningful and enriching engagement for children according to their learning ability.
Built to meet the high demand
The current nine mega childcare centres in Singapore are located in estates with high preschool demand. Together they have created 5,000 preschool places in Sengkang, Punggol, Yishun, Woodlands, Jurong West and Bukit Panjang.
Families living in newer estates like Sengkang and Punggol can rejoice as another five are expected to open by 2020 to ease the preschool shortage faced by many young parents.
Ample vacancies for siblings
For families with two or more children, having to send kids to different childcare centres is not uncommon due to a space crunch. With enrolment that goes up to 1,000 places, larger childcare centres can ease the stressful logistics arrangement for many parents.
Cons of large childcare centres in Singapore
The spread of infectious disease
A top concern when sending children to childcare centres is the risk of catching an infectious disease like hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). This concern is further magnified in centres with a bigger population as HFMD spreads rapidly among toddlers.
If hygiene and cleanliness protocols are compromised, an outbreak can potentially affect hundreds of children. Therefore large childcare centres need to be extra vigilant when conducting screening and look out for warning signs if children turn up with fever or red spots.
Managing classroom distractions
Classroom management can be more challenging where curious little tots are easily distracted by chatter and noise happening beyond their class.
To hold their attention of enthusiastic learners, educators have to be equipped to handle the dynamics of a bigger class with engaging teaching materials, activities and lessons.
Quality of care
Parents may worry that their child gets lesser attention from teachers in a bigger setting. However, like all preschools in Singapore, large childcare centres need to adhere to the teacher-to-child ratios set by the ECDA guidelines.
The challenge for mega childcare centres is ensuring sufficient manpower that matches their enrolment so that quality care is provided regardless of centre size.
Bottleneck at drop off and pick up
Parents need to be prepared for extra waiting time when it comes to drop off and pick up. For those who drive, this can be a frustrating daily affair, especially during peak hours as bottlenecks will build up at the carpark.
Mega childcare centres are a growing trend that is likely to stay. But the best way to assess if a centre is suitable for your child is to book a preschool visit to speak to the teachers and view the centre’s facilities.
Written by Susan Koh
Find out how your child can benefit from the unique MindChamps PreSchool curriculum which prepares them for the future.