Choosing a childcare centre in Singapore can be pretty stressful if it is your first time looking. It can be difficult to figure out what you want when you are not even sure what questions to ask.
Here, we simplify the process for you by breaking down some of the more important factors to look at.
What is your general feel of the childcare centre?
Never discount your gut feeling! It is always a good idea to go down to the centre for a guided tour. As you enter the preschool, what does your instinct tell you? You may not explicitly notice, but we usually pick up on things like how clean the school is, how organised their items are, and how comfortable the place may feel to you.
Different parents look for different things and prioritise different elements. Some parents may prefer a clinically clean centre, while other parents do not mind some homey clutter. Some parents enjoy the sight of classes mingling and playing together, while others may prefer class segregation. It is really a matter of personal preference and very often our gut feeling picks up on these elements, telling you whether you feel comfortable with your child in that school or not.
Mrs Natalie Heng, mother of a 6-year-old daughter, said that she relied very much on her instincts to narrow down her options.
“When I walked into one centre, I really couldn’t explain why I didn’t like it as much as the previous centre we had visited,” she recounted. “In fact, I would say that the second centre ticked more of my boxes than the second. I just felt much happier with the first place. I ended up enrolling my child there and I have absolutely no regrets!”
What qualifications do the staff have and how happy are they at the centre?
The teachers at your chosen centre are extremely important. After all, they are the people whom you are entrusting your children to for a major part of the day. In many cases, your children will spend more time with the teachers during their waking hours on a given school day than with you.
Find out what qualifications the teachers at the school have. At the very least, every preschool teacher must have a diploma in Early Childhood Education. Have they gone through any additional certifications or training that would benefit them as teachers?
Staff welfare also goes a long way. Do the schoolteachers look happy, rested, and satisfied with their jobs? When teachers enjoy their work, they are far more equipped to be patient, loving and gentle with the children. It also means that staff turnover will be kept low, ensuring that your children are less likely to go through a difficult situation when they have to change teachers in the middle of the school year.
Father of twin toddlers, Mr Mohammed Farhan, said:
“It was very comforting to see how quickly my children adapted to school because of how caring and patient the teachers were with them. With twins, it is not easy, but the teachers were experienced and made the process really painless for us.”
Is your chosen childcare centre in Singapore child-focused?
A good childcare centre will plan the school’s design around the children. Books and toys should be kept at a toddler’s eye level, so that they are able to access them and can pick and choose their items easily. Counterintuitively, colours and designs should not be overwhelming as too many patterns and loud colours can make it difficult for children to focus on one thing at a time.
Do you notice children’s artwork displayed around the school? These types of displays encourage children to be proud of the work they have done and give the students a sense of belonging and ownership to the school. This makes the space their own.
“I loved the fact that my son’s preschool has lots of small sensory corners,” said Mrs Paulette Yeoh. Her 3-year-old has lots of fun playing in these corners where teachers have placed items like artificial turf, fuzzy carpet pieces, Velcro strips and shoelace braids. Every week, the school also has a designated sensory play period. Mrs Yeoh’s son particularly enjoyed playing with the coloured spaghetti and water beads that the teachers introduced.
Lastly, while ECDA has a specific teacher-child ratio that must be met, many parents prefer lower ratios as that ensures that teachers are not spread too thinly and can pay closer attention to each child.
How safe is your children’s childcare centre?
Safety-wise, check that electrical sockets are covered up. Safety gates, latches or high doorknobs may also be utilised to prevent students from wandering into dangerous areas (like kitchens) or out of the school unaccompanied.
Some parents may also prefer that the school’s premises are covered by closed-circuit television cameras. Check with your school’s principal to find out who has access to the CCTV records and what the school’s protocol is when there are accidents. Will you be allowed to check the recordings?
Two other things you may want to check are the childcare centre’s haze protocol and HFMD (or other communicable illnesses) protocol. For the former, is the school equipped with air purifiers? Does the school have air conditioning that can be switched on if the air quality declines? For the latter, how often are the premises sterilised? What is the school’s standard operating procedure when children are reported to have HFMD?
Almost all schools will quarantine classes, minimise outdoor play, and will report each case to parents, but it is always a good idea to check that the school has these safety procedures in place so that you know what to expect.
Mr Clarence Hee, a parent of two, said:
“Unfortunately, HFMD will hit every school, so it is impossible to escape. So of course we don’t expect the school to be HFMD-free. My wife and I just want to be sure that the school will do everything possible to minimise spread and control outbreaks as much as possible.”
Written by Danielle Hee
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