Choosing the right infant care in Singapore for your baby can be daunting, but it does not have to be if you know which questions to ask.
After you have garnered the basic information about an infant care centre, including its location in Singapore, license and awards, hygiene and fees, it is time to ask more specific questions that give you key information about the centre and whether it is the most suitable one for your child.
Here is a handy list of 10 questions to get you started.
Is the infants’ area separate from childcare?
Enquire about the layout of the centre, including whether or not the day-to-day care for infants takes place in a separate area from the rest of the childcare centre.
Infants have different needs than older children and may be more sensitive to noises and stimulation. Providing a designated area for infants ensures their safety while giving them the freedom and space to play and explore. Some infant care centres allocate specific areas for sleeping, activities, bathing, and food preparation.
What is the care routine at the infant care centre?
Infants thrive in a regular routine. Ask for details on the infant care centre’s care routine, and do not be afraid to ask for specifics (i.e. What are the steps they take in bathing the infants? What is the naptime routine?).
What is the ratio of time that the infants spend in their cots versus outside of their cots?
Some parents may be concerned that at an infant care centre, babies are essentially put in their cots all day – or the majority of it, anyway. The key concern is that their babies are not getting enough stimulation.
To quell those worries, ask how much time the infants spend in their cots, and what they are doing when they are in their cots. Some sensory exercises between caretaker and baby may actually take place while the baby is in the cot, in which the baby is highly engaged – which is far from the situation of “leaving” the baby in the cot.
Related to this question is how much time the infants get to spend out of the cot interacting with the world and people, including other babies, around them.
What parts of the curriculum is backed by research?
Infants are capable of more than we may think. They are experiential learners, and one of the biggest responsibilities of any infant care centre should be to provide infants with diverse opportunities and age-appropriate stimulation to learn and grow. That is where the curriculum comes in.
The mark of a trustworthy and effective curriculum is one that is expert-approved and backed by research. It is not enough to know the daily schedule and what programmes are taught in a curriculum. Go one step further. Ask what science these programmes are grounded in, if any. Additionally, does the curriculum feature a semi-individualised approach?
What are the caregivers’ qualifications and training?
Would you entrust your health to a doctor who did not have the right qualifications and training? Similarly, when choosing an infant care provider, it is crucial to ask what the caregivers’ qualifications and training are, and how often they undergo additional training to stay up to date on the best research-backed practices.
What is the teacher-student ratio at the infant care centre?
Generally, the lower the teacher-student ratio, the more individual attention your child will receive. The teacher-student ratio set by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) is 1:5, and at MindChamps Infant Care that ratio is 1:3 to better ensure that each child receives ample attention, one-on-one engagement and care.
What should be packed?
Some infant care centres in Singapore ask that you pack a small bag for your child every day while other centres let you store basic necessities at school (diapers, extra clothes, bath soap, etc.).
Is there the option of packing your child’s own food from home once he or she moves onto solids?
If you pack expressed breast milk for your child, how will it be stored and reheated at the centre?
Does the centre allow you to pack a “lovey” or favourite toy for your child?
How does the centre communicate with parents and how frequently do they provide updates on the children’s progress?
Parent-centre communication is key in developing trust and keeping parents abreast of their babies’ developmental progress. Ask which modes of communication the centre incorporates and prefers: apps and check-in portals, communication books, emails, text messages or newsletters. How often are caregiver-parent meetings conducted? Does the centre provide you with the educarers’ phone numbers for ease of reaching them directly?
From bigger inquiries about what is currently being covered in the infant curriculum, to smaller matters such as how long your baby napped that day – you should feel like the infant care centre prioritises your concerns.
Situational question: What will the caregiver do if a child will not stop crying?
Sometimes it is helpful to pose situational questions, which may give you a better idea of how an educarer or principal problem-solves or thinks in a specific event.
For instance, you may ask, “What would you do if a child will not stop crying?” Depending on what the response is (i.e. “check the baby’s diaper; see if he or she needs to be burped; check if the baby is hungry; carry and soothe the baby”), you may enquire further with, “What if the baby is still crying?” and so forth, to further explore what the educarer’s plan of action is and whether or not it agrees with you.
You could use a situational question that brings to light how your baby’s specific needs or temperament would be handled. For example, if your baby has colic, you could try a situational question that lets you know whether the caregivers are experienced in taking care of colicky babies.
How does the infant care centre keep track of the babies’ developmental progress?
This is an important question because if the infant care centre assures you that their curriculum will boost your child’s cognitive, motor, linguistic, social skills, etc., then the centre should have an organised system to keep track of and document the babies’ progress.
Many infant care centres in Singapore may have a routine report or chart with the skillsets listed, which they give to the parents. Ask whether or not you can see a sample of the report (one that has not been filled in) to find out how detailed and comprehensive it is.
Written by Jenny Tai