The Childcare Dilemma
It can be overwhelming to try to figure out what to do for child care. There are many different options and each one has benefits and drawbacks. What works well for one child may not be the right fit for another. In addition, many changes happen for both children and parents in the first several years of the baby’s life.
That means that often there is no permanent solution to the child care dilemma. What worked well at one stage may no longer seem suitable as your child grows and develops or the parents’ circumstances change. Some common child care options include:
- A parent staying with the child instead of working
- A nanny or Au Pair
- Family, Friends or Neighbours watching the child
- A Family Day Care in a home
- An Early Learning Institution or Preschool
Many children will start one-on-one with a parent. Then when parental work leave is exhausted a choice must be made. At this point some people prefer to keep their children in a more individualised environment and will opt for in home care like a nanny or a willing grandparent. Some, however, will explore more child-based learning environments.
Even those who stay home based at this juncture will often make another transition to a more structured environment sometime before they start traditional school. It is now the norm that a majority of children will have experience in a structured learning environment before they begin school.
Especially since it has been shown that the experience at preschool can be a extremely helpful in aiding a smooth transition to school. When this transition flows smoothly it sets a path for success in all of a child’s future academic career and can even impact future job achievement.
5 Considerations When Choosing Childcare
1. Communication in an Interactive Environment
If you are going to be leaving your child with someone other than yourself it is critically important that you are able to communicate quickly and effectively with them. There must be a good rapport between you and the carer.
Some child care centres offer interactive apps that allow you to receive updates throughout the day about what your child is doing.
They must also be able to communicate well with your child. They should get down to the child’s level and look them in the eyes just like they would if they were speaking to an adult. Carer’s who order children around from across the room are probably not truly engaged in understanding that child or helping them grow.
2. Health and Safety is Always a Top Priority
If you are contemplating a daycare or early learning centre it is important that you visit the facility before making a final decision. Family day cares are subject to less regulation than larger, more streamlined facilities. Make sure everything looks clean and that process are in place for sanitation of toys and employee handwashing.
Ask if there is a schedule for diapering infants and bathroom visits for older children. Also, determine if there is a process in place for documenting what happens if a child does get hurt in the course of the day.
It is important to examine class size and child carer ratios. The government minimum is 1 adult for every 4 infants, 1 adult for every 5 two to three year olds and 1 adult for every 11 three – five year olds (QLD only – States vary) . Any child care situation worth considering should meet at least these minimum requirements.
3. Outdoor Time Fuels the Imagination
Physical activity is important for children of all ages. Getting unstructured play time outside has been shown to increase children’s ability to concentrate during other parts of their day. It also allows them to participate with their peers in games and play that stretch their imagination. In addition, it encourages them to do things like take turns and work as a group.
It can be a challenge for carers to face the weather conditions. Without a firm commitment to spending part of the day outdoors it can be easy to overlook. It is critical that they have these opportunities and that they are outside for a portion of almost every day. This is especially important to consider as a recent report found that Australian children were some of the least active in the world.
4. Nutrition for a Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to physical activity, what your child eats is critical to their growth and well being. When choosing a carer it is important to consider what kind of food they will be feeding your child and when. Constant snacking and drinking have been shown to be detrimental to children’s health and their teeth.
The quality of what they eat also makes a difference. An in-home carer may be perfectly capable of preparing healthy food, but they are primarily a care provider, not a chef. And as any busy parent knows it can be a challenge to prepare food while simultaneously watching children.
In a more structured environment, food is usually prepared away from the classroom by a specially trained person. In this way, food can be healthy and delicious and children can stay safely away from any potential dangers in the kitchen caused by a distracted carer.
5. A Jump Start for Education
Many parents fail to realise that children start their learning journey at a very young age. A care environment that has a curriculum or plan for learning can be highly beneficial for all ages. Find out about what type of education your provider has received. At the minimum they should have a Certificate III in Children’s Services.
Also, find out about a centre’s learning philosophy. There are many different philosophy’s out there and the key is to figure out which one will suit your child the best. Some common ones include Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio-Emilia, and RIE. There are even Forest Schools, where your child would spend all day, every day, outside!
- Montessori: Named for Italian educator Maria Montessori. She developed it after working with low income children in Rome starting in 1906. Features mixed age classrooms, older kids help the younger kids. Sees play as a child’s “work” and allows them to learn at their own pace.
- Waldorf: Developed by Rudolf Steiner. First Waldorf school opened in Stuttgart in 1919. Also features a mixed age classroom. A play based structure that focuses on building predictability into the classroom and plenty of outdoor time.
- Reggio-Emilia: Developed by Loris Malaguzzi in the Reggio-Emilia region of Italy after World War II. Follows a project based approach where children’s interests drive the lessons. For example if the children saw a rainbow it might lead to lessons about colours, or about rain, or the environment.
- RIE or Educaring: Stands for Resources for Infant Carers. Developed by Hungarian physician Emmi Pikler and brought to to the English speaking world by Magda Gerber. Gerber established RIE in Los Angeles in 1978. It sees infants as competent beings from the moment they are born. Treats children with respect and lets them problem solve for themselves. It also advocates making children part of everyday activities right from the beginning instead of treating them like objects.
Additional Considerations for Parents
There are many complexities when it comes to making a choice about childcare. It is important to focus on what will work best for your child. However, parents often forget to factor themselves into the equation. Some equally important points to consider are:
- Will you be happy if you give up your job? Will you be able to re-enter your field if you take extended time off to care for a child?
- Will you be comfortable with a carer being unmonitored in your home?
- Is the location of the daycare or preschool convenient for your home or work?
- How much does your budget allow you to spend?
- Do you or your child have any special needs that should be considered?
Addressing all of these questions is equally as important as making sure that your child is happy and healthy.
Changing your childcare situation is a big decision and many factors need to be taken into account. The health and well being of your child is paramount but it is important to consider educational and social opportunities as well.
Also, don’t forget to consider what this choice may mean for you and how it will impact the rest of family. The good news is there are many options to choose from. By educating yourself about your choices and thoroughly investigating all of the possibilities, you can ensure that you will make the correct decision for everyone involved.