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What to know before your child starts childcare

13 May, 2021

A parent’s decision to enrol their child in childcare is a deeply personal one, and one that takes a lot of careful consideration. If you have childcare on your mind but aren’t sure where to start, it helps to learn from the experts.

Rebecca Fien is the centre director at Edge Early Learning South Brisbane, and has 13 years of experience in the industry. As both an early childhood educator and a mother herself, Rebecca knows how difficult it can be for parents to make the leap into childcare for the first time.

“I personally went to almost 10 childcare centres before choosing the perfect place for my son,” says Rebecca. “Even after finding what I thought was the ideal childcare centre for him, I ended up transferring him to Edge when I started working here because it is so warm and welcoming.”

While there is no set age that a child should enrol in childcare, Rebecca says that provided both the child and parent are comfortable with the decision, it’s a case of the earlier, the better.

“Children gain so much from childcare,” says Rebecca. “Right from infancy, children see how others are progressing and communicating and begin to follow suit, which is great for their emotional and social development.”

The first five years of a child’s life shape not only their schooling, but the rest of their life, says Rebecca. Childcare can help children with:

  • School readiness: Children at Edge are exposed to letter, number and colour recognition on a daily basis.
  • Social readiness: The confidence children gain from interacting with, and learning alongside, other children is invaluable.
  • Independence: Each room at Edge has a flexible routine to suit the children’s moods and needs each day – while babies will follow a routine that is more like what they experience at home, older children have more say in what they would like to do.
  • Learning: Edge takes an enquiry-based approach, meaning children learn through their own interests and develop a mindset that learning is fun. Educators will ask children what they want to do, offering them options and paying close attention to what they are interested in when structuring their daily routine.

“It’s a lot of work,” Rebecca admits. “Early education is not for the faint of heart, but we love our job!”

So now that you know the benefits of early childhood education, what should you look for when finding the right childcare for your family?

“We always ensure that families take a tour before they decide to enrol in any childcare, and we offer ‘Stay and Play’ so that parents can experience the centre environment alongside their child for a few hours,” says Rebecca. “We do recommend that parents ‘Stay and Play’ on whatever days their children will likely attend childcare, to better understand how their child will be spending their time – if a child will be coming on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it’s important they come and visit on those days.”

Edge Early Learning prides itself on its honest and open relationship with families, which is particularly important when a child comes in for their first day.

“We are really transparent with parents and let them know that some first days can be rough,” says Rebecca. “They can go one of two ways: amazingly, with a tear-free drop off, or the complete opposite.”

Here are a few ways to ease the childcare drop-off blues:

  • Parents, don’t just disappear after your child has gone to play – instead, make sure you say goodbye and let them know that you will be coming back to ease any sudden panic for your child during the day.
  • Parents of children who don’t speak much English can rest assured that the team will always do their best to pair your child with an educator who does speak their native language.
  • Pack a cuddly toy from home to give your child familiarity and comfort throughout their day.
  • Choose a childcare centre that won’t force your child to participate in any activities or social settings they don’t want to be part of, and rather allows your child to enjoy some quiet time by themselves until they are ready to join the group.
  • Ask whether your childcare centre has an ‘open door policy,’ allowing you to drop by to see your child during the day, and whether there is a way for your child to phone you if they are upset.

“Full-time children can spend more time in childcare than they do in their own home, so we always make sure that parents get the ‘warm and fuzzies’ when they take a tour of a childcare centre – if not, we implore them to keep looking,” says Rebecca. “Once you know, you know!”

Rebecca adds that it is important for parents to pay attention to how their children respond to the environment, too, particularly when they take the very first tour.

“Above all, do your research when looking for a childcare centre, whether that is by reading the centre’s philosophy on their website, asking other families who go there and talking with the staff,” says Rebecca. “Ask them how they will educate your child, what will happen if your child is sick, what their point of difference is and what you and your child should do to prepare for the first day.”

If you aren’t sure whether your child is ready for childcare, there are signs to look out for – take notice of whether they part easily from you, if they seem to be bored at home or are no longer playing with the toys they once loved, and if they are beginning to become more adventurous.

“It can be a scary decision for a parent to make, but it is honestly one of the most beneficial things you can do for your child’s development,” says Rebecca.

If you think your child might be ready, book a tour today!

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