As mums, we would love to have our child stay home for as long as we can till he is ready for school, but when the need arises be it the expecting of a second child, or the need to return to work, we are left with no choice but to send our little one to childcare. For those living in young estates, options are limited by the number of centres around the neighbourhood and even so more limited to the availability of these childcare centres. But for those who have the choice to pick one, here are some considerations you need to take note when choosing the most suitable childcare centre for your precious one.

Location of Centre

Location is important as the daily task of sending and picking your child up can be a rather stressful one especially nearing centre opening and closure hours. Most centres operate from 7am to 7pm, so it is important to choose a place that is convenient and accessible  for caregivers.
You may visit Child Care Link to search for a centre near you.

Centre Fees

Enrolling your child in a childcare centre is an important financial decision. You and your spouse need to decide how much you can afford in the long term as this investment may last for a few years.

The government has been wonderful in rolling out subsidy schemes to aid working parents. It may not be a lot, but it is definitely a good start considering we do not pay exorbitant taxes. Below is a list of subsidies depending on your income range. It’ll be good to take a look at how much you can afford to spend on childcare with careful budgeting.

It is also good to take note if there is a trial period and what happens to your fees should you decide to withdraw.

Licenses & Reputations of Centres

All childcare centres in Singapore are licensed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, under the Child Care Centres Act (Cap 37A) and Regulations. A license is require before operations can commence. This license states the tenure for which the license is valid and it would be displayed in the centre. The length of the tenure determines the quality of the centre; the longer the tenure, the fewer the number of issues that have been identified.

Besides the tenure of the license, there are many online forums and websites sharing information and feedback on the quality of the various centres. Do a quick search on Google to read reviews of the centres to have an idea of what to expect. Speak to parents of existing students to find out more too.

Environment & Centre Culture

It is a must to visit your desired childcare centre for your child. After all, nothing beats first hand interaction with the staff and the children. Choose a time, preferably anytime before lunch or after afternoon nap time, to visit the centres. This is when the children are engaged in certain activities and the centre manager will be available to show you around. You may want to bring your child along to see how he or she behaves and interacts with the staff and other children.

During centre visits, it’ll be a good time to check on the following:

Physical Environment

  • Layout of centre: open concept or individual classrooms?
  • Hygiene & ventilation: air-conditioned or open? how do the floors feel? are the toilets clean? are the toys old or new?
  • Food & nutrition: how are the menus like? what are the serving size? what happens if a child has food allergies?
  • Safety & security: are there dangerous corners of the centre such as stairs or sharp corners of cabinets? what are the procedures like when bringing children for outdoor play? how does the centre verify that children are safely picked up?
  • Medical and emergency scenarios: what circumstances are sick children not allowed in the centres? what is the centre policy on administering medication? what happens during a hand-foot-mouth epidemic?

Centre Culture

  • Philosophy & values: what does the centre wish to inculcate in the children? does it align with your family beliefs?
  • Staff-Parent communication: is there an environment of open communication? how do the staff interact with each other and with the children? do the staff take turns to care for the children?
  • Feel of the centre: are the children visibly comfortable and happy? how do they approach you at the centre?

Curriculum & Timetable

Different centres have different approaches. Some may choose to adopt the Montessori approach, others may focus on a play-based learning environment, and some may undertake a more academic direction. Some centres have enrichment activities such as phonics, second language classes, gym and movement, music and art. Whichever your choice is, it is important that you feel comfortable and you feel that this is how you want your child to learn and where you think is best suited for your child.

It is also good to note what they do by checking the timetables, especially on nap times and mealtimes. Some centres may allow television time at the end of the day as a form of winding down, and you would need to communicate with the centre if this is something you don’t wish for your child.

It is a bonus to find out if the centre encourages parent participation and what events the centre may be involved throughout the year.

Staffs

Staff plays a key role in guiding and educating our children in their formative years. Their credentials are important to take note as we would want the most suited personnel to care for our children.

  • What qualifications does each staff have?
  • Are the staff first-aid trained?

Another thing to take note is staff-to-child ratio. The guidelines provided by MSF is 1:8, but this may differ from centre to centre. A lower teacher to child ratio means more dedicated attention is given to each child.

This list is not exhaustive and there may be other factors you may need to consider for your child. Hope this will be helpful, and happy centre hunting! Enjoy the journey along with your spouse and child. It may be tiring, but it’ll be fruitful and rewarding!

More information can be found in this Parent Guide by MSF.