Do you remember the first time you dropped your kid at childcare? Or maybe your baby is still at home in your arms, yet to go off to an early learning centre...
Perhaps you’ve got the enrolment forms in front of you. That day will come sooner than you think and you’ll never forget it. I’m not sure who cried more – me or my daughter Arabella. Where had the time gone? I remember wishing the days away when she was a newborn – they seemed so long and for the most part, she was terribly unsettled (premmie, reflux…). And then suddenly, those days were over, I was back at work part-time and I longed for those days at home with my baby. The first few weeks of childcare were an adjustment for us all. I went off to work and tried to act like I had it all together (I didn’t). I felt so guilty for leaving her. Every morning Arabella cried and then suddenly, after about week three, the tears stopped and she would smile when I dropped her off. She hasn’t stopped smiling (apparently she doesn’t even tantrum at daycare either – I mean, seriously?!). I now cry when I say goodbye to her teachers at the end of the year – I get so attached to them. And that guilt? It’s gone because I have such trust in the kind carers. I also love listening to my children talk about their friends at daycare (Lottie and I have a song about going to the zoo that we sing at the end of the day where I have to list everyone she goes to daycare with). They adore their friends and the socialisation skills they get each day couldn’t be replicated at home.
Cooking provides opportunities for children to explore mathematical concepts such as counting and measurement, capacity and volume, science concepts in terms of experimentation, heating, cooling and turning liquids into solids. It’s also an opportunity for valuable nutrition and hygiene lessons to be reinforced.
The Grace Tales recently got a tour around the new Barangaroo Guardian Early Learning Centre and we were so impressed (I called one of my best girlfriends who works at Westpac and told her to put her daughter’s name down ASAP). What can you expect from Guardian centres? For starters, they employ a Reggio-Emilia inspired, play-based learning curriculum that encourages meaningful learning experiences and connection to real-world context. For example, the children at Barangaroo have been exploring physics concepts by rolling down the hill at the Barangaroo centre. The educators supported this by asking the children what happens when they roll other objects down the hill – to look at what rolls fast, what rolls slowly, what doesn’t roll. The children explored this by getting different resources to test their theories, as well as capture a time-lapse to capture some of the moments. They also use cooking as an opportunity for children to explore mathematical concepts such as counting and measurement, capacity and volume, science concepts in terms of experimentation, heating, cooling and turning liquids into solids. It’s also an opportunity for valuable nutrition and hygiene lessons to be reinforced, for fine motor skills to be practised and social skills to be enhanced. It’s impossible to feel guilty when your child is spending their day doing things such as this.
The highly skilled educators spend a great deal of time planning experiences and setting up spaces in order to create rich learning opportunities. There’s a literacy table that offers a wide variety of mark making media including pens, pencils, erasers, rulers and paper types; interior and exterior art areas and a well-designed natural environment where children experience sounds and textures (how fun does this place look?). Then there’s Guardian’s ‘Out and About’ program, which consists of centre’s going on regular excursions to their local community as it plays an important role in our culture and our sense of belonging. Going out into the community on regular excursions builds the children’s confidence, sensibility and exposes them at an early age to what a community has to offer. 70% of a child’s early learning happens before they are three. 70%! It’s a pretty remarkable fact and it’s comforting to know that one of Guardian’s objectives is to educate families that early education (birth-five years) is an important education stage in children’s lives. Basically, going to an early learning centre is just as important as formal schooling.
Want to know more? We spoke to Dr. Elanna Yalow, a world-renowned expert in Early Education and CEO of Kinder Care, the largest provider of high quality early learning care in the United States, about what to look for when selecting a childcare centre.
Guardian’s ‘Out and About’ program consists of centre’s going on regular excursions to their local community.
The highly skilled educators at Guardian spend a great deal of time planning experiences and setting up spaces in order to create rich learning opportunities.
“One of the most important things to do when choosing the best childcare centre for your children is to trust your own instincts and judgement. You know your children better than anyone, so you are the best person to judge what is the best fit for them,” explains Yalow. She’s right and there’s nothing an intuitive as your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, move onto another centre. You’ll know instantly if it’s right for you.
Search for quality interactions
“Research surrounding early learning relays that the key to a child’s success is centred around the quality of interactions experienced between responsive, caring adults and the child’s basic needs,” says Yalow. “When participating in a centre tour observe how the educators are interacting with the children, are they talking with the children? Are they being stimulated and challenged through educational practice? These quality interactions are key to providing a learning environment for your children.” This is really important. I remember getting a tour around a centre and walking into the room which would be where my daughter would be placed. The carers couldn’t have looked more bored. No-one was engaging with the children. I thanked the person giving me the tour and crossed that centre off my list. When I walk into my children’s early learning centre, the carers are always engaged with the kids. My girls also talk about their carers a lot – this is always a good sign!
Ask about teacher qualifications
“You shouldn’t be afraid to ask about the educators’ experience and qualifications. You may consider asking how the centre is supporting the ongoing education and professional development of the team. A centre that is committed to enhancing the qualifications and expertise of their staff is enthusiastic in ensuring a high quality of care is being delivered,” explains Yalow. It sounds obvious, but don’t be nervous about getting to know the people who will be looking after the most important thing in your life: your children.
The literacy table offers a wide variety of mark making media including pens, pencils, erasers, rulers and paper types.
Look for documentation of learning
“Look around the centre for evidence of learning activities. By doing so you may be able to see what the children have been learning about and how these teachings have been implemented in a fun and meaningful way,” says Yalow. Each week at my children’s centre there is new artwork on the walls and they’re always bringing home pieces of art. Take interest in what they’re doing – ask them about what they’ve learnt. Remember how wonderful it was a child learning new and exciting things each day?
Find out about the curriculum
“The curriculum is the basic tool educator’s use to support children’s learning and development. Investigating the centre’s curriculum will help you choose the best childcare for your child,” she says. As I mentioned above, take an interest in what your child is learning each day and talk to them about it at home.
Guardian’s menus provide five healthy meals per day, using fresh and seasonal ingredients, and offer everything that is required to deliver on the recommended nutritional dietary requirements.
“Good nutrition is an essential part to every child’s development. It’s about providing children with healthy eating education, exposure to good nutrition and learning about portions through serving themselves. Meal times also provide a fantastic opportunity for children to experience new tastes and textures, and to gather together socially,” says Yalow. Prepared by an on-site cook, Guardian’s menus provide five healthy meals per day, using fresh and seasonal ingredients, and offer everything that is required to deliver on the recommended nutritional dietary requirements. Research shows that the more you involve your children in the preparation of food, the more likely they are to take an interest in nutrition. At Guardian, they invite children to get involved – whether it’s through growing and harvesting the vegetables to assisting in the food preparation, children are active participants in nutrition at our centres.
Environments are key
“Every learning environment should be warm and welcoming, as well as reflect the community it is serving. As you enter the centre, it should emulate an environment that yourself and your child would enjoy spending time in. Being able to feel welcome and safe will not only help your children feel more settled and relaxed, but as parents you’ll feel confident they are in a safe environment,” says Yalow. Again, feeling like your child is in a safe, clean environment is obviously so important. Don’t worry if they cry when you first drop them off – they’re likely to stop that the minute you’re out of sight.