5 Tips for Choosing Childcare that Meets your Child’s Needs
Whether you are looking for a childminder, an early years pre-school, crèche or nursery, one of the biggest challenges you face is finding the right service.
Quality services provide stimulating environments which encourage babies and young children to develop and learn. They help to develop skills such as how to be independent, how to play, share, make friends, and how to recognise, name and manage their emotions; all of which contribute to a happy confident child. Here are some things to consider when exploring the options:
1. A Caring Response to Children
How do the adults respond to children in their care? Explore whether a ‘key person’ would be appointed to look after your child as they settle in and on an ongoing basis. Ask about sleep and nap times - where does it take place, is it supervised, scheduled or is at as the child needs it?
2. Talking and Listening to Children
Consider how the staff talk, listen to, and interact with the children. Communication plays an important role in helping children to feel safe and secure in any environment. Observe the interactions between the adults and children. These interactions should be in a pleasant tone, at the child’s pace and in language the child understands. Staff should support them in developing their emotional language by naming the child’s emotions. Consider if the children are talking to the adults and are the adults down at the children’s eye level and making eye contact.
3. Positive Attitudes
Working with children is a skilled and demanding role, yet in a quality environment you will see adults who genuinely enjoy being with children. Some of the things to consider are:
- How the adults talk with and about the children in their care.
- Are they down at the child’s eye level and speaking in child friendly language and tones?
- What is the policy around sleep and nap times, medication, dietary requirements and communication with parents?
- Is the environment welcoming, and do staff welcome input from parents?
4. Good Play Opportunities
Young children require time to play and explore for themselves, as well as an opportunity to spend time with an adult who takes an active role in their play. Children should be able to reach toys and resources for themselves. Children should also be shown and encouraged to tidy away too! They should have the opportunity for all types of play – both indoors and outdoors. During your visit ask about how activities are chosen and notice how the adults respond and interact in children’s play.
- Do the children have access to outdoor space, are there cars, bikes, trikes, grassy or soft areas to play on?
- Is there equipment for both outdoor and indoor activities, sand, water, arts materials, construction, books, imaginative play, etc.?
5. Observing the Children and Planning their Activities
To plan well for children and to support their development the adults need to be aware of each child’s individual skills and strengths. From this they can plan different kinds of play that will help your child to learn and develop skills. It is important to understand how the services you are looking at approach this, and how you will find out about your child’s progress and interests.
- How do they identify your child’s strengths?
- How do they keep you informed of how your child is doing?
- Is there a balance between group or arranged activities and time for the children to freely choose the activities they want to engage in?
While looking out for all these indications of good childcare, check out the professional level of qualifications that staff members hold. Some practitioners have degree level qualifications and above. From 31 December 2016 all childcare staff should hold a minimum FETAC Level 5 qualification.
This article was written by Barnardos for eumom.ie