What are my options?
Every child is different, so when choosing an early learning service for your child, think about whether that service ‘fits’ your family and routines at home. Some early learning service centres suit those who need to leave their children with registered educators and teacher-led services. Others, like to be involved in their child ‘parent-led services’ which means parents, whānau or caregivers are the educators can be there with their children and often receive support and training. There are also services where caregivers look after children at their home or yours, ideal for small groups these caregivers get advice and support from visiting teachers and are the closest thing to being with family and whanau at home.
Some services cater for children from birth to school age, others have a specific age ranges; some have a special character, philosophy or focus (eg Rudolf Steiner, Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Te Kōhanga Reo); and all vary in the days/hours they are open. How much parents are expected to pay and/or be involved in the running of the centre also varies.
It is always good to visit a few different services to get a feel for what is available, and to question staff about the service they’re providing.
We have more detail and information on most early learning options explained here
How do I choose an early learning service?
Six points to consider when choosing an early learning service that suits you and your child:
1. Are educators at the child’s level and using extensive oral communication.
When you’re visiting a potential service, pay attention to how everyone interacts with the children. Ideally, educators should be on the floor playing with the children, talking with them, and observing and/or holding them if they are very young, but still interacting with them. And just as important – can the educators communicate well with you about what learning is being experienced and and does your child feel comfortable asking adults for help? More here
2. Check for commitment, turnover and the ratio of educators to children.
So if you’re considering a service, find out how long the current caregivers have been working there and how much turnover the service usually experiences and so on. Meet those who look after the youngest, as they should be some of the most qualified in child development to be able to identify, interpret, and respond to every child’s individual differences. More here
3. Read the Education Review Office report. The ERO report is all about the quality of education provided for children in various services. Most services will have one. Early childhood services are reviewed on average once every three years, and from the ERO report you can find out about the standard of education being offered. More here
4. How does the service fit with your lifestyle?
Find out whether you share parenting ideas on how to deal with behavioural issues. The more questions you ask early on, the less likely you will be surprised later. Does the early learning service do things, the way you like to? More here
5, Do surprise visits.
Word-of-mouth referrals from other parents are important, but you need to look at a service for yourself to assess whether it meets your family needs. You may want to consider popping in unannounced a few times after you’ve enrolled your child, to see how things are going. More here
6. Trust your instincts, and take your time making a decision.
Every parent knows when something doesn’t feel quite right. You may be turned off by a service everyone locally raves about or clash with a highly recommended educator. If that happens, keep searching. All children deserve, and thrive under, good, nurturing care. More here
These are the essentials, but extra questions you can think about here