Childcare options are many and varied - but watch out because so too is the quality!
Nearly every family at some time uses some form of care for their child.
There are formal options available. Most of these are available during day-time hours though nannies are often prepared to work at night and early mornings.
Childcare is what a daycare, nanny, au pair, home educator, nursery school, or early childhood education centre provides.
Using a government licensed childcare service such as an in-home education agency, an all-day kindergarten or childcare centre is one option.
Another option is to organise work around the child or make your own childcare arrangements with someone you know such as another parent with a similar aged child. Research published in the NZ Research in ECE Journal found that parents of very young children prefer to have caregivers that are known to them.
Good childcare means no stress
A childcare, preschool, kindy, family daycare or other childcare service which is most likely to be good for your child is also one that is most likely to be stress-free and good for you.
When you leave your child with another person/s this is child care. A good childcare service is one in which you can easily tell by looking at other children that a high standard of childcare is provided. The children are:
- Provided with a great learning environment for social and intellectual play
- Able to do and experience some things that are different to what they do at home as well as providing home and community based activities e.g. cooking, block play, singing, going for walks, visiting the supermarket etc.
Who will be a good carer for your child?
Some people connect well with young children, and other people don't.
Not everyone has the personal qualities of liking and being able to connect easily with young children because teacher training can't teach this.
The adults or childcare teachers should show enthusiasm, warmth, energy, and a genuine interest in your child's world. This is MOST important.
The adult(s) must be able to connect at a personal level with your child, and have the knack of knowing just what to say and do at the right moment to interest and make your child feel safe, cared about, and in-control (rather than being controlled). For an article that discusses this is more depth click here.
Take time to decide
Do not make a final decision too quickly. There is a free booklet available that gives excellent guidance, click here to see it and print a copy to take with you when you are visiting services.
Have a trial period. If you are considering enrolling at a centre or home-based service have some short visits with your child before officially starting and stay with your child to observe. Also have some spontaneous/unscheduled visits, “We were just passing and thought we would pop in to say hi”.
Information on fees and other charges is available click here for detailed information
Ongoing monitoring of the childcare arrangement and how well it continues to meet your child and family’s needs is important, especially as your child gets older and as the peer-group and the adult(s) working in the service change.
Parents' and teachers’ stories
Over the years parents and teachers have submitted to ChildForum many stories of situations that have not been good for individual children. Examples of things going wrong include:
- A child hated going to kindergarten because he was often kicked and teased by another child.
- A parent was told that her child could not be given individual attention because the needs of the group had to come first
- A mother was told not to breastfeed her child at the centre because it was not in her child’s best interests as children are best left to develop independence.
- A child who felt ignored and unsupported by the adults in the service.
- A 3-year-old child left the centre unnoticed by teachers and waited at the gate on a main road for at least 30 minutes for his parent, until a stranger noticed and returned the child to the centre.
- A child was left in an inner city playground unnoticed by teachers who crossed the busy city intersection and returned to the centre. The child was helped to cross the road and return to the centre by a stranger. The teachers did not tell the parent when collecting her child what had happened, but later put responsibility onto the child, saying the child must have been hiding
- A toddler was left on a beach for several hours until found by a stranger.
- A nanny who stole food and other small items from the family.
- A nanny who with the parents gone, watched television soaps and talked to her boyfriends and others on her mobile phone.
- A child who engaged in sex play and knew adult language having learnt this from observing other children at a centre.
- A child who received injuries the caregiver could not explain including a broken limb.
- A child who received injuries the caregiver blamed on the child.
- Teachers who talked to one another while children played unattended and unnoticed.
- The manager of a centre telling a student teacher not to give a child who was hurt and crying a cuddle because it would be unfair on other children who would then want personal attention ad staff did not have time to sit with one child only.
- A toddler left sitting in a highchair for an hour and a half while other children had their lunch, teachers ate their lunch and talked and then cleaned the area and put out new activities on the tables.
These are not mentioned here to scare you, but so that you are aware that things can sometimes go wrong.
Have your mind and eyes open to the possibility that problems can arise as a good childcare/preschool service is only truly good if one is aware of and knows what possible problems could occur.
The characteristics of childcare in New Zealand
The video below provides a good sense of what formal childcare options are like.
Watch this if haven't visited an early childhood centre before or know little about childcare services.
When things go wrong
The role of the Ministry of Education is to regulate and fund early childhood education and childcare services and implement government policy. Should you have a complaint about a childcare service contact your local office of the Ministry of Education, give the Ministry details and ask it to investigate and report back to you (click here for more information and contact details). Should it not investigate your complaint and keep your name and your child's name confidential then email My ECE which is the parents' watchdog for childcare and let it know what your experience has been - website: www.myece.org.nz
Are you searching for a good childcare service in your area?
We recommend you go to the My ECE (short for "my early childhood education") website www.myece.org.nz
It has a good directory with up-to-date information on the features of each service, the current star-rating each centre or home-based service holds, and you can read what other parents say about a service before visiting.
Read "The NZ Parent Guide to Childcare and Education (birth to 6 years)" - click here to view the Guide