I often get asked by friends and family many questions about choosing quality childcare. This all-important decision is sometimes intimidating and scary, especially for new parents; and by new, I mean before the baby has even arrived!
As soon as new parents get over the initial excitement of being pregnant, they are quickly thrown into the reality of how this new little person is about to bring some big changes to their lives. One of the decisions parents are often faced with is whether both parents will return to work which would mean that they will be needing childcare. It’s even harder on single-parent families who may have no choice.
The reality is, according to Stats Canada;
“71% of households where both partners worked for pay used child care for a preschool child, and 49% did the same for a school-aged child between the ages of 5 and 14. Child care rates were also high for lone-parent families where the parent worked at a paid job or business”
That being said, there are quite a few different options for child care for children ages 0-12 and it’s not a one size fits all. So how do you decide? Nanny, Day Home, Child Care program? Each family has different needs and starting to explore each of these options will help your family figure out which might be the best fit for you.
I’m not going to get into the costs of child care or the politics of child care. The only thing I will say here is people need to value the profession more and the importance of the early years. there is so much research around this. The fields of child development and brain development have made a strong case for the importance of these foundational years and the need for investing more.
In addition to the obvious need for child care, parents do have a much better understanding today of the importance and value that early learning can bring to their child’s development. The importance of play, peer socialization, emotional and cognitive development has both the working parents and the stay at home parents interested in quality programs like preschools, pre-kindergarten programs, and playschools; another stream of childcare that is typically part-time and/or in some cases full time.
Today I want to focus on choosing a child care program. I want to introduce to you what to look for in a quality program in three words. Credentials, Programming, and Environment. What makes me qualified to do so? Hmmmm. Those exact three words. At AKIDEMY we really pride ourselves on offering a very high-quality program in the city of Calgary. This isn’t something that parents have voted on, or something we just say because we think it and it helps us sell it.
We know it because early learning is being taught by professionals in a safe and nurturing environment at our program. We know it because the people that are teaching and researching the early childhood field have recognized that our program is one of very high quality. We know it because we continue to stay accountable and informed to always continue to be offering the most innovative program we can that is based on the latest research.
So let’s start here. These are the three biggest things to look for and ask about. In the end, I tell all parents, follow your gut. Your “parent” sense will guide you. Don’t jump on a decision. I always allow our families to think about taking a space before committing. At AKIDEMY we are transparent, and we don’t want to put pressure on an already difficult and big decision. When we have spaces we advertise and we allow that family or families a couple of days to reflect on the spot before offering it out to the next interested family.
CHOOSING CHILD CARE – THE BIG 3
Now, I have no doubt that you will find loving and caring people working in the field who have little or no background in early learning. BUT The fact is in order to be running a strong child care program, it should be taught by educators who have credentials in the field. Just this week Alberta Government finally tightened up the certification qualifications for Early Learning Educators. Something that was long overdue and sends a message of respect to an often undervalued profession.
As a parent, you should expect that when you walk into a program, it is being not only taught by but operated by, an Early Learning Educator. Just like when you meet the principle in an elementary school or high school; in order for that administrator to lead the team, they would have had to work their way up from education, to frontline staff and so on in order to really understand all the moving parts…Credentials.
At AKIDEMY we only hire Certified ECE’s with the highest qualifications to lead our classrooms. My business partner and I both have studied in the field and continue to learn and keep up with the latest and most innovative in ECE. We expect the same from our team.
So if you are parent touring a new center ask about qualifications. Also, ask about things like first aid, police clearance, licensing, accreditation (if available in your province or state). Quality programs wouldn’t be striving to maintain bare minimums but going above and beyond to provide the best for our most vulnerable population.
Did you know that in order to maintain a license here in Alberta, not ALL educators have to have first-aid training, that only one in every two staff members on site need to be first-Aid Trained? At AKIDEMY it is an expectation that all staff be up to date and certified in order to work for us.
A quality program will post and share their programming. When on a tour, ask about the school’s philosophy, the programming in each class and how that information is shared with parents. See if this aligns with your beliefs and what your hopes are for your child. There are many different types of programs out there, and I don’t necessarily agree with some. Some are way too structured, some have children doing worksheets at the age of 3, some send home homework (I wish I could stick an eye roll emoji here)
All I am going to ask you, moms and dads, is do your homework on different programs and what the latest research on child development has to say about programs that offer the above. Research today clearly shows that play-based learning centers who offer lots opportunities for emergent programming that fosters wonder, curiosity, and exploration in a safe and nurturing environment, will allow children to grow socially, emotionally and cognitively. Children will develop a love of learning all while feeling confident and capable!
Doesn’t that sound like someplace you want to send your child?
The setting acts as a third teacher. Both Tristan and I have always believed in that. Children are so much more capable than we give them credit for. Our environment at AKIDEMY fosters that. We didn’t need to create a program that was screaming pink, red, green or blue. We didn’t want to cover our walls in those funny scholastic boards, with silly trims and stars. We wanted to create a beautiful space that was calm and made the children feel welcomed. The walls didn’t need to speak to them, the plastic toys are limited and glass jars and real materials surround them. This is us and it works because we believe that children are capable and competent. We know that our parents feel the same about our space when they come in.
When you walk into a program how do you feel? Think about this during the tour. listen to the children at play and the educators; look for clutter, ask about the classroom routines and ask about child safety. While on the tour does your child feel relaxed when visiting the classrooms?
And btw, they should allow you to bring your child along for the tour. Something we always strongly encourage.
So this is it. My first post on searching for quality early learning programs. If you have any comments please share! I would love to hear and also help answer any questions you might have. I am a parent too. I searched high and low for a quality program and when I couldn’t find, I decided to create it with my best friend for our children. I can empathise with your concerns and I know how hard the decision can be but I also know how amazing it feels when you find the right fit!
Want to check out more about our program visit our webpage AKIDEMY
or check out our instagram account at @akidemypreschool
till the next post,