How to choose the best early childhood education centre for your little oneby Catherine Woulfe
Experts say the quality of early childhood education centres varies hugely. Here's what you should look for.
Here are our top tips when choosing an early childhood education centre:
1. Pop in without notice, at a time when most parents aren’t around. Mid-morning or mid-afternoon are good. Spend as much time at the centre as you can – not as a ‘policeman’, but as a potential member of the centre community. Chat with staff and children. Watch for warm, respectful interactions and children deeply engaged in their play. Look for smiles.
2. Our regulations give children 2.5sqm inside and 5sqm outside. You’re looking for substantially more than that – data is patchy, but some research recommends between 3.25 and 5sqm inside. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends a minimum of 10sqm outside. Space allocation won’t be noted in ERO reports but it’s worth asking management.
3. Air should seem fresh, not smelly or stuffy. Ignore the NZ-regulated 16 degree minimum - you’re looking for indoor temperatures closer to the WHO recommendation of 21 degrees. Public health researcher Mike Bedford thinks 18 degrees is about right. Some centres have thermostats on the wall.
4. Bedford has come to see the location of a centre’s kitchen as an indicator of quality. Is it connected to the activity space so that children can learn about food in a home-like environment? Or is it institutional, hidden away down a hall with food trolleyed in?
5. Can you easily hold a conversation with adults and children? Are children able to easily talk to each other, too? Look for bolt-holes inside – separate rooms or spaces that children can go to when they need quiet. Visit on a rainy day when more children are inside. Observe your child after a day there – are they talking in a shouty voice?
6. Outdoor areas: do children have access to real grass, dirt and sand or is it all fake grass and rubber matting? Is there a quiet ‘hideaway’ spot? Are children allowed out in the rain? Can play equipment be moved and changed or is it static (ie, boring). Don’t just think about how much fun your child has during your visit – think about how they’ll like it day after day.
7. Ask to read policies, and discuss any that you are not sure of.
8. We’re told some centres are offering prospective families Warriors tickets, free backpacks or hats, and free nappies if they enrol their child. Don’t be swayed.
9. Home-based ECE – where individuals, often mothers, are paid to provide care and education for very small groups of children in their own homes – are governed by looser space regulations than the rest of the sector. They must simply provide “sufficient and suitable space” for what the children need during the day. Playgroups and hospital-based ECE also follow different rules.
Read why experts are saying New Zealand's rules on space, temperature and noise in early childhood education centres are too lax in the latest issue of the Listener, on sale now.
This article was first published in the June 23, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
Released in 1977, Dario Argento’s campy Suspiria was a landmark in cult horror. Now, director Luca Guadagnino has remade it in a new style.Read more
Abir Mukherjee uses India’s painful struggle for independence as the backdrop for his Sam Wyndham detective stories.Read more
Restaurant veterans Chris Rupe, Krishna Botica, Tony Adcock, Geeling Ching and Judith Tabron reflect on the Auckland dining scene.Read more
Head to one of these Metro Top 50 Cheap Eats and 50 under $50 restaurants for BYO dining that won't break the bank.Read more
Mezcal was once regarded as a tipple for the lower-class – now it's the hero at new bar La Fuente.Read more
Ross’s tape didn’t stand up his allegations of electoral fraud, but it helpfully drew renewed attention to questions about Chinese influence in NZ.Read more
The National Party’s ongoing ructions suggest a long spell in the wilderness lies ahead.Read more
In the 19th century, there were more newspapers in New Zealand per head of population than anywhere else in the world says writer Ian F Grant.Read more