Book a tour and trust your instincts, experts advise
Today’s reality suggests that most young children have working parents. That means that parents need to find quality childcare. And that can be a challenge for parents with preschool aged children.
“Finding good quality care is an investment in your child now and the future,” says Dr. Brooke Richardson, president of the Association of Early Childhood Educators. “As a parent, you want your child to have consistent, safe and responsive early experiences that are enjoyable and help them increase their social skills.” As Richardson points out, your child is going to be spending a lot of time in that environment, so knowing that the staff is qualified to offer developmentally appropriate and enriching learning experiences is essential. “Happy, educated and adequately remunerated staff are the foundation of quality childcare programs,” says Richardson. “And these are qualities that parents should be looking for in preschool care for their children as well.” The Association also works closely with EarlyON Child and Family Centres in promoting high-quality care.
Joanne Boyd is an early learning specialist with the Parent Resource Centre in Ottawa. She understands what a jungle it can be for parents to find the perfect fit for their child. “Many parents find the differentiation between preschool and daycare blurry,” says Boyd, “and it can be a bit muddled.” Her best advice is to look for a good fit for your child. “It should be an individual choice geared to the child’s needs and one that follows your values. There are a range of different programs available,” she says. “So, it does come down to personal choice.” She says you should be looking for high-quality care, a nurturing environment, play-based programs and the ability to explore, as well as caring people.” Boyd says as a parent to ‘trust your judgement’ and to go with what feels right – both for you and your child. “Choose your childcare carefully,” Boyd says. “Ask to visit the program and see the children and staff in action.”
“Children use play as a way of learning,” says Arlene Ross, executive director of Global Child Care Services, “so finding a childcare centre that supports age-appropriate learning where children are supported by trained staff to explore their environment is important.” Ross says to think of play as children’s work – it’s how they learn. She says the term preschool is sometimes used as a catch-all phrase by some, but in the child care sector, preschool is defined as an age group. “Global Child Care Services operates seven centres across the city – offering care for infants through school-age children,” says Ross, “and our work with the children is grounded in the Ontario Ministry of Education’s early learning framework called “How Does Learning Happen.” She suggests the best way to determine a good fit for your child is to book a tour of the childcare centres you’re interested in. “Then watch how staff interact with the children, because fundamental to the quality of the program will be the quality of those interactions – you want to see caring, responsive early childhood educators who are attuned to the individual needs of the children. You want to see a well-designed space that is safe and stimulates learning and fun, but most of all, it’s about your comfort level and how you feel about the entire environment.”
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