Many children start attending child care after 18 months and it is a daunting thought for both the child and the parents. Though my kids were in infant care since 4 months old, I was anxious and had so much going on in my mind when my kids turn 18 months.
Of course the preparation starts way before that as I have to decide if they were going to stay in the same centre or are they moving on to a new centre.
I didn’t continue them in the same centre because I love the ifc teachers but I didn’t like the system for the older kids. So I started searching for a new centre for Big E when she was around 12 months old.
I tried searching for My First Skool – around Hougang (where we stay) and Ang Mo Kio (near hubby work place and it’s not too far from Hougang) but it was a long waiting list everywhere. So I started searching for other centres and found Little Skool House (At-the-Hub) which is located in AMK Hub itself.
I had my concerns because it is fully air-conditioned and Big E has her allergic rhinitis problem which can be triggered by the cold temperature and having to shower in that condition doesn’t seem good. BUT then, she has her eczema flaring in ifc due to hot weathers at times since they do not have air conditioner on the whole day (only during nap time).
So I brought Eva, my parents and hubby to the centre for visit. I always believe in bringing the kid along to have a feel of the environment and if they are at ease, then that helps me make the decision too.
I was overwhelmed! I love what I see (but well, actually I didn’t see any other centres!) but I like the layout of the place and the bright lighting and the thematic curriculum. I had my concerns with the costs but then I really had no other options and I didn’t want her to continue in the old centre.
BEST DECISION MADE!
Here are the few things you might want to consider when selecting the child care centre.
If you are SAHM, definitely you wouldn’t want to travel too far off just to drop your kid off everyday (especially if you have another little one to carry along). So do start searching nearby centres.
If you are FTWM, then consider the travelling time like if you would be able to make it in time to pick up the kid by 7pm everyday. For some parents, choosing a centre very near home means they risk being late everyday so they have to choose somewhere between work and home. Or some prefer to have it near the office so in case of emergency, say kid got injured or running high fever, they can be there in the shortest time.
2. Search for review of your targeted centres
This is tricky and may not be easy but still worth a try! Often, very negative experience will be shared more online, making it easy to find. So I would say no news means good news.
3. Arrange for centre visit
This is a MUST. The environment will give you a good understanding of the school and how the kids will be taken care of. Well, if the environment is not well taken care of, you would wonder how do they handle the kids! I like it when they have clear layout and “department”. Little Skool House has separate room for each class (except one which is open-concept) which makes it easy for them to quarantine / isolate any class should there be HFMD or stomach flu outbreak.
4. Prepare some questions for the staff / principal during the visit
You might want to understand their curriculum and their focus for each age group. And how do they prepare to wean the kids off milk bottles or do toilet training. Think along key things like that to see if it aligns with your style. This is very important because conflicting visions / beliefs make it very difficult for communication and for guiding the child.
5. Find out the mode of communication between the teachers and you
This is very important as this will build the rapport and relationship between you and the team. It will help you gain confidence in the team and also get to understand your child’s development better in school. Most parents who are new to childcare will tend to get anxious and would want to be re-assured from time to time.
Of course, the actual experience will be most accurate but I feel the basic system should be in place. For eg, a proper communication book, email address or school main number to call.
Little Skool House (At-the-Hub) has a physical communication book which is packed in their bag everyday. We used it more often during the early days in Toddler class and actually since N2 and now K1, we hardly use the book.
We will also receive physical copies of memo for events or consent forms.
There is also an app for teachers to upload their weekly plan, photos of the class and activities and school announcements or reminders. I find it very useful especially when I cannot remember the next closure date. The app will also send a notification upon signing in / out your child.
During my pregnancy days (with Small E) and confinement, I don’t get to meet the teachers in person but I do email them to get updates of Big E and also to seek their help to ease Big E into the new changes.
Small E started in Agape Little Uni since 1 Dec 17 and we made the decision (even though LSH is awesome) because of the fees and also the location since it is right below my block! Agape Little Uni does not have a physical comm book. So we can communicate via the app instead. So this app in addition to photos and signing in/out information, it works like whatsapp to the teachers. So far, teachers have acted promptly as per my request though they may not reply in the app.
So what’s next after you secure a place in the child care centre?
1. Get a suitable bag to pack their daily items.
Consider something that can hold all the items in one so you don’t need to lug a few bags when picking them up. A backpack would also be more convenient especially if your tot would want you to carry him/her.
You might not want to get anything too expensive since the kids will generally be trained to handle their stuff on their own. My kids will pull their bags to the shower area so I take note to find one that can withstand the friction and not too heavy for their handling.
I didn’t want to choose trolley bag because that is difficult for me to handle especially if I am picking them up alone.
I got the Insular Model 10059 for both Big E and Small E. Teachers at centres kept asking me where I got these bags because they find it useful and it stands up firmly upright. I think it’s great especially for Big E who is trained to independently pack her stuff in school.
Insular Model 10056B came out later, I think inspired by ANELLO and they added compartments which makes it so handy!
Before Insular, I was using Heine basic model which was awesome too because it can fit cooler bag as well and it’s soft and spacious! The material is also light.
2. Get name labels for all the items.
For toddlers, it will be better to label everything since they may not be able to identify all their belongings. I find especially for milk bottle and water bottle because there is bound to be someone with the same design.
For the older kids, you will need to label mainly their uniform in case they get it mixed up with their friends. They can usually recognise their own sleeping stuff.
Check out these label providers. They have value packs which includes big, small, round sticker labels and even iron-ons! They can last a long time and withstand all the washing.
3. Prepare extra towels for use in school.
The used towel will be returned to you everyday. So you will need at least 2 to rotate and if you are going to do laundry everyday. Take note of the size and weight. It should be light and not overly big so that your child can manage easily. Lighter towels also make it less wet and heavy when packed into the bag.
4. Get indoor socks if the centre is fully air-conditioned
I bought mine from Citrusox at S$6.90 a pair. They don’t do promotion for this series but I find it really worth! Big E wears it to sleep every night too and it helps curb her runny nose.
Sample items to pack (do check with your childcare for actual list). All items should be labelled.
1. Milk bag
From my understanding and reading across many fb group posts, doesn’t seem like CCs accept ebm. Some parents pack it in own chiller bags. I used to let Big E bring a bottle to school and take with breakfast. It is extra from Small E’s supply. But she will take her formula milk during nap or tea break.
If on formula…
Milk powder in either dispenser.
If on fresh milk / UHT…
Similar to ebm, centres usually not able to store the fresh milk so they recommend UHT instead.
Actually centres will serve milk too during breakfast and tea break in cup to the kids. You can check with them what milk they are serving. Both Big E and Small E’s centres serve formula milk. Unfortunately, Big E is sensitive to Dumex (Mamil Gold) and we realised she is also sensitive to Dugro (which is also under Dumex) so teachers will help to prepare her own milk with the formula we provide.
– Milk Bottle (Only for toddler and max N1)
Centres would usually wean the kids off bottle and by N2, all of them will not be given bottle anymore.
-Water Bottle with strap
As they will be going for excursion or park visits at times, they will need the bottle with strap for easy carrying. So do get one that is not too bulky or heavy.
Pack 4 to 5 disposable diapers (pull-up pants) a day. Childcare will ask for pull-up pants instead of tape as they won’t be able to lay them down to put on the diaper.
*in case they run short of the diaper, they will usually borrow from another classmate and then inform you to bring extra on next day to return.
3. Extra set of uniform / bath bag
– 1 set of uniform
– 1 set of home clothes (if you are worried about them dirtying their clothes or wetting their pants etc. I didn’t buy that many sets of uniform so I pack in home clothes)
– Socks (if you prefer them to put them on during naps or if centre is fully air-conditioned)
– Bath Towel
– Extra plastic bag for soiled or changed clothes (I recommend using wet bags! They are the best and re-usable for swimming too. I bought them from here. Get the double zipper ones!)
You can also get very personalised ones where names are printed on the wet bags itself! Check it out here!
4. Naptime bag
– Mattress cover
– Light blanket
– Other sleep acccessories (if any) *some centres do not allow as they prefer to train the kids to sleep without these
– Bag to keep these items *recommended to use ziplock bag to minimise transmission of disease. Some centres would even request we bring it home on daily basis.
5. Toothbrush / Toothpaste / Mug kit (for N2 and up)
6. Other items
– Mosquito patch (this is for their park learning trips)
– Mozzie bite cream (as the kids are sensitive to mozzie bites and it will swell very badly so teachers are informed to apply in case they spot the bites)
– Body cream (in case of eczema flares and teachers will help to apply)
– Shower gel (the centre allow us to leave our own shower gel in school if child has sensitive skin)
7. *NEW* due to COVID-19
Here is a new post to recommend cute reusable masks. Not for urgent order but take a look if you can wait to get them as replacements. Read here.
Good luck with your childcare experience! Do keep an open mind and open heart but always trust your mummy instincts!
Meanwhile, if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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