Associate Professor Susan Krieg from Flinders University tells us some key factors of a quality early learning centre.

Associate Professor Susan Krieg from Flinders University tells us some key factors  of a quality early learning centre.

What should you be looking for when choosing a day care centre for your child?

Associate Professor Susan Krieg from Flinders University tells us some key factors of a quality early learning centre.

What does quality childcare look like?

I always say to parents, ask yourself would you want to be there? How does it feel when you walk into the room that your child is attending? Are the educators welcoming? Is the physical environment welcoming? Is it interesting, is it calm, what are the children doing?

You should look at the way the adults are interacting with the children in terms of whether they are calm and responding to what the children are asking and need. Are they interacting with each other in a positive way? So for me the relationships are really important.

Quality childcare includes ‘structural dimensions,’ so the qualifications of staff, the ratio of adults to children. For example one of the features of quality childcare is the relationship between the adults and the children and the relationship fostered between the children. If the structural elements are not addressed it is very difficult for staff who are under pressure looking after too many children to actually have the quality of relationship that they know they should have.

Also, if you are looking for childcare options look in your own community first because the idea of childcare is it’s developing a local community in ways that are really important. The social networks for parents and the relationships they form can be a really powerful force in our democratic society and we have lost that to a lot of extent. The ‘market’ approach to childcare and schools means parents shop around for the best, the children are taking buses and parents are driving them to centres and we’ve lost that local community links that early learning can offer.

What are some of the activities parents should be looking for at a daycare?

I would be looking for a mix of whether children can be indoor or outdoor and what the outdoor area looks like. Is there an opportunity to interact with natural material or is predominated by plastic toys? We know that children in their highly structured world are finding less and less time to interact with nature and yet research shows it is really important for children to be exposed to leaves, mud, sand and water. They are the natural elements that children learn with.

The children need opportunities to paint, draw and play. Play seems to be getting squeezed out by pressure for children to perform particularly in relation to literacy and numeracy.

What does the day look like for the child? Is there a mix of working with a group and on their own? What opportunities are there individually for children to experience what water feels like, filling containers, working in the sand pit with wet sand, dry sand they are all things that make our world interesting.

Are we forgetting the play component?

I think we are finding it harder in our modern and contemporary world for children to have the opportunity to play.

One of the benefits for children in a preschool/childcare setting is they have a range of peers to play with. Childcare offers a diversity of peers that is very difficult to offer at home. In terms of different cultural groups, different languages that are spoken, it is very hard for parents to expose children and offer them the opportunity to play with children from such different backgrounds which is really important part of their learning.

One of the things I’ve written about is my concern that the whole benefit of childcare is being pouched in economic terms and about the workforce. It does offer, particularly women, the opportunity to participate in the workforce but the benefits are much more widespread. It’s the opportunity parents have to gain some support with their parenting and the opportunity for children to be interacting with a far more diverse group of peers than if they were in a home situation.

It is very difficult for parents and grandparents to provide the sorts of opportunities. Some families are fortunate enough to have a sandpit. For example, children can do dramatic plays at home but doing it with a diversity of children creates a whole new other opportunity.

This is the first part of Associate Professor Susan Krieg blog piece for The Parenthood. Check back next week for her second blog.

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