What does the word ‘childcare’ mean to you? A simple babysitter? A childminder? A nursery or place that keeps your child amused while you can’t, perhaps with games and/or sleep time? Kindy or preschool? Or is it something else?
The thing is, the term childcare has become an umbrella word that encompasses any type of care that looks after a child while they’re not with their family or full-time caregivers. And therein lies the rub… The terminology has been somewhat misused for so long that many people now fail to understand the true meaning of the word. Even the Oxford English Dictionary describes it as, “The care of children, especially by a crèche, nursery, or childminder while parents are working”. This is hugely ambiguous, so it’s no wonder so many people don’t fully understand what good childcare entails.
We think that it’s about time this was put right.
Childcare: the true meaning of the word
Before we drill into exactly what good childcare means, let’s first create a couple of definitions.
- Professional childcare is generally accepted as being dedicated to pre-schoolers – early learning centres, kindy etc. Age-wise, it encompasses those up to approximately 5 years. Of course, it can also be applied to school-aged children outside of normal school hours. However, the importance of early child development is our focus here – something that is generally accepted as being up to a child’s 5th year.
- While nannies and childminders might work within a child’s home environment, a professional childcare establishment usually involves the child going to a specific location, such as a kindergarten or pre-school.
Once we understand these factors, we can now look at what such a service should offer to both the children in their care and the parents/caregivers.
Let’s first reiterate how vital these early years are. This is a time when the brain is developing at its fastest speed, with millions of neural connections being forged each day. Lifelong tendencies and characteristics are being formed, important building blocks are laid that will influence how we interact with the world around us and learn. And this is before we even begin to consider the physical growth that’s occurring.
Every single interaction and experience will further a child’s development. Positive and negative have equal strength at this pivotal age. Therefore, the former must be the focus of a childcare provider. This also extends to the level of stimulatory experiences are available – nothing is worse at this tender age than not providing the right environment to nurture natural curiosity.
When you look at it this way, it becomes wholly apparent that great childcare is far more than a glorified babysitting service.
Good childcare should provide the following:
- A friendly and enriching environment that encourages a child’s natural instincts to explore. A great example of this would be to use nature as a third teacher. Nido Early School uses natural sustainable materials, such as coffee grounds, orange oil and sand that helps children develop an understanding and awareness of their surroundings, while acting as fantastic tools for sensory exploration.
- Both indoor and outdoor areas
- Has quiet spaces or a place that your child can retreat to should they feel the need for quiet time
- Has child-specific furniture and utensils to fit tiny hands and bodies
- Is staffed by qualified and professional personnel who’re committed to an early-learning career path.
- Offers suitable child nutrition options that can cater to individual needs (allergies, diet types, cultural needs etc)
- Follows a proven childcare philosophy, such as the Reggio Emilia Approach, that some progressive services offer, such as that offered by Nido Early School.
- Works with parents and caregivers to address any concerns that either party might have
- Actively encourages parental/caregiver interaction
All in a safe and secure environment where the child feels safe, and the parents/caregivers can be satisfied that their child’s needs are being ultimately cared for.
Gone are the days when you should expect anything less from a childcare service. We now have an advanced understanding of how important these developmental years are. This means that early childhood education is something that should be undertaken by those passionate about the development of young minds and who’re following a career path in the industry.
You spend a huge amount of effort giving your child the very best start in life. This should, therefore, be mirrored by your choice of childcare provider. Don’t settle for anything less – demand the best. Your child’s future will, quite literally, be influenced by it…