A Quality Early Learning Environment – What To Look For?

As a parent, deciding where to enrol your child at daycare can be an overwhelming and confusing experience. Leaving your precious baby or child in a new place with strangers is not an easy or light decision to make. So, what can help? Knowing what to look for when you visit an early learning service can help. Here are some suggestions we hope can guide you as you navigate this exciting and new experience.

01. Relationships – Relationships – Relationships!

From the moment you’re in touch with a Christchurch daycare centre, look for examples of how they engage with you and others. Are they interested in you and your child? Do they focus on what you’re wanting to know? What questions do they ask you and are they listening? Are the relationships that teachers have at the daycare centre nurturing and caring with the other children and staff there? Do teachers get down to children’s level to talk with them and explain things. Can you see children playing happily together or alongside each other?

Looking at how relationships are valued at the childcare centre will give you an insight as to how the centre values children, parents, whānau and teacher’s sense of belonging. Feeling a sense of belonging is important for both you, your child and the staff. When your child feels secure and safe in this place, they will be happy and open to engage in rich learning experiences by themselves, with others or with their teachers. You can relax knowing that they are happy. The childcare centre should be open to working with you on a transition process that is best suited for you and your child to start at the centre.

02. Flashy doesn’t always mean high quality!

Just because a childcare centre has a flash entrance or a new building, does not mean it’s high quality. When looking around, what determines quality is both the resources available to children (in all curriculum areas) to extend and support their learning, as well as the ability of teachers to teach and engage your child in learning. Look or ask the daycare teachers to explain the variety of resources across curriculum areas that they have (both inside and outside) that would support your child to grow and develop. You can also ask them to share with you how they plan for children’s learning. They should be able to share with you examples of how they support every child in the centre to achieve the principles of Te Whāriki, New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum. Find out how they involve parents in this process, as we know that the more we work in partnership with parents and whānau, the better the learning outcomes are that will occur for your child.

03. Safety First!

Every childcare centre in Christchurch and New Zealand has to meet certain safety guidelines that are set out by the Ministry of Education. This means that there must be policies and procedures in place to ensure that health and safety is maintained. As a parent, you have every right to see these policies and be a part of reviewing them. One policy that would be important to understand, is how the centre you are considering, is supporting children’s positive guidance. Ask to see their positive guidance policy, have a read of this and then look to see if you can see this in action. Early childhood centres are busy places, but they need to be in good repair with bathrooms clean and hygienic for children to use and playgrounds safe for children to explore.

04. Lastly, Trust Your Gut!

How a daycare centre makes you and your child feel when you visit is important to acknowledge and use as a basis for your decision making. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something or need to know more. A high quality centre will want to invest their time to help you and your child transition well into the centre and look for opportunities to create a supportive and meaningful relationship between you and your child.