Often when parents are looking for information about child care they are interested in fees, opening hours, food, vacancies, waiting lists and qualifications.
There are many checklists that parents can find to help them as they explore the options available to them, however sometimes there is so much information, it can be quite overwhelming. I recently came across a checklist that had over 90 items to check either a yes, no or n/a answer.
There are definitely some things families need to ask, but what are the most important things? Is it about fees? Is it about food? Is it about cleanliness? Is it about ratings? Is it about quality?
For us, we believe strongly that it’s about having a shared vision of childhood, and what you value for your child’s childhood. There are many services to choose from, and many different ideas, philosophies and “marketing gimiks” around. Some advertise “structured programs”, others say they have “specialised school readiness programs” and others say they are “Reggio or Montessori inspired”. Here at Eskay Kids, our mission is to ensure children have the best possible childhood experience, in a very natural environment, where their choices and voices are respected – we value childhood, and authentic childhood experiences.
When you visit , you will find some centres are completely artificial, while others are completely natural. You will have a good idea in your mind of what sort of childhood and childhood experiences you want for your child. Some prefer a very plastic, clean, sterile and sanitised environment with lots of bright primary colours, so those families should seek out a centre that meets that particular need. Other families want a very natural environment for their child with trees, mud, timber, boulders, sand etc, so families who want their child to have a childhood in a natural setting should seek out a service that has a strong affinity with the natural world and a nature pedagogy approach.
Some families want their child to have formalised, structured early academic programs where there is a strong focus on the ABC’s and 123’s, so they should see out a service that delivers early academic instruction. Some families want their children to develop their independence, problem solving, decision making, confidence and agency skills, so families should search for a service that designs it’s programs with the ability for children to be able to make many of the decisions about their day including whether they play inside or outside, which environment they would like to choose to play in, deciding when they eat, and if/when/where they might rest. In our experience, children learn to make good decisions by being allowed to make decisions, and children learn to become good problem solvers by being allowed to solve some of their own problems.
Choosing an early childhood service for your child, is more than ticking boxes, it’s about finding a really close alignment with your beliefs and visions for your child’s childhood. At Eskay Kids, our vision for children is one of beautiful and authentic childhoods, of nature, of natural environments, and of children having a strong voice and agency over their day. It’s not a complete “free for all”. There are still rules, boundaries and routines, however our routines are based around the natural interests, rhythms, and flow of each child, and instead of having one room routine for a whole group of children, we have individualised routines for each individual child.
There is lots of research available to help families decide what is truly important to them. We’ve posted some articles below that support our visions and values for children.
Written by Sharon Kneen
Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less
The Vital Role of Play in Childhood
Should we just let them play?
Let the children play: Nature’s Answer to Early Learning
Why Play Equals Learning
Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature
The Outdoor Classroom Project
The Crisis in Early Education A Research-Based Case for More Play and Less Pressure
Schools now turning to nature-based playgrounds
Play Based Vs. Academic Preschools: What the Research Says
Stop Stealing Childhood in the Name of Education