Is your child safe at the crèche? 5 Effective Ways to Screen Daycares

  • A nursery plays a vital role in your child’s development and should be structured to support cognitive, emotional, educational and social development from early childhood.
  • Verifying that the preschool is registered and has a business license ensures that it is a legitimate establishment.
  • Behavioral changes in your child are among the telltale signs that their holistic needs are not being met.

Every parent wants to be sure that their child is well taken care of while they are at work. And, while finances determine the quality of child care available, finding the right place for your child is crucial.

A nursery or preschool plays an essential and vital role in developing your children’s potential. Educational psychologist Dr Joseph Seabi says, “A nursery should be structured to encourage cognitive, emotional, educational and social development from early childhood.

This is why it is important to ensure that we send our children to safe and nurturing environments where their well-being, learning and protection are a priority. The well-known viral video of a preschool teacher beating a little girl for vomiting shows that some teachers are not fit for the jobs they do.

As a parent, this is a red flag not to trust too easily and be meticulous in scouting out these facilities. It is your responsibility to check that the teachers do not have a criminal record, are mentally stable and do not pose a danger to your children. Here’s how to effectively evaluate child care facilities as well as what you should never compromise on.

1. Check legitimacy

Check that the preschool is registered with the Ministries of Basic Education, Health and Social Services and has a license to operate. This ensures that it is genuine and legit.

“Registration means that representatives of these departments can make spontaneous visits to inspect the facilities and ensure that they comply with the law,” explains Dr Seabi.

2. Education and training

A good school will usually invite parents to get to know the school when making the enrollment decision. But it’s also up to you to take the initiative.

“Make an appointment at the crèche, and discuss with those responsible”, advises Dr. Mubi Mavuso, school psychologist.

“Find out about school policy and discuss it thoroughly,” she adds. “Ask about the teachers’ qualifications and experience, as well as the curriculum. Find out if the school empowers its teachers on issues of early learning and development, for example by organizing or participating in workshops for pedagogical development,” continues Dr. Mavuso.

“Also ask how the school embraces inclusivity and how it welcomes children who learn differently or have disabilities,” she adds.

Dr Seabi points out that although there is a growing trend among parents who want their children to speak English as their first language, it is crucial that educators or caretakers can speak in the children’s native language, in the possible.

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3. Attend open houses

The open day allows you to observe the exchange between teachers and parents, the relationships between children as well as the way teachers connect with their students.

“Take note of what you like, dislike, or make you feel uncomfortable. You must listen and act on your intuition. Communicate your findings to the nursery management and, as you do, note their reaction,” advises Dr. Mavuso.

“Note how you and the children are treated. Observe dropouts and also note the children’s reactions and interactions with their teachers. If possible, do it during recess. Never compromise their safety and well-being. Be vigilant in the face of child abuse,” she stresses.

4. Inspect safety and security standards

Basic hygiene is important.

“Unhealthy environments pose a risk to normal child development,” says Dr. Mavuso.

So be on the lookout for concerns. Dr. Seabi recommends having a detailed checklist for safety and security.

“Ask questions such as: ‘Are the buildings, equipment and furniture in good condition? Is the area hygienic? Are the toys cleaned regularly? Are opening hours suitable for parents who work all day? Is the establishment open during school holidays? Are entry and exit gates closely monitored to ensure that only authorized persons are allowed on the premises? Are the doors closed during the day? Are rules followed to ensure that only parents or guardians on the pick-up list can pick up children? Is there enough space for all children to play safely? Is the food nutritious? Are any of the educators trained in first aid? warns Dr. Seabi.

5. Examine the program

Experts agree that it is essential to understand the educational program offered and how it meets your child’s developmental needs.

According to Dr. Seabi, depending on your child’s age, you can ask to see lesson plans or basic educational programs – don’t think that’s a disadvantage. Talk to other parents and watch your child. Also get references about the establishment from other parents.

“Join a WhatsApp group of parents and other possible communication platforms to see what people are saying about the school,” Dr. Mavuso further advises.

“Also, take your child to nursery and notice how he reacts to the new environment that will become his second home,” concludes Dr. Seabi.

Tell-tale signs that your child’s holistic needs are not being met

Overcrowded classes without an assistant teacher. It is illegal to have more than 25 children in a class with one educator. Overcrowded classes hinder your child’s development, and teachers in these classes tend to be overworked and impatient.

Dangerous and unsanitary environment. Unsanitary spaces are linked to overcrowded classrooms – who, where and how the food is prepared as well as the actual type served.

Insufficient playgrounds. Children confined to small spaces are developmentally delayed, which could also lead to health issues like obesity.

Lack of stimulating activities and communication with parents. This could lead to minimal or no learning. If a school isn’t communicating with you, it means teachers aren’t interacting with each child appropriately.

Behavioral changes. Separation anxiety during the first few days is normal. Signs of abused children include mood swings, refusal to go to day care, withdrawal behavior, anxiety and physical injury.

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