There are so many preschool options nowadays, so which to choose? Here are some suggestions for you to consider before placing your toddler into your chosen organisation.
Playgroup. Many places offer playgroup sessions for young children from 18 months onwards. If you have a baby less than 6 months old at home while intending to send your 2 year old to a playgroup, I sincerely urge you to reconsider. While it may be a good idea to get the older child (to put it bluntly) out of your way, do note that many toddlers fall sick often in the first three months that they join a playgroup/childcare. That said, it will also put your infant at risk of falling sick before he has received his vaccinations. Trust me I know how challenging it is to have multiple children falling sick. So I would strongly recommend if situation allows, to send your older child to playgroup/childcare preferably after your infant turns 6 months old.
The most affordable playgroup sessions that are available are found at your Residents' Committees (RCs) if you stay in HDB. They offer 2 hour playgroup sessions at about $130 a month. I would have to admit that the teachers are most likely to be aunties who would just sing and do some simple crafts with your child, so don't expect too much. But it's definitely a good idea to let your toddler get used to a classroom setting away from you or any other main caregiver in preparation for preschool. Playgroup is also mainly for social stimulation where your toddler learns to interact with other children of his age and learn to follow instructions given by other adult authorities (ie. the teachers)
Childcare VS Kindergarten: Is there any dedicated caregiver at home? My personal take is that branded childcares are overrated. Even if it is a full day childcare service with Montessori curriculum, do note that there will only be about 3 hours of structured learning throughout the possible 10-12 hours that your child is at the childcare centre. A lot of time is spent on toileting and bathing the children. Imagine 20 over children need to take turns to use the bathroom or take a shower when there are only 2-3 teachers to manage them. There are also meal times, snack times, nap time and free play time. So if there's a caregiver at home with your toddler, you might want to consider going for a 3-4 hour kindergarten instead of a full day childcare. That's assuming the adult is willing to invest time in doing meaningful activities with the child other than just letting him have unlimited screen time. Truth be told, I've also had other mummies telling me that their children watch TV at the childcare centres.
If you want to keep your toddler meaningfully occupied, there are plenty of affordable age-appropriate activity books available at Popular Bookstore that can allow your child to practise his dexterity through drawing and writing, and train his observation skills by playing "spot the difference" and other searching activities similar to "where's wally?".
With part of the childcare expenses saved, you could even invest in enrichment classes for your child that will hone his particular talents or inclination
Is the childcare centre close to home? Many toddlers tend to fall sick in the first three months that they join the childcare. So be prepared to take leave to stay home with the child if falls sick. Therefore it's definitely wise to choose a childcare centre close to home. It would also prove to be much convenient and safer for the domestic helper or elderly grandparent to fetch the child to and from the childcare centre, especially during times when the child is sent home mid-day due to an illness.
Church Kindergarten. Being a Christian, I am more than happy to send my toddlers to a Church kindergarten where simple bible teaching and Christian values are also incorporated into the school curriculum. Most of the other parents I know in the same kindergarten are actually pre-believers but they obviously don't mind exposing their children to the Gospel and praying and singing worship songs at school. I've also had other mummies telling me that because their children have been at other preschools before, they can tell the difference between how genuinely caring the Church kindergarten teachers are, as compared to the other preschool's teachers. They have also mentioned that the Church kindergarten teachers regard the children more respectfully and gently. And these have been shared by fellow mummies who are pre-believers.
My own personal belief has also led me to sincerely believe that being a teacher, a preschool teacher in this situation, is really a calling. Sometimes my three kids drive me so crazy I just want to run away and hide, and I have no idea how these teachers can face a classroom of 8 - 16 preschoolers and still maintain their cool. Based on my interaction with the teachers and observation over the years, I really feel that my children are very blessed to have teachers who truly care for them, and whom I fully trust and feel so assured to leave my children in their care. Apart from the individual teachers' characters, I believe the culture of the organisation is also very important in fostering a safe and loving environment for your toddler to learn and grow up in. .
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