I look at the child that’s in front of me, running around the home, whilst his mum tries to tell me about just how difficult it’s been to take care of him.
In another client’s home, I care for the child as his mum is away. He constantly bugs me for attention, trying to get me to look at the spoon he’s trying to balance. When I look away, he hits me.
I begin to realise why his mum can’t seem to find a kindergarten for him.
After being a social worker for 2 years, and managing cases as a student social worker for another 2 years, I’ve enrolled at least 8 different children into kindergartens.
If you’re here today looking for the right kindergarten to enrol your child, you may be disappointed by my answer.
There’s no ‘right’ kindergarten, but only a ‘good fit’.
What often determines the difference between a successful journey in kindergarten, is a few factors.
You would hate to be dragging your child out at 6am in the morning so that you can reach the kindergarten, and work on time.
Location sounds like a small thing, but many parents underestimate just how much the logistical challenge of getting a child to school on time, and back home, is.
Often my advice is that the kindergarten should be within walking distance.
But you might argue,
What about the quality of teaching? I want my child to have the best education!
The quality of teaching
From what I’ve seen at most Singapore government funded preschools, there is a heavy emphasis on academic teaching. They will ensure your child knows their ABCs before 3 and counts her 123s before she is potty trained.
That’s how efficient they are.
But whether or not that is the teaching style you believe in is up to you.
There are fancier kindergartens that can tell you about all their ‘philosophy of play’, but if you’re honest, this might not make a big difference. In kindergarten, the education will be about 4 hours. But you’re going to be with your child for the rest of the 12 hours they are awake.
You can undo all the good work of the kindergarten through what you do at home.
That said, I do believe that most preschools do adopt a version of ‘learn through play’ where they encourage the child to go out to play, and have fun.
At such an early age, I do believe that it’s quite difficult to know what the child’s best learning style is. Being open to trying the kindergarten that’s closest might work, especially if you’re not clear about the child’s best learning style.
The outdoor play environment of the kindergarten
If you look at kindergartens like Living Sanctuary, you will notice something strange.
There are actually chickens roosting in the compounds of the kindergarten. Walk along this part of the playground, and you will notice little tins that children can knock with drumsticks to create music.
Go to the 3rd floor of the kindergarten, and there’s even a water play area.
It’s beautifully constructed for the kids’ play.
Environments like these can be beautiful times for children to learn and grow.
But of course, you need to ask yourself,
What’s my budget?
If you’re looking at a kindergarten, chances are that you’d want to take the child home, rather than putting them fulltime in childcare.
But that can also meant that kindergarten may end up costing a significant portion of your household salary.
You definitely don’t want to be wasting time trying to find out which is the best debit card to choose to save money to make the preschool payment. Keep it strictly within your budget.
How the child likes the kindergarten
One thing you can do is ask for a trial at the kindergarten.
Seeing whether your child goes in kicking and screaming, or whether she is smiling at the end of the day, can help you figure out if your child is going to be happy there.
Having a 3 day trial whereby the child can adapt to the people there can be a much easier way.
The understanding of the teachers
Some kindergartens are run like businesses. They might pass down the costs of their fancy online payment gateway and processing fees to you, or the cost of rental. Great for profit, but not so great for the child.
I’ve heard of some student care centres where the child is not given any teabreak so that the child will spend on buying food from the student care.
There are others who quickly institute fines on parents that come late.
Find a forgiving kindergarten, not just one which is concerned about its bottom line.
These forgiving kindergartens tend to be those run by faith-based organisations such as Care Corner or even Living Sanctuary Brethren Church.
It’s what you want, not just what the kid wants
When you choose a kindergarten for your child, you may feel like it’s a life changing decision. But it’s not necessarily the be all and end all.
What matters is how you spend time, and how much time you spend with the child, even after the initial decision on what kindergarten to place your child in.