Fortunately, research shows that children benefit from quality, loving, stimulating and supportive early childhood centres.
Although there are many different types of centres, all share the same world-renowned education curriculum Te Whāriki, and are licensed by the Ministry of Education.
The benefits of early learning centres
We know that a quality childhood education can have a great effect on children’s social skills, communication and language, which can give them a head start when beginning school. Research shows these skills can also set them up for academic success later in their adult lives.
Centres provide a wide range of experiences that extend children’s abilities, giving them opportunities for physical, mental and emotional growth. All qualified teachers have early childhood degrees or diplomas. Teachers use language, games, music, reading and other activities to promote children’s natural curiosity and stimulate learning.
The skills that older children learn at early learning centres enable them to start school feeling confident and ready for the next part of their learning journey.
Choosing an early learning centre
Firstly, we recommend you shop around. Jump online – what’s in your community? There are many different early learning centres, including private centres, kindergartens, Montessori and more.
Differences include size – some centres have over 100 children in them, others are small with around 30 children – some are open for long hours, accept children at different ages, have waiting lists, or are ‘sessional’, meaning they only operate for limited times each day.
Find out their differences, locations, and try to match them up with your child’s personality and your needs. Think about location – do you need a centre close to home or close to work?
There are many types of financial support for you to check out too; find out what suits you. WINZ can help subsidise (conditions apply) and most centres offer
20 hours free from three years of age – others have more offers but again, every centre is different.
Get personal recommendations from other parents. Can they recommend the centre their child goes to? We recommend if you’re interested in a centre that
you request a copy of their last ERO (Education Review Office) report, which will provide you with a professional insight.
Draw up a shortlist of centres you prefer. Visit them with your child by setting up a planned visit or simply drop in. The benefit to setting up a visit is centre staff will be expecting you so will be available to talk with you, show you around and answer any questions you may have.
Take time to absorb the feeling of the centre. Are staff interacting respectfully and engaged with children in the centre? Are there good play resources available? Are children fully engaged at the centre?
Talk to the staff about what you want for your child, any concerns you have, and listen to their responses. Ask them how they will help develop your child’s social skills and help them feel they belong here. Ask them how they will regularly communicate with your family about your child’s wellbeing and learning journey.
Every centre should be responsive and inclusive of our diverse New Zealand culture. Can you see your culture reflected here, is this a place you would feel welcome and a part of?
Learning and teaching through play
Lastly, a word on the value of early childhood education teachers and centres. The terms ‘Daycare’ or ‘Childcare’ can be misleading. Although it can look like it, children in centres are not simply playing, they are experiencing a vast amount of learning!
Some experts would argue that early childhood is the most important period for your child to learn, but there’s still a lingering perception that the real learning starts at school. Research tells us that from 0–7 years, children’s brains are hard-wired to learn through play, and the foundations for children’s lives are largely built in this vital preschool period.
Finally, quality early childhood teachers are amazing. Teachers prompt, ask open-ended questions, follow children’s interests and extend their understanding of the world around them by encouraging them to fully engage in experiences that promote learning. They’ll work closely with you to give you and your child confidence in their first years’ learning journey.
BestStart Educare has been operating for over 22 years and is New Zealand’s largest, trusted early childhood education provider. Find a centre near you by calling 0508BESTSTART or visit www.best-start.org.