How to work with your child’s preschool for a gentle transition – Part 1

This feature was originally published in Fall 2015 edition of The Local Biz Magazine. The editor, Wendy Chiavalon, has been following my blog since it first launched! Wendy invited me to write an article for her magazine and I was thrilled for having the opportunity. The final article was close to 2000 words, so it’s longer than my usual format here at The Motherhood Scene. To make the article easier to digest, I’ll be splitting my writing over two blog posts.

The cover of the fall edition of The Local Biz Magazine

 

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First Impressions: Kids’ Campus Child Care Centre, Whitby

The main entrance to the Kids Campus Whitby

The main entrance to the Kids Campus Whitby location which is part of West Lynde Public School

Right away I clicked with the supervisor. Warm, welcoming and so easy to talk to, I found myself feeling comfortable and able to open up to her from the moment we began talking. A great supervisor makes the difference when you’re looking for a centre, and here at Kids’ Campus Whitby I found a lot of signs that this was a caring and professional centre.

My guess is that the supervisor is experienced and has worked here for some time based on the few processes I noticed within this centre. Small but important touches like a colour-coded cleaning cloth system was one of the first of these that I noticed, and this system is visible to anyone within the classroom. The reason for this system is to maintain their high standard for health and safety. A cloth used to wipe a kitchen surface is never used to wipe a bathroom surface, and this colour coding system helps reinforce this. As a parent, I appreciate their efforts. It demonstrates transparency, effective management and safety.

Another touch I really liked was that the daily schedule for the children is adjusted for each season. The staff take into account the weather temperatures and the best times of day for sunshine to make sure the children get the best out of their time outdoors. Another reason for this adaptive approach is because Kids Campus Whitby is situated within West Lynde Public School. These adaptive schedules take into account busy periods in the day for the elementary students (like pick up after school) and times when the elementary students are on break, like in the summer.

  • Accepting infants and older.
  • The infant rate is $243 full time or $199 part time, weekly.
  • The toddler rate is $223 full time or $179 part time, weekly.
  • Parents are required to provide $100 upfront upon registration. $25 is a non-refundable administration fee and the remaining $75 is a deposit fee.
  • Centre is open from 6.15am to 6.30pm.
  • Located close to the 401 and Whitby GO Station.
  • All laundry is handled on site.
  • Follows an emergent curriculum approach to learning.

Are licensed day cares worth the cost? [Durham Daycarers]

This week, reader Adam from Whitby submitted a question for the Durham Daycarers team for their take on whether licensed care was worth paying for. Dianne, a licensed day care supervisor and Demi, a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE) answered this question from a personal and professional point of view. Neither member of the Durham Daycarers team owns a centre, or shares in the profits from where they work.

Juggling the cost of childcare on top of a mortgage and the multitude of other costs is a struggle for almost every parent I speak to, and each person has personal reasons for why they choose the care that they do.  I asked my team the same question my reader asked me – “Are licensed day cares worth the cost?” to get their perspective on whether they felt the cost of licensed care was justified, and if so, their reasons why.

When speaking broadly about the benefits of licensed care, both responded with an overwhelming yes. Both admitted that while licensed care can be expensive, it is worth investing in while children are young. Of course, that’s easy to say when you’re not the parent, but thankfully one member of the Durham Daycarers team is a mother herself. I posed the question again in a different way to understand just how important licensed care is to this team – As a childcare professional, did your experience lead you to put your child in a licensed day care centre? Again, the answer was a firm yes.

The top three reasons that justify the costs of licensed care, as described by the Durham Daycarers team:

  1. Kindergarten preparedness. One look at the routine found at any centre and you’ll notice how close their consistent and structured routine emulates that of what you’d find in the school system. Planned activities are also tied learning outcomes, preparing both parents and children for the eventual transition to kindergarten.
  2. Tighter controls over standard of care. The standard of care will always vary between providers – licensed or not – however, there is a noticeable trend among parents who are quickly dissatisfied by unlicensed care. Parents who aren’t so lucky in their choice of home daycare, nanny or family member caregiver will seek out licensed care for reasons such as boredom shown by their child, an ongoing lack of interest or dislike of their caregiver, and more commonly, cases where TV takes over the majority of the child’s day. The framework that guides licensed centres (known as the ELECT or Early Learning for Every Child Today framework) ensures that what takes place within a licensed centre has a early childhood developmental benefit, based on the peer-reviewed literature that informs the document.
  3. Development of social skills. Licensed care provides the opportunity for children regular interaction with a group of their peers, while supervised by staff who are trained in leading and fostering early childhood development. Day care settings also teach children how to take direction from someone other than their parents – good practice for the eventual transition into the school system. Manners are encouraged often and early, developing good habits for life later on.
Readers, we love to hear from you. What have you always wanted to ask someone working at a centre?
Leave a comment on the blog, write us an email or send a message on Facebook with questions that you want answered. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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First Impressions: Fairy Glen Day Care Centre Whitby

Fairy Glen Day Care Centre from Crawforth Street in Whitby

Fairy Glen Day Care Centre has been in operation for over 20 years however, it’s St Theresa Catholic School location is relatively new. It’s clear from talking with everyone working here there is an immense sense of pride and respect for their new centre, a feeling that I think the children can only benefit from.

The yard at this centre is something I haven’t found anywhere else – An entirely simulated green space using poured rubber surfacing (that looks just like tree bark) and the use of soft synthetic grass throughout.  A feature like this isn’t something you will typically find at a lot of centres, at least the ones I’ve toured so far in Whitby. Features like this reflect an overall theme throughout the centre where the staff maximize the use of safe and durable materials, especially for little ones who are prone to bumps and falls.

What’s more is that this centre has all the benefits of being attached to a school without some of the frustrations that come from other centres that share a building with an elementary school. The Fairy Glen centre entrance is tucked away from the main pick up and drop off area for the school, allowing parents a greater ease of access and a less hectic environment for the children.

  • Accept newborns and older.
  • Infant rate is $240 weekly.
  • Toddler rate is $205 weekly.
  • There are no costs to register your child for an infant/toddler program.
  • Parents are required to provide one week’s worth of fees upfront as a deposit, in addition to their usual weekly rate.

How to find a day care centre with the best opening hours [Durham Daycarers]

A close up view of a clock

This week, reader, Luisa submitted a question for the Durham Daycarers team to ask about the hours of operation that a day care chooses to use. Luisa wants to know – Why don’t more centres have better opening and closing hours? Juggling a demanding job and a horrible commute is hard enough. What are options do working parents have? Dianne, a licensed day care supervisor and Demi, a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE) answered outlined three main reasons for this – A centre’s hours are based on insurance policies, the location of a centre and the demand from parents – in their response below.

Opening hours affect insurance policies, and therefore costs
You will notice that most licensed centres will either open at 6.30am or 7am and close between 6-6.30pm. This is partly because of the insurance policies that cover any liability at a centre, and any policies purchased for these time frames is considered standard in the childcare industry. Anything more than this becomes non-standard, and obviously costs more. To remain competitive, many centres are hesitant to pass on these extra costs to parents unless there is significant demand. However, there are centres that are exceptions to this rule, and this is likely because so many parents have expressed interest.

Demand from parents can drive opening hours
Between 6.30am and 6pm is when the majority of parents need childcare, which is why so many providers are open for such similar hours. Outside of this time, most parents have finished work or have family that are available to take over and watch their children for free. That said, not every parent is lucky enough to be in this situation. If you find yourself falling in love with a centre, but are left wishing the hours were better, Iet the centre supervisor know. Centres want to remain profitable, so if enough parents give express interest in opening earlier, or later, these considerations will be taken seriously.

The location of a centre has a big role in opening hours
Key considerations for staff that decide their centre hours is how a centre fits into a parent’s day. Centres close to a GO station and other transit options are usually open earlier at 6.30am to accommodate for parents who commute. Centres that are located away from major transit routes like the 401 or 407 are likely to attract parents with part time schedules, work from home or stay at home parents who can be more flexible and don’t depend on an early opening time.

Finding what works may take some creativity
If you’re finding a centre’s hours restrictive or creating stress in your routine, consider finding a centre that’s closer to work. For parents working downtown,  a centre in Pickering or Scarborough that opens at 6.30am close to the 401 may be more convenient than working around the schedule of a more local centre. Alternatively, coordinate a back-up babysitter with enough flexibility who can pick up your child on the days you’re running late. Ensure thy’re equipped with a carseat and talk it over with centre staff so they’re aware that person has been pre-approved by you.

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10 questions parents should be asking on a day care tour [Durham Daycarers]

An infant sleeps on her mother, while the mother holds a clipboard

This week, reader Jennifer from Ajax submitted a question for the Durham Daycarers team asking for advice on the best questions to ask on a day care tour. Dianne, a licensed day care supervisor and Demi, a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE) answered this question, with questions that they believe more parents should be using when selecting a centre for their child.

  1. How often is this centre inspected? Licenced centres must be inspected yearly to qualify for licensing. In addition to this, centres are inspected by the Durham Region Health Department twice a year to ensure they meet health and safety requirements. Qualified supervisors and staff should know this if they are licensed. If a centre mentions anything less than this, do your research to find out if that centre really is licensed.
  2. Are all staff trained in first aid and CPR? Safety always comes first when working with children, and it’s important that staff, irrespective of their level at a centre, feel confident in their ability to respond to a need for first aid or CPR.
  3. How often are toys cleaned? This question is particularly important at centres that cater to infants because children are using their mouths so much to explore their world. A licenced centre should be cleaning their toys daily.
  4. How often is the yard checked by staff? All licensed day cares are required to do daily checks of their outdoor play spaces to ensure no foreign and dangerous materials have found their way into the yard. Centres in high traffic areas close to busy streets need to be particularly sensitive to this.
  5. Do all staff have Food Handling certifications? Even in centres where food is catered offsite by an external company, staff are required to distribute snacks to children that are in their care. Becoming certified is not a difficult course to take as a staff member, but it can go a long way in keeping everyone healthy. Look for a centre that requires that all staff have been appropriately trained.
  6. Can I see your last Licensing Inspection Summary? A Licensing Inspection Summary is a one page summary of how a centre performed in numerous categories including Staff, Nutrition and Records. These summaries are typically on display for parents to see. Any large gaps that you notice are worth investigating for more information. Centre staff should be honest about what happened and how they plan to improve on this measure in the future.
  7. Can you provide a health department inspection certificate for your caterer? Even if food is made offsite, licensed centres must be able to provide proof of Food Handling certifications for catering staff and proof that the caterer has passed Health and Safety inspections at their kitchen. “Staff should be forthcoming with this information and able to follow up for you”, says Demi.
  8. What policies does your centre have for sick children? Colds, coughs and fevers are common in day cares as children are building their immunity. What many parents don’t ask about are the implications for childcare when handling sick children. Depending on the symptoms, some children may be required to stay home for a full 24 hours before returning to their centre. As a parent it’s important to save a few vacation days (if you are returning to work) to make sure you are covered.
  9. What is your staff-to-child ratio? This varies across age groups but the rules are standard across licensed centres. In an infant room, expect to find 1 staff for every 3 children, 1 staff for every 5 children for toddler and 1 staff for every 8 children in preschool.
  10. How are children disciplined? Disciplinary style will reveal a lot about how a classroom is managed by the staff. Discipline is also an important consideration for parents as some styles work better for children than others. Make sure you ask staff to back up their claims with examples of how they’ve managed negative behaviours in the past.
Readers, we love to hear from you. What have you always wanted to ask someone working at a centre?
Leave a comment on the blog, write us an email or send a message on Facebook with questions that you want answered. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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First Impressions: Walnut Street Junior School

The name of the Walnut Street Junior School day care centre always left me stumped. The name, Junior School, wasn’t like anything else I had come across on the many tours that I’ve been on so far, so on my tour at this facility I was determined to get to the bottom of it. After spending much longer than I do on most tours with the supervisor here, I learned that the name “Junior School” is a nod of acknowledgement for the dedication to learning that staff focus on here.

A view from the street of Walnut Street Junior School

Walnut Street Junior School is located in a quiet residential area in downtown Whitby off Brock Street.

The supervisor that I met with has, to date, given me the most comprehensive understanding of the emergent curriculum, it’s philosophy, application and benefits to children. I’ve visited over 12 centres in my work for this series so far, so I really felt as though I had found something special here. All learning (or programming as they refer to it) is documented and displayed in centres using the emergent curriculum, but what I find is that during tours, supervisors treat these details as a footnote rather than a full chapter like they ought to be.

At Walnut Street I spoke with the supervisor about how important explanations like this would be to parents who have an interest in the educational benefits of day care and Tiffany was quick to agree. As a RECE and head trainer for programming for the organization that owns Walnut Street (it’s name is Victoria Village), Tiffany is regularly asked to hold workshops and is passionate about empowering her staff in their roles as educators. She is so well regarded by her organization because of her creative, accessible and friendly approach to education using the ELECT framework (the curriculum in use in child care centres, among other settings) and the emergent curriculum.

To give you a sense of the work involved – RECEs are working with two curriculum documents, plus all the documentation and observation required to ensure that the program is child-led (this is the basis of the emergent curriculum). This centre is actively seeking ways to create more meaningful experiences for both children and parents within these frameworks. An equal amount of consideration and planning goes into ensuring parents have access to classroom observations, program plans and learning outcomes.

My takeaway for you is this – If you are a parent that prioritizes learning as part of your day care experience, contact Walnut Street for a tour. Use this centre as a benchmark to compare against other centres. There’s a wonderful passion for education here that is comparable to what you would find at an elementary school level.

  • Centre opens from 6.30am to 6.30pm.
  • Accepting children 3 months and older.
  • The infant rate is $1174 per month.
  • The toddler rate is $1010 per month.
  • Registration is a one time fee of $85.
  • This centre is located in a quiet residential area, opposite a large park and playground.
  • This location is easy to access off Brock Street, driving south towards the 401 entrance and Whitby GO.