child care, childcare centre

​Selecting a child care centre

For some working parents, there may come a time when you have to consider placing your child in a child care centre if you have no alternative child care arrangements. Child care would be a new experience for your child and may require some getting used to. Children benefit from the ample socialising opportunities a child care centre provides.​

​Child care centres provide child care services and pre-school developmental programmes for children aged between 18 months and below 7 years old. Centres may offer full-day, half-day and flexible programmes to cater to the different working schedules of parents.​

​Generally, they are open from 7am-7pm on weekdays and 7am -2pm on Saturdays. Some centres have flexible programmes for parents who work part-time or flexible hours.​ 

​Child care centres were licensed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), but have come under the oversight of the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) since 1st April 2013.​ Centres are required to meet acceptable standards of health, safety, nutrition and hygiene measures. Centres must also provide age and developmentally appropriate activities to stimulate a child’s mental, physical and social development. ​

Getting started 

With so many child care centres, how do you go about choosing the right one for your child? Here are some tips to get you started: 

Step 1 – Finding a centre 

Step 2 – Selecting a centre 

  • ​​Pick a centre near you or your caregiver’s home or even your office. That way, you don’t have to travel far to bring your child to school if you are on sick leave that day. If it is near your work place, you can visit him during the day. If it is close to the home of your parents or parents-in-law, they can pick him up if you are running late. 
  • A centre participating in Health Promotion Board’s “Healthy Eating in Child Care Centres Programme (HECCP)” provides healthier food options that meet dietary requirements and teaches your child the importance of healthy eating. The cooking staff are also trained on healthier methods of preparing meals. 
  • Make an appointment to visit the centre.​

Step 3- Visiting the centre 

  • Visit the centre, preferably with your child. 
  • Speak to the supervisor and teachers. Find out more about the centre’s philosophy on child development, care and education and child management methods. Check the operating hours, fees, mode of payment, your eligibility for government child care subsidy, availability of trial period, notice period for withdrawal and their procedures for handling sick children. The staff should have the required qualifications and the centre’s programmes should be holistic, balanced and appropriate to the developmental needs of the child. 
  • Observe how the staff interact with the children. 
  • Look at the children. Do they like their teachers? Are they happy and engrossed in their play? Are they engaged in stimulating activities and given opportunities to explore with materials and equipment? Are the furnishings and furniture age appropriate? 

Step 4 - Talking to other parents 

  • Talk to other parents at the centre. 
  • Are they happy with the service provided? Are their kids interacting well with their teachers?​ 
  • Have the parents had concerns that were not addressed by the supervisor or teachers? Talking to these parents will give you a better perspective of the centre. ​

Step 5 – Quality Indicators 

  • A 24-month licence means that the centre has a high standard of care while a 12-month licence means that the centre has met the minimum standard. 
  • Centres which have attained the Singapore Pre-School Accreditation Framework (SPARK) offer kindergarten programmes with high quality standards endorsed by the Ministry of Education. 

Tips to help your child cope and adjust 

Prepare your child for the experience ​​

Start preparing your child for child care a few weeks before admission. Explain to your child what a child care centre is and what he/she will be doing there. Emphasise that it will be fun to meet other children, make new friends, see a new place, play with new toys and have a teacher who will look after him/her during the day.

Accompany him to the centre 

Familiarise your child with the centre by bringing him there for 1 - 2 short visits to see the place and to meet the teachers. When your child starts school, it is advisable to accompany him for only a few days but not more than a week so that he will not become dependent on you. 

Help him manage separation anxiety and transition 

It is normal for children to cry when they are put in a new environment. They fear that their parents will not return. This is called separation anxiety. It can start between 6 - 9 months and can last through​ toddlerhood. Recognise that your child is going through a transition – just like you are! – and continue to reassure him of your love. 

You may want to let your child bring a familiar item from the home such as a favourite toy or a pillow to give him a sense of familiarity/security. Do not prolong the time of separation as this may worsen the separation and mislead the child to think that you will stay with him if he continues to cry. Ensure your child is in the safe hands of the caregiver, assure him that you will return and leave the caregiver to manage your child. 

Give your child time to adjust 

Be patient with your child. Do not scold or tell him that he is being silly. Remind him that you will be back to pick him up and make sure that you are punctual. 

Different children take different lengths of time to adjust. Some children cry for a day or two, others may stay upset for weeks. Once your child gets used to the daily routine in the child care centre and realises that he will be reunited with you at the end of the day, he will be fine. 

If you are concerned about the length of time that your child is taking to adjust, talk to the teacher about how you can work together to help settle your child.​ ​