If you are a first-time parent in Singapore, one of the things to do is to register your interest for infant care (2- 18 months) or childcare (18 months and up) the day your kid is born. No joking – once you get the necessary details, it’s time to register interest at a school. It is also time for you to be familiar with terms like ECDA – Early Childhood Development Agency; its Preschool Search and if you don’t know how to use the system, you can read up on the step-by-step guide here. Here are some things to look out for when choosing an infant care or childcare in Singapore.
Just some back story that I will like to share – when I first started my journey looking for schools, I was actually living at Tanah Merah temporarily before my place in the North was ready. I enrolled in a private school which was at the landed property area; which sent me a notice that it was moving out 3 months after my daughter was supposed to start school. So I sent my daughter to PCF Sparkle Thots since we were moving and there was vacancy (I indicated interest in advance just to secure a spot) and when we moved to the North, transferred to My First Skool. The thing is, after indicating interest, I did not get any response, so I made a trip down to my top 2 choices and knocked on the doors – I actually got the principal’s attention. It also helps that I could start the new year in December so luck was on my side as the kids get promoted to the next level in December. Now, we are also looking at a few private schools for my second kid who seems to need more attention, so I must say I have invested the past almost-7 years looking at these.
Back to how to choose an infant care/ childcare:
- Budget – Budget and financials remain the top of my priority when choosing infant care and childcare. Even government infant cares and preschools are pretty pricey, especially infant care. For example, My First Skool charges $1,300+ for infant care; and there are also miscellaneous charges. Childcare is at $770.40. I guess you’ll say, obviously money is the most important consideration, but for childcare, I would say, having all the information such as subsidies is very important. Check out the subsidy calculators and infographics here. If you’re a working mother, the basic subsidy is $300, and there are additional subsidies up to $710 for infant care; and $467 for Childcare. Do take note that some ‘branded’ preschools do have promotions so you should enquire instead of taking the prices as fixed.
2. Proximity and convenience– Distance from your house to the place is very important, especially when you need to pick up your child from work, and you have to pick them up by 7pm. My kids used to take the school bus at an additional cost and it was just a 5-minute ride, but convenience is really key here because it’s an every weekday routine. Many centres are located in business parks and near your office, but I really wonder what happened to these centres during the Covid period where people worked from home. Do check with the centre if there are school bus services; timing and additional charges; and safety measures that are put in place (e.g. who’s the bus aunty, is there a teacher traveling with them, where is the pick up and drop off?).
3. School environment and teachers – Most schools will offer a tour and explanation of daily activities and even planned meals. Some things to look out for is the environment like the classroom for your kids’ level and toilet (very important in my opinion), and some questions I would definitely ask are a) student teacher ratio b) how experienced the teachers are c) food d) activities – if outdoor, is the route there safe e) how are the classmates like (i even ask about gender ratio) so that my kid can gel in if joining midway or at a later age, f) parent support groups. Of course there are other questions and things to look out for e.g. extra activities like gym, music classes, english/mandarin language teaching methods, student feedback apps… it really also depends on the amount you’re paying. If you’re looking at government preschools, perhaps look at the newer preschools so that everything will be newer. If you’re looking at the higher end preschools then of course, find out more in detail what value this will bring in terms of the additional activities – some even learn the violin in class! You can also ask for the syllabus and topics for the year, or term. For me, I also considered if there will be a large discrepancy when my kids transition to primary school.
4. Last but not least, when you’re looking to confirm a school… consider the ‘orientation programme‘ or how the school will help your kid adapt. Due to Covid, many preschools have stopped allowing a parent to accompany their kid for 3 days, but seems like this will change soon. Other things that the preschool can do is to allow the kid to meet the teachers, and it is important that the preschool shows enthusiasm to understand your kid better because every kid is different. It is also a stressful time for the kid! I have stopped asking about updated HFMD stats because it is common everywhere, but it is a good thing to ask as I have friends whose kids are in schools that seems to have higher rates of infection, an indication of limited cleanliness!
I hope this helps you decide on a great infant care or childcare for you and your child!