When you’re searching for an early learning service, you want it all. You want somewhere that feels both welcoming and secure, with brilliant facilities and amazing educators who really understand your child’s needs. It should be a place your child loves, where they will be kept safe and smiling all day long as they explore the stimulating learning environment around them. Above all, it should be backed by a quality play-based curriculum that is challenging for children as they grow and develop all the vital skills they need to be ready for school.
Choosing the right early learning service is just the first step of your early learning journey. Helping your little one make the transition from home life into care is important to make sure they will settle in more easily once they start.
1. Book a Tour
The best way to know if an early learning service is right for you is to book a tour of the facilities. The right place should feel warm and welcoming right from the moment you walk through the door. You should be greeted by a professional and friendly Service Manager who’s ready and eager to show you around.
While on the tour, pay special attention to the experiences being offered within the learning environments and the calming atmosphere of the Service. What are the children interested in? This should be evident by what experiences are on offer, and the way the learning is displayed in the room.
2. Stay and Play
Spend a little extra time with your child in the room so they can play, investigate and explore all the learning opportunities available. This is an opportunity for them to be immersed in the learning environment and become involved with the educators and other children at the Service. This time allows connections to be made with new friends and a trusting, secure relationship with educators to begin.
While your child enjoys time engaging in all the experiences available, you can speak with the Service Manager and observe the play while discussing your child’s individual needs and interests, and what you would like them to gain from their experiences.
3. Get Familiar with the Daily Rhythm of the Service
It’s important to know what daily life is like at the service, but these days early learning environments have more of a rhythm than a routine. Children will have their own routines from home, so be sure to talk about your child’s routine with the educators so this can be followed in their best interests when possible.
By regulation, all services must allow children to eat regularly, toilet and nappy change regularly, and to provide sleep and rest as required by the child. So although the service may have set meal times (when the kitchen serves food) and nap times (when the beds are put out) each child’s individual routine is taken into account.
Remember, the educators are there to work with you every step of the way to ensure your child receives the very best care. If you have any concerns about how your child might handle the transition, talk about them with the educators so you can find the appropriate solution together.
4. Encourage Independence
As you prepare your child to spend longer periods of time without you, it’s important to foster a sense of independence. By engaging your child in conversations and decision making, you can assist them in developing a growth mindset and the confidence to deal with change.
Speak with your child to establish the concept of early learning, and listen to their questions and their worries about starting care. Supporting children includes the way you respond; two powerful words you can use are “what” and “how.” It can be as simple as “how will you remember how to tie your shoes?” or “what do you think you will learn at care?” When your child faces a situation or problem they feel they can’t overcome, use language such as “I can see that you’re upset. How can we work together and what can we do to get this job done?”
Fostering independence is also about making sure your child can perform basic tasks for themselves before they start care. Teach your child to tie their own shoes, use the bathroom by themselves, and how to ask somebody for help if they need it. Teach them to remember their drink bottles and bags, to play nicely with friends, and deal with feelings when things don’t happen the way they expect.
Over time, your child’s language will change from “I can’t” and “it’s too hard” to “I’m trying” and “I’m learning”. Their confidence and sense of emotional intelligence will develop to encourage lifelong learning through their early years and into adulthood.
5. Make Sure They Have Everything They Need
Will your child need a hat, or does the service provide them? What about lunch, nappies, bedding, sunscreen and all the other little essentials your child may need? Get familiar with what the service does and doesn’t provide, and put everything your child will need into a special bag ready for care. Make sure everything your child is taking to care is labelled clearly with their name.
Is your child starting early learning soon? Enter our giveaway to win a “getting ready for early learning” pack with everything they’ll need, including educational resources and activities.