I returned to work recently after being on parental leave for almost a year after the birth of our second child. I was stuck though. Our brilliant caregiver was able to look after my 10 month old son while I was at work but could only provide limited hours of care for my daughter who is almost 3 due to other care commitments. So, where could I find a supportive, nurturing, and fun environment for my daughter to spend time at while I was in the office? VisionWest Kindy was the logical choice, in many ways, as I live and work close by and I already knew some of the parents of children who attended there. But, what works for some kids doesn’t work for others so I thought I’d share some of the insights I gained on this journey and some of the key questions you need to ask before making the right choice. Note, these questions aren’t necessarily in order of importance but just a taste of some things you need to think about.
Who works at the Centre?
Sometimes, you get greeted with cold efficiency or distracted confusion when you approach an Early Childhood Centre. You need a place you can trust implicitly and you need to build a good relationship with, at a minimum, at least two key staff. What are the staff-child ratios? Who is going to be your child’s main carer? What are the admin team like – does the Centre Manager get involved? I spoke at length with the VisionWest team and they really spoke to me as a parent, not just another potential paying customer. The Centre Manager is really engaged with the kids and takes on mat times and outdoor play activities with gusto. The Kindy Administrator was also really helpful – she recommended that I start my daughter earlier, before I started back at work, with a couple of half days a week so that she could familiarise herself with the people and the environment. This was something I wouldn’t have thought of automatically but I am so glad I followed her advice and did this because it meant my girl fitted right in when I started back and it was one less transition for me to worry about as I navigated the “back to work” terrain!
What does an average day look like?
This might not be important to you or your child but for others, routine and structure is key. You might also think about whether to do half days or full days. I love the balance there is at VisionWest Kindy with lots of creative play, free time, and variety but also with set meal times, mat times, and group activity times. My daughter likes to know what’s happening and this gives her the space to be challenged with spontaneity and change but also security about what’s happening next. There are also often family-friendly events throughout the year and parents are also actively involved at the centre.
Location, Location, Location
Returning to work, having a new addition to the family, moving home. These are all often factors that impact on the choice to send your child to Kindergarten. You need to think about Kindy’s location compared with school runs for other children. Or, if your new baby is asleep, can they catch that nap in the car/buggy while you go to collect your older child from kindy or is this too disruptive? If you’re returning to work, like me, you might be going back part-time and the cost of travelling to and from work and doing a kindy run in a completely different neighbourhood might really make a dent on the income you get from returning to the office. VisionWest Kindy is in handy Glen Eden, right off Glendale road, a main route to links to New Lynn, Henderson, and Titirangi. I am fortunate enough that I could walk there if I wanted and then have a really easy trip to work close by.
Why choose that centre?
What is their “elevator pitch” to you? Sometimes, it’s just something that a parent/staff member/child says to you about their experience of the kindy that just sells it. At VisionWest, the staff work with great love and great integrity. Their Christian values are translated in to their care for the children but not in a way that’s invasive. That said, the staff team always have time to talk with me about any concerns I have around my daughter’s learning, her physical wellbeing or anything else at all, really! They understand that work commitments can make life very full and when plans get changed, they are incredibly accommodating.
You might think that cost is more important or the playground equipment or risky play. If that’s the case, I can tell you that my now 3 year old gets free care through ECE Susbsidised funding, that she loves the rope swing in the playground, and that she is always climbing higher, jumping further and thriving.
That’s my story. Now tell me yours by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and check out more about VisionWest Kindy at http://www.visionwest.org.nz/kindy-services