The extra special touch- that all important ingredient when choosing childcare

Posted under Practical Advice

Ned is beginning his foray into Early Childhood Education with one day per week at my friend Gabi’s DreamArt House Family Day care.
It has been a VERY BIG decision, as I have always planned to have him at home with me until school, but I need to finish some writing work that is seriously overdue and just not getting finished in spits and spurts.


You might know that I’m not a big fan of “childcare” at all.  I know there are great centres, and some overwhelmingly fantastic people working in childcare, and owners and directors who breathe their work.    But I’m still not a fan.  I’m reluctant to go too deeply into my beliefs here because I completely understand that sometimes we don’t have a choice- mortgages have to be paid, food needs to be put on the table, bills keep arriving almost daily.  Sacrifices (whether that it is to put your child in care, or have a husband who works away, or put holiday trips on the back burner) have to be made no matter what choice is made.
(Sometimes, some of us do have a choice, but that is another matter altogether).


But one thing I will say it that for most children, there is NO substitute for mum or dad, even if you don’t cook, paint, sing, or teach them the alphabet each and every day.


In the big picture, simply through osmosis, children learn from us everyday – when we write lists, when we talk on the phone, have friends over to visit, go food shopping, scan the library, play at the park.  Children socialise and meet children in many of these places, and we can make new friends too.  The very best education they receive from us is when WE look to ourselves and our own behaviours to make sure we are really up to the job- that we talk to them as we go about our day and strive as much as possible to include them in our tasks.  We might strive not to swear or get too upset or annoyed by the crappy things that sometimes happen in life when they are in our presence (saving the sharing of our frustrations until after they are in bed) AND we might try to do a little something WITH them everyday- read two or three books, or make dinner, or push them on a swing or share a morning cup of warm milky tea or build  a block farm with them for 10 minutes.  A few minutes of your undivided attention is gold.


But, when we have to work,
we have to make our choices about who to leave our precious little ones with.
We have to decide if we want them in a room of ten or twenty little children, in a family-like situation of four children with one ‘house-mama’, or with a beloved family member if we are so lucky.   We have to observe the carers, and determine whether caring for young children is their passion, or just a job that pays the bills.  The environment tells us a lot-  how well resourced the space is, how much love and care goes into looking after their things, the kinds of toys on offer, the type of language and tone of voice carers use around our children, how their art and folios are displayed in the room and the overall cleanliness of the room.


But it is really in the little things.  These are the things that can make or break a child’s willingness to spend time in the care environment.


A daily handshake at the door, a cuddle each time they return home, the careful way they lay out (rather than throw -more common than you think!)  the rest-time beds and gently tuck in their blanket around the children as they prepare for sleep, the way they repack a child’s bag with newly folded items at the end of each day, or a teacher’s individual way of acknowledging the gifts of each child.


My friend Gabi’s devotion to children, and to her new family daycare adventure, really shone brightly today.  Ned came inside to find a small parcel on his bed.
When he opened it, inside was a little red and blue clothed teddy bear, holding a small scroll and with a picture necklace around his neck.
When we unwound the scroll, we found a hand-written note explaining that this little bear, Dreamy Gentle Paws, had arrived to greet Ned today and accompany him on his new journey to DreamArt House later this week.


He also shared that the little picture around his neck (a truck- what a perfect fit!) is to be Ned’s own symbol – a picture to help him identify where to put his bags, his shoes and his hat.  Dreamy’s last words were that he would be a friend for Ned to cuddle at any time throughout the day.  A cuddle bear of his very own, helping Ned to feel safe, secure and happy with Miss Gabi when mummy goes to work.


I was so moved by this thoughtful gesture that I couldn’t help but have a few tears!
Gabi, you are a treasure and a wonder for parents who are a little bit nervous and anxious about leaving their bubba.  Your actions of love and care envelop the entire family and we feel so pleased to have you as Ned’s first teacher.


And by the way,
Ned himself was delighted with his new friend!
What is special about your child’s carer or teacher?
How do they demonstrate that special extra touch?

5 Responses to “The extra special touch- that all important ingredient when choosing childcare”

  1. Stacey

    Oh you’ve just made me cry! Such a gorgeous gift, my wee one is still very wee and always with me but when that day comes that she will have another carer I will search high and low for one like your Gabi.

  2. Jane (and Lou)

    Children in large long daycare centres are just as valued by their carers as children in a family daycare setting, but the carers simply do NOT have the time or resources to carefully lay out beds, to tuck in the children or their teddy bears, to set up the play space before the children arrive or to carefully pack it away again in the afternoon. We are doing the best we can in a highly flawed profit based system that insists on cramming as many children as possible into a room the size of the average lounge room. We have to produce that extra special touch you are talking about, from practically nothing every day, and then spread it around many children, while we answer phones, fill in paperwork, write day sheets and maintain the patience of a saint. We are trying the best we can, in a system that drains us all. Early childhood carers have the highest rate of headaches at work of any job, are among the lowest paid carers in our society and have one of the shortest retention rates of any job in Australia. Early childhood carers have the biggest hearts of any women you will ever meet, and deserve praise, respect and admiration.

  3. Secret Admirer

    Sounds like you have found a wonderful place for Ned that echos your own household. As for childcare I worked in the industry for many years before leaving that particular career path for the simple reason that I found way to often if you pay people peanuts you get monkeys.

  4. Amber

    Jane, I’ve only just found your comments. So sorry. I KNOW what you say to be true, having worked in many long day care settings and community preschools too. And it does come down to time, and staff ratios. The more the centre cares about the children, and therefore puts money into staffing levels or reduces numbers in classrooms, the more of this ‘care-taking’ can happen. I think that is where we have a choice. We can say NO to big corporations or family-run businesses that do not truly value the children (even when they say they do- look closely- childcare centres do not have to fill their rooms to maximum capacity! They have a choice. Nor do they have to combine rooms to send staff home early to reduce the wages bill. They choose this too.) and instead find centres where the promoted values can actually be observed in practice. I know of many centres where it is not all about the big dollar and the staff in these centres are much more satisfied in their work, creatively satiated, and happy because of the extra touches they can provide and the lower stress levels. A win win all around.

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