What do parents look for in a preschool? With so many choices, how do parents choose which preschools to send their kids to?
In Singapore, there are playgroup, childcare and kindergarten when considering a school that supports early childhood learning.
Playgroup takes in kids from 18 months old to 2 years old, and are usually only 2-3 hours.
Childcare services are for kids from 18 months old to 6 years old, and children are cared for from 7am to 7pm. Apart of lesson time, kids have their meals, showers and naps too. Some childcare centres have infant care facilities which take babies as young as 2 months old.
Kindergartens take in kids from 4 to 6 years old and typically offer 3 hours of lessons. Parents can choose either morning or afternoon session depending on their child’s nap times and the family’s schedule.
We asked parents in Singapore for their tips on how they decided which school to send their little ones to!
“I’m looking for a preschool near my home or office.”
The most common factor would be proximity. Looking for a preschool near your home would ease traveling time, making it convenient for the family during drop-off or pick-up.
Steven T, father of five kids shares that it was easy for him to decide on the school – “nearby and reasonably priced will do. Our preschool is just opposite our home… can walk over 5mins before closing.”
However, he pointed out that his kids had to be on waiting list prior, so they settled for a school further away before switching school when it was available.
Echoing the same sentiments about the location of the school, Jessica K, mum of 3, says this is decided based on who the assigned caretaker will be to fetch her kids home. For her, she picked one nearer to her office to ensure kid can still be fetch on time should there be work delay.
“Schools offer routine, and we know that works best for children and conducive learning.”
Raye K, mum of 2, says her preference was for structured learning instead of those that learn through play. She believes it’s because of the routine that allows her elder daughter to transit well into primary school.
She says, “My daughter is very used to having a routine with long hours under supervision. Having curriculum from young is very important to me… I cannot deal with kids melt down when they start education in a formal school.”
With the learning environment, the learning program is also something many parents pay attention to. As Jasmine T, mum of 2, points out, “Learning programme is important especially during K1 and K2 so that the children can transit into primary school more smoothly.”
Besides the academic aspect, some parents place high emphasis on soft skills which can be evident in the school’s cultural and daily settings.
“I’d think social setting and how the teachers interact with the kids are some of the factors that were important to us. We wanted them to be able to express their individuality and creativity safely, within limits and for the teachers to be able to model empathy, kindness and firmness even when they are testing limits and make mistakes,” says Joanne C, mum of 2
“Communication between the school and parents makes a difference.”
These points that Joanne shares also boils down to the communication between teachers, Principals and parents.
Both Jasmine and Jessica feel that having good communication flow makes this support system and relationship a meaningful win for all.
Jasmine shares, “I think it helps a lot when the school uses a mobile app to allow communication between parents and teacher. Things like check-ins, check-outs, informing teachers of early pickups, or even assigning another guardian to pick up, medication instructions, etc. About 10 years ago, there were schools that still rely on calls and I find that quite disruptive because they might be busy no one answers.”
How the childcare Principal responses to parents make a big difference too. They are after all the stewards that helm that centre, right?
“The attitude of the principal and how well she works with the teachers under her charge. Teachers may change from time to time as kids progress, but principal usually doesn’t. So, we find it important to have a preschool with a Principal who shares our belief in the wellness of my kids,” reasons Jessica.
“Falling sick at preschool is normal, and the school’s cleanliness is important.”
As our children’s immunity are still developing during the early years, it’s inevitable for them to be sick quite often after starting school.
Cleanliness is definitely a priority for parents – hygiene is important.
Jasmine looks out for preschools in private estates because they have their own outdoor playground, and have good ventilation as compared to childcare centres with full air-conditioning.
As Joanne says, “We visited a few schools and brought A along. We also spoke to parents whose kids attend the school and reading up more about the education philosophy helped us to make the decision.”
Our young kids are left in the trusting and reliable care of adults and parents surely need to be comfortable with how their teachers and Principal interacts with them.
Extra tips on what I did before signing up my child for his first school:
- Speak with the Principal and other staff (if possible), since they’ll be interacting with our kids too.
- Request for a school tour to visit the premises.
- Take a peek or sweep your hands on unnoticeable/hidden areas.
- Shortlist a few childcare centres and seek some opinions from friends or other parents with kids in the same school that you’re considering.
The practical bit about family budgets: the monthly cost for school should be a comfortable amount for families. Fees for childcare and kindergartens in Singapore can range from SGD200 to SGD2800, which is often linked to the child to teacher ratio, syllabus, additional programmes and more. There are childcare subsidies from the Singapore Government and that can help ease our pockets too.
Are you concerned about the planning of your children’s future educational funds? I’ll be happy to share advice on the practical financial aspects of this journey. Get in touch here.