CHOOSING a good Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre for a child requires careful consideration by the parents or guardians.The National Development Agency (NDA) — an agency of the Social Development Department — advises parents to take precautions when choosing ECD centres for their children. Between January and February is when children go back to school and youngsters are enrolled in local ECD centres. KZN Department of Social Development spokesperson Ncumisa Ndelu advised parents to ensure that the crèche they have chosen is legal by asking for registration documents, which include registration as an NPO and an ECD, which is done by the department.Ndelu said: “If parents are not satisfied they can contact the department directly. “The first step is to assess the needs of the community and then approach the department for assistance with the registration process, but members of the community are encouraged to get in touch with the nearest Social Development office for detailed information.”According to the NDA, Early Childhood Development is a programme offered to children from birth to school-going age that focuses on the holistic (physical, emotional, cognitive and social) development of the child. Communications officer at NDA Lesogo Ranchu said: “Children go through remarkable growth with brain development at its peak at this stage, therefore it is imperative that they receive the correct stimulation.”Ranchu advised parents on what to look for when enrolling their children at ECD centres, in line with compliance matters such as registration, safety and security, learning methodology, and teacher training.Ranchu said: “It is imperative that parents ask the correct questions at the centres of learning to ensure their children are receiving maximum care, support and learning outcomes for their age.”The NDA said children advance from an ECD centre to Grade R, not only when they have reached the Department of Education’s prescribed age, but they must be able to identify numbers, count from one to 20 at least, have an ability to sort and classify, make comparisons and solve problems. Ranchu added: “It is proven that children who undergo a good ECD programme will do well throughout their schooling years.”Below are some tips for parents when looking for an ECD centre.REGISTRATION AND COMPLIANCE • Check if the ECD centre is registered and if it meets all norms and standards. • A registration certificate must be displayed on the wall for parents to see. SAFETY AND PLAY • Does the ECD centre have a fence, wall and lockable gate?• Is there enough space in the yard for play equipment? Jungle gyms/swings and other equipment are vital for the development of children’s gross motor skills.• Is the building housing the ECD centre safe? Are there enough windows? Are there two emergency exits in case of a fire or emergency?• How many classrooms are there? Are children allocated per age group? This speaks to responding to the development needs of a child at each major stage of development.• Each child should be allocated a place to sit (classrooms must have enough tables and chairs for all pupils).• Parents should ask to see the layout of the classroom. There are various activity areas that are compulsory: fantasy corner, fine motor development area, art cognitive development area, bag area, ring area, and walls should have charts for shapes, colours, numbers and a daily programme.• The number of staff in the ECD centre is key — each class must have a qualified practitioner who must be with the children all the time. The other ECD staff (cleaner, cook) cannot replace teaching staff.ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING • The ECD centre must have sufficient toilets for the children, they should be sized properly and have wash basins that the children can reach.NUTRITION • Nutrition is key to learning — does the ECD centre offer breakfast or snacks and lunch? An alternative and seasonal menu of the week with a variety of food groups must be displayed.