Is your child safe at crèche? 5 effective ways to screen childcare facilities

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Getty Images
  • A crèche plays a vital role in your child's development and should be structured to encourage cognitive, emotional, educational and social development from early childhood.
  • Verifying that the preschool is registered and has a licence to operate ensures that it is a legitimate facility.
  • Behavioural changes in your child are among the telltale signs that their holistic needs are not met.  

Every parent wants to be sure that their child is well-taken care of while they’re at work. And, while finances determine the quality of childcare available, finding the right place for your child is crucial.

A crèche or preschool plays a critical and vital role in the development of your children’s potential. Educational psychologist Dr Joseph Seabi says, “A crèche should be structured to encourage cognitive, emotional, educational and social development from early childhood.”

This is why it’s important to ensure that we send our kids to safe, nurturing environments where their welfare, learning and protection are a priority. The known viral video of a preschool teacher beating up a little girl for vomiting shows that some teachers are not fit to be in the positions they hold.

As a parent, it is a wake-up call to not trust too easily, and to be meticulous in screening these facilities. The onus is on you to check if teachers have no criminal records, are mentally stable and aren’t a danger to your children. Here’s how to effectively evaluate childcare facilities as well as what you should never compromise on.

1. Check the legitimacy

Verify that the preschool is registered with the departments of basic education, health and social services, and that it has a licence to operate. This ensures that it is genuine and legitimate.

“The registration implies that representatives from these departments can do spontaneous visits to inspect the facilities, and make sure that they comply with the law,” Dr Seabi explains.

2. Teaching and training

A good facility will usually invite parents to get to know the school while deciding on enrolment. But, it’s also up to you to take the initiative.

“Make an appointment with the crèche, and have a conversation with those in charge,” advises educational psychologist Dr Mubi Mavuso.

“Ask about, and discuss, the school’s policy thoroughly,” she adds. “Ask about the qualifications and experience of teachers, and the curriculum. Find out if the school empowers its teachers about early childhood learning and development matters by, for example, organising or attending workshops to upgrade themselves educationally,” Dr Mavuso continues.

“Also, ask how the school embraces inclusivity, and how it accommodates children who learn differently or have disabilities,” she adds.

Dr Seabi points out that although there is a growing trend among parents who want their children to speak English as a first language, it is crucial that educators or caretakers be able to speak in the mother tongue of children, where possible.

READ MORE | Out with the old, in with the new? How to balance traditional and modern parenting styles 

3. Attend open days

The open day allows you to observe the exchange between teachers and parents, how children relate to each other as well as how teachers connect with their charges.

“Take note of what you like, dislike or makes you uncomfortable. You need to listen to and act on your gut feeling. Communicate your findings to the crèche management and while doing so, note their reaction,” Dr Mavuso advises.

“Note how you, and the children, are treated. Watch the drop-offs, and notice the children’s reactions and interactions with their teachers, too. If possible, do this during playtime. Never compromise on their safety and well-being. Be vigilant against child abuse,” she emphasises.

4. Inspect the safety and security standards

Basic hygiene is important.

“Unhealthy environments are a risk to normal child development,” Dr Mavuso says.

So, be on the lookout for concerns. Dr Seabi recommends having a detailed checklist for safety and security.

“Ask questions such as, ‘Are the buildings, equipment and furniture in good condition? Is the area hygienic? Are the toys cleaned regularly? Do the operational hours accommodate parents who work the whole day? Is the facility open during school holidays? Are the entry and exit gates closely monitored to ensure that only authorised people are permitted on the premises? Are the gates locked during the day? Are the rules followed through to ensure that only parents or guardians on the pick-up list can fetch children? Is there proper space for all the children to be able to play safely? Is the food nutritious? Are some of the educators trained in first aid?’” Dr Seabi cautions.

5. Examine the curriculum

Experts agree that it’s critical to understand the educational programme on offer, and how it addresses your child’s developmental needs.

According to Dr Seabi, depending on your child’s age, you can request to see lesson plans or basic educational programmes – don’t feel that doing so is an inconvenience. Talk to other parents, and watch your child. Get references about the facility from other parents, too.

“Join a parents’ WhatsApp group and other feasible communication platforms to see what people say about the school,” Dr Mavuso further advises.

“Additionally, take your child to the crèche, and notice how they respond to the new environment that will become their second home,” Dr Seabi concludes.

Telltale signs that your child’s holistic needs are not met

Overcrowded classes with no assistant teacher. It is illegal to have more than25 children in a class with only one educator. Overcrowded classes hinder your child’s development, and teachers in these classes tend to be overworked and impatient.

Unsafe and unhygienic environment. Unhygienic spaces are related to overcrowded classes–who, where and how food is prepared as well as the actual kind served.

Insufficient playgrounds. Kids confined to small spaces lag developmentally, which could also lead to health issues like obesity.

Lack of stimulating activities and communication with parents. This could lead to minimal or no learning at all. If a facility does not communicate with you, it implies that teachers don’t interact with each child appropriately.

Behavioural changes. Separation anxiety during the first few days is normal. Signs of abused children include changes in mood, refusal to go to crèche, withdrawn behaviour, anxiety and physical injuries.

Don't miss our top stories, sign up to the TRUELOVE newsletter now! 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24