Transition - Childcare Options

Today we hear a lot of talk about being supportive by making…  ‘connections in children’s learning throughout the early childhood years and as they move from one setting to another’ (Aistear- Early Childhood Curriculum Framework). This statement is very welcome indeed, anything that will help our little ones cope with the variety of moves necessary during their young life! Whether we are teachers, parents, or children we all know the dreaded feeling of uncertainty when making any transition; whether it be from home to crèche or minder, preschool, primary or secondary school, college or work. 

As parents we need to prepare for the first of these many transitions for our small child, that is choosing an appropriate childcare option. So let’s get to it,  donning our responsible, ‘I can do it’ hat and start phoning and googling. Ah yes, you say, but hold on!  How do I prepare for something I know precious little about, have no control over and can only be referred to as ‘the great unknown’! 

"Everyone wants to go to heaven but no-one wants to die." (English proverb)

Before you despair completely, let’s look again at what we are really talking about here, which is the ‘transition period’ and what this really means. According to various dictionaries ‘transition’ means the process of changing from one state or condition to another; that is, a move, passage, conversion, adaptation, adjustment etc. So it can be said that transition is the move toward the unknown rather than actually being somewhere else. Well, that’s a relief, so I won’t be abandoning my children into the unknown, I will move very slowly and look very carefully at where we are heading.

Therefore take a breath, take your time, move slowly and look carefully at where you are going with your precious family and perhaps the fear of launching into ‘the great unknown’ will become less daunting as you realise it is a process and like the…’journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step’ (Chinese proverb).

Thankfully nowadays most childminders and crèche facilities, apart from being visible on the internet, will welcome prospective parents into their caring environment and talk through daily routines and procedures. Listen carefully to the information provided by these professionals, but also pay particular attention to watching the children in their care; observe how they engage and interact with the adults and other children – do they possess good levels of concentration and confidence? Do not be disheartened to see some low level squabbling which the attentive adult will hopefully supervise with gentle handling. Try not to judge the worth of a childcare facility by toys and equipment or lack thereof, but rather focus on the children; are they active and trying to work things out; naming things, struggling to do it ‘by themselves’, and encouraged in all this while they are attentively watched and supported by the adults, but not interfered with.

In one of her last public speeches on her educational philosophy, Dr. Maria Montessori concluded by saying (I paraphrase here) ‘don’t keep looking at the rings on my finger but to where I am pointing’. So when you collect your precious ones from the minders, crèche, preschool or primary school keep watching, listening and asking. Try not to get distracted by the beautiful building or materials, the report cards or the efficiency of the staff but keep looking to your children, ask them about their work and their day and what they think was interesting, for it is they who will truly and honestly show you the way.