The potential warning signs to watch out for in your child's crèche - experts
Parents should visit any prospective care setting more than once before sending their child there, a childcare expert has warned.
Dr Mary Moloney from the Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies at Mary Immaculate College has said that parents need to be vigilant when choosing a creche and should not be afraid to ask questions.
"Overall, the atmosphere in the setting should be one of contentment and happiness both from a child and staff perspective," she said.
Dr Moloney said that parents should act on instinct when visiting childcare facilities, paying particular attention to the atmosphere and observing equipment.
"If a parent gets any sense that something is not right, act on that instinct.
"Spend time in the setting with your child. Observe adult/child interactions. Are they warm and caring?
"Ask about staff qualification levels and Garda vetting. Ask about and observe adult/child ratios."
The childcare expert said there are a number of things to look out for when visiting a childcare facility and that parents should not be afraid to ask questions if they suspect something is amiss.
"Observe the range and number of toys and books and, whether they are accessible to children. All toys, books and equipment should be at the child’s level so that they can reach them with ease.
"Observe and ask about the range of experiences children will engage in. Does the setting follow Aistear, does it implement Síolta for example?"
Two of the most important things to be aware of are the facility's safe sleep policies and how they manage behaviour, she said.
"Check whether children have equal access to indoor and outdoor play environments. Ask also if and how sibling interaction is facilitated.
"Check the sleeping rooms. Ask questions. Will my child sleep in a cot? How will she or he be put to sleep? How will my child’s sleep be monitored?"
According to Dr Moloney, parents need to be well-versed in the TUSLA Quality and Regulatory Framework which sets out the legal requirements in relation to early childhood education and care settings.
"Go online and check TUSLA inspection reports as well as DES reports relating to children availing of the free pre-school scheme. Both will give a very good indication of the quality of the setting," she said.
"Ask for a copy of all policies and procedures. Pay particular attention to behaviour management and safe sleep. While all policies are important, these two are absolutely essential."
Dr Moloney said that is essential to ask these questions, particularly for children under three who are unable to let parents know if something is not right at their creche.
She also advised that word of mouth is extremely important and prospective parents should be asking around about the setting to find out more from anecdotal experiences.
"Children should be busy, engaging in activities, playing with and alongside other children, happy, laughing and enjoying themselves. If a parent gets any sense that something is not right, act on that instinct," she added.