Choosing a kindergarten for your child

Although many Thai families hire nannies to care for their children, more parents are putting their children into daycare in the hope that they will start learning more effectively from a younger age. There are a multitude of kindergartens to choose from in Bangkok, so finding the right kindergarten for your child might take some time – but it’s a worthwhile effort.

What a child learns can set them on a path towards success for life. "From the moment of conception to age seven years, these are the golden years of childhood," says pioneering child educator Mom Dusdi, who introduced nurseries into Thailand and now advises kindergartens on how to better educate children (such as Jinjao, listed below). "Just because a child isn’t giving you verbal feedback, doesn’t mean they aren’t incubating things for later on."

Parents need to feel comfortable

Choosing a kindergarten is therefore a big decision. Canadian child educator Jackie Alexander, a developmental psychologist who has run kindergartens in Thailand for 16 years (including the Early Learning Centre and the Purple Elephant), advises that parents should feel comfortable with the school. "Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and raise any concerns about your child. You should be able to discuss anything with the school – we’re here as a team, and the school’s relationship with parents is very important."

Alexander says choosing a small, warm and intimate environment for a child will help contribute to the development of an adult who will be a lifetime learner. "In a small school, it’s not as easy to slip through the cracks, and some kids simply don’t do well at big schools." She recommends visiting more than one school for comparison – then parents will feel like they’ve made the right decision.

Good resources and small class sizes are other features to look for, as is a strong art and music programme – the latter will lead to better development of academic skills later on. "Parents should be happy with the type of overall programme the school offers, and make sure that their child’s particular needs fit into that programme."

Parents should also enquire about the qualifications of the teachers – but they shouldn’t be overly concerned about this. "It depends on the person more so than the degree, except when it comes to teaching reading," says Alexander.

Don’t choose a programme that overloads your child

Mom Dusdi adds that a good balance between teacher-directed activities and free choice, and between passive and active activities, is important. She cautions that many kindergartens are geared towards learning too much, too early. "Children are competing to get into well-known schools, and this is a big problem. It’s a real limitation, as the children have to be taught to read early."

To get children into the hands of professionals as soon as possible, Mom Dusdi is encouraging kindergartens to attach nurseries to their schools. "So instead of starting at age three, children can start at age two or one. The younger, the better, especially if you get the parents involved."

It all starts at home

But good practice at home is still the lynchpin of it all, so the education of both parents and the child’s nanny is crucial. "Select someone you like, and train them yourself," advises Mom Dusdi when it comes to choosing a nanny. Unfortunately, however, Mom Dusdi adds that there’s not a lot of information out there to help educate parents. "The focus tends to be on hygiene – there’s not enough focus on the brain. But we can reach parents through kindergartens."

In a nutshell, Mom Dusdi’s advice is to stimulate the child as much as possible from birth. ‘The child needs to be exposed to their various senses," she says. She recommends talking to the child continuously, using body and eye contact, providing colourful surroundings, encouraging dancing and other body movement, and listening to music such as Mozart. "There’s no research yet on the benefits of Thai music, but I suspect that there must be something good in it."

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