“It takes a village”. I never fully appreciated the sentiment behind that saying until my eldest daughter, now 4, started daycare when she was two.
Prior to that, my husband and I had the luxury of sharing the primary carer role for her. During her first year, I was on maternity leave, then I returned to work and my husband took six months off.
When my daughter was around 18 months old, my husband returned to full-time work and we needed to organise regular childminding. For the next six months, I juggled working from home (which I soon learned was impossible with a toddler!) and leant heavily on my incredible neighbours who had a daughter the same age. They’d become very close friends of ours and the girls had grown up together in the same apartment block. We worked out a reciprocal babysitting arrangement that allowed us both to leave our daughters with a trusted friend in a familiar home. We knew each other’s daughters’ habits, routines, likes & dislikes, and it seemed impossible that we could replicate such a caring environment the following year.
I’d done some research on different daycare providers and decided that Family Day Care was the best option for us. A home environment, maximum of 4 children and tightly regulated framework ticked our boxes.
I ended up on Sutherland Shire Council’s website and was pleasantly surprised to find a comprehensive list of options in the Shire, with availabilities listed. I was able to see photos of the Educator and her qualifications, and view pictures of a very tidy, organised and fun-filled home environment, which offered dedicated spaces for the children, both indoors and outdoors. Welcoming environments showcased fun and educational offerings- books, arts and crafts, sandpits and veggie gardens, to name a few.
I reached out to the Educator, the wonderful Magda from Chiquitos Family Day Care, and we were warmly invited to visit her. With one foot inside her backyard, my daughter ran off to play with the equipment with a huge grin on her face, leaving me to observe the obvious care and intent Magda put into her weekly programming & activities. It didn’t take me long to realise we’d hit the jackpot and I booked us in, to commence the following January.
Always a sensitive soul, we were understandably nervous about how our daughter would go with a new person & environment for the first few days & weeks. Magda was just brilliant. She communicated with us regularly, allaying our fears, and providing updates of how our daughter was settling in. She even explained that it would be a little harder in the second and third week at drop off, which allowed us to prepare. After some tearful goodbyes, our daughter was soon shouting ‘Bye mummy!’ and running inside without looking back.
As the weeks passed, I was astounded at the sheer amount of intentional play, structured learning and social interactions Magda facilitated and fostered, all whilst maintaining a fun environment. Her focus on independence and social confidence was paramount and she never hesitated in explaining the importance of these for early development.
I proudly shared the detailed documentation Magda gave us with the grandparents and some extended family. One family member, who is a speech pathologist (owned her own very successful speech & learning clinic for many years) quickly responded to express how incredibly impressed she was with all that Magda was doing. At times like these, it really demonstrated to me how beneficial it was to be working with a Council-regulated service that had a solid & robust framework on intentional play & learning. Magda was free to create & deliver her own projects, activities and games, and we had the knowledge that these were aligned to specific goals & skills suitable for our daughter’s age.
The benefits of choosing a Council-regulated centre were apparent throughout 2020 and now into 2021, with Magda promptly & diligently adjusting her processes and activities to be COVID-safe & Council compliant. We were able to continue sending our daughter to daycare in the peak of the pandemic, with the comforting knowledge that she was at all times in a safe & hygienic environment.
With our eldest daughter having started pre-school this year, we’re thrilled to be able to continue our relationship with Magda, as our youngest daughter thrives in her care & teachings each week.
We never thought we would be able to replicate the caring environment that we had with our neighbours and are happy to admit we were wrong. Even our neighbours found a local Council Family Day Care for their daughter, after seeing what an amazing impact it had on us all.
Embarking on the daycare journey can be incredibly daunting for any parent or carer, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Magda and the Family Day Care services to anyone interested (and have already done so many times!).
To learn more about Family Day Care and to apply for Council’s Family Day Care services visit www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/FamilyDayCare