Starting at a new early childhood education (ECE) service or kōhanga reo is a great step in your young child's life, and although your little one will approach this transition in their own way, there are certain steps that parents need to take before that first drop-off.
To help you organise the administrative side of things, here's some information about how to find quality care and enrol your child for next year.
What are the first steps when choosing child care?
Selecting an ECE service or kohanga reo is a big decision, so instead of rushing into the first place that has a vacancy, take some time to weigh up your options and think about what's best for your child and your whanau.
A little research goes a long way, so we recommend that you:
child's age, your household budget, any personal recommendations, and the options available in your area.
You can find different types of high quality and conveniently-located care using our online search, and if you're unsure about what sort of care will best suit, then our Child Care Compass is an easy way to pinpoint what you're looking for.
Early Childhood Education Service Checklist and considering things like fees, facilities, educator to child ratios, learning opportunities, health and safety, behavioural policies and daily routines, plus your overall feelings and first impressions of each place.
Ask questions, have a good look around and if you like what you see, double-check that they have a vacancy for the days you need. You're also encouraged to check the Education Review Office (ERO) report for each ECE service or kohanga reo you visit to gauge the quality of care being offered.
Make a final decision about where you’d like to enrol your childthen embark on the enrolment process, collating the necessary documents and preparing for your child's first day.
What does the enrolment process involve?
Enrolment procedures vary from service to service, so the best thing is to contact your ECE service or kōhanga reo, confirming that you would like to enrol your child with them and asking what their procedure entails.
You will be given an enrolment form to fill out, and although different services may require different documents from you, the Ministry of Education says that you might need to show:
- Proof of your child's age and citizenship, e.g. birth certificate, passport, citizenship certificate or NZ residency document.
- Your child's immunisation certificate from your Well Child book. You can read more about immunisation here. Although there are no penalties for choosing not to immunise your child, vaccines stop the spread of disease, and the vast majority of young New Zealanders are immunised.
- Your child's medical information, e.g. detailing any allergies, medication they're using and/or existing medical conditions.
If your child has to take medicine while at care, you will need to give the ECE service or kohanga reo authority to dispense it, provide any special instructions and always ensure that your child's medicine is clearly labelled with its name and dosage.
- Your daytime contact information, plus an emergency contact in case educators can't get hold of you.
- Contact information for your child's doctor.
- Any relevant legal documents, e.g. access or custody agreements.
If your child is aged three, four, or five, you can also apply for 20 Hours ECE when you enrol them.
This subsidy sees the government funding up to six hours a day and up to 20 hours a week of care at an ECE service or kohanga reo.
To receive this financial assistance the Ministry says you need to fill out an attestation in the enrolment agreement, where you 'write and sign for the hours and days you are claiming as 20 Hours ECE.'
Although you don't have to do anything, it's also worth noting that the Ministry of Education will issue your child with a National Student Number (or NSN) after you've enrolled them. These numbers fall under the privacy laws and are used to give the government basic data about student attendance and help it 'assess trends and develop initiatives' in early learning, school and tertiary education.
What else do you need to organise before your child's first day at care?
Once you've found a great ECE service or kōhanga reo and enrolled your child, there are a few more practical matters to consider before that first drop-off.
As a guide, it's recommended that you:
- Visit the ECE service or kōhanga reo before your child starts, to familiarise yourselves with the educators, environment and activities.
- Ask staff what your child needs to bring with them each day, e.g. a drink bottle, sun protection, spare clothes, a plastic bag for any soiled clothes, food, spare nappies and a bag.
- Confirm the service's hours, so you're clear about drop-off and pick-up times.
- Share your child's interests and needs with their educator/s, e.g. you might mention that they've never been to care before, have a particular sleep routine or are in the middle of toilet-training.
In fact, if you have any queries or concerns, don't hesitate to speak with your ECE service or kōhanga reo. Educators have lots of experience helping children and parents settle in to the new child care routine, so whether you need advice about government subsidies, are worried about biting or would like to pack your child's comfort toy, they are on hand to help.
Good luck with it all and here's to a happy new child care year!
References and further reading
Ministry of Education
Education Review Office
How to help your child successfully settle in to child care