Co-sharing in pre-schools cuts anxiety for toddlers

Toddlers and infants learning and playing in the same premises at My First Skool in Havelock Road as part of a co-sharing pilot for infants and toddlers, which allows them to continue to grow in familiar places and with familiar faces.
Toddlers and infants learning and playing in the same premises at My First Skool in Havelock Road as part of a co-sharing pilot for infants and toddlers, which allows them to continue to grow in familiar places and with familiar faces.PHOTO: NTUC FIRST CAMPUS

At My First Skool, children stay in same place as they move from infantcare to childcare

Move a child from his infant care refuge to a childcare facility and tears will flow because he has been separated from the teachers and surroundings he is familiar with.

So since 2016, My First Skool - which comes under the NTUC First Campus - and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) have been working on an initiative which sees infant care and childcare services offered in the same premises.

The ECDA is the regulatory and developmental authority for the early childhood sector.

"Traditionally, infants (aged two to 18 months) and toddlers (aged 18 to 35 months) are physically segregated at pre-schools, which means that when infants reach 18 months of age, they have to leave the infant care to join the toddler class in a childcare setting," said Dr Geraldine Teo-Zuzarte, who oversees the development of the childcare business at NTUC First Campus.

When taught in different settings, she said an infant can experience separation anxiety and may cry more when they have to move and adapt to a new environment.

But the "co-sharing model has given infants a lot more security and confidence as they continue to grow in familiar spaces, with the care from teachers that they are familiar with and have formed secure attachments", she said.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said other pre-schools may be allowed to offer the co-sharing option after a review by the ECDA.

EASIER TRANSITION

With co-sharing, toddlers can take their time to adapt at their own comfort level.

MR CHUA POH LENG, 41, whose 16-month-old son has been enrolled at the Havelock Road branch of My First Skool for about a year, likes the co-sharing idea.

The initiative is part of the Early Childhood Industry Transformation Map announced in parliament last week and one of several recommendations to raise the quality of the early childhood sector. The co-sharing model is now on trial at 12 My First Skool branches, including the one in Havelock Road.

The MSF said by sharing the premises, pre-school operators will also be able to enrol more infants and toddlers while ensuring that the children are adequately supervised.

Children are grouped based on their developmental stage, taking into consideration their level of mobility and developmental needs.

"We do so through demarcation of spaces using foam blocks as low partitions that serve as boundaries, so as to ensure their health, safety and well-being at all times," explained Dr Teo-Zuzarte.

"For instance, within the same space, the mobile infants and toddlers can be at one area, and the non-mobile infants in another."

Separately, more than 50 pre-schools have signed on to another initiative by the MSF - the centralised meals catering services.

Mr Chua Poh Leng, whose 16-month-old son has been enrolled at My First Skool in Havelock Road for about a year, likes the co-sharing idea.

"With co-sharing, toddlers can take their time to adapt at their own comfort level," said Mr Chua, 41.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2018, with the headline 'Co-sharing in pre-schools cuts anxiety for toddlers'. Print Edition | Subscribe