Pre-school offers infant care and childcare in the same room to help children adapt

Older toddlers and younger infants learn and play together at My First Skool at Havelock Road as part of a co-sharing pilot model for infants and toddlers. PHOTO: NTUC FIRST CAMPUS

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.

The initiative is part of the Early Childhood Industry Transformation Map announced in parliament on March 7 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 at 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."

Mr Chua Poh Leng, whose 16 month old son has been enrolled at My First Skool on 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.

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

Since 2016, Kinderland pre-school has engaged a single caterer for four of its 15 centres.

Ms Kua Jo Ann, 29, the pre-school's nutrition and hygiene manager said: "Our workload at the centre has lessened because there is less procurement work and we save the man hours needed to buy groceries."

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