Choosing the right Early Childhood Development programme for your child

Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 26, 2022


Many parents, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, have delayed registering their children at Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres.

However, with 90% of the human brain developed by the age of five, access to sufficient support and stimulation is critical to a child’s future success. For those concerned about safety and effectiveness, knowing what to look out for can provide peace of mind, while finding the perfect fit.

Sane Mdlalose, acting chief executive at SmartStart, a non-profit organisation, said: “Lockdown restrictions and Covid-19 protocols have limited the opportunities for interactive play. As a result, young children across South Africa have missed out on socialisation and experiences that are critical to their early development. Understanding the importance of early learning, and then choosing the right early learning programme, can assist with making up for lost time – setting children up for a successful future.”

Mdlalose said it was paramount that parents and caregivers remember that playing is fundamental to a child’s early growth.

Here are the important factors to consider when selecting an ECD programme:

Curriculum: Based on research and best practice, SmartStart has identified five elements that are key to a successful early learning programme: nurture, talk, play, storytelling, and parent partnerships. Before selecting a programme, parents should ask about their early learning centre’s curriculum and ensure each of these elements are covered.

Safety: As children grow and become more curious, they require safe spaces in which to exercise their independence and build a positive relationship with the world around them. In terms of ratios – for every six to 10 children, there should be one practitioner responsible for their care. This ensures that each child is closely supervised and receives the attention they need to feel calm and comfortable – without compromising their safety.

Parent involvement: Parents are children’s first and most important teachers. The programme you choose should value your capability and work to involve you in your child’s development outside of the classroom.

Registration and compliance: Choose a programme that meets the minimum health and safety requirements, as set out in the Norms and Standards for ECD Programmes, issued by the Department of Social Development.