Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tips on choosing the right Early Development Centre for your child.

Based on my previous reviews on early development centre for children, a few people wrote to me on their views as well. Therefore, I guess before you decide on one that suits your baby best, a few factors need to be considered:

1. Test out several centres
You should visit several centres especially those that allow a trial class for free. As it was, I suddenly realised that I didn't allow Jada to experience the lesson at Muzikgarten when I instantly signed her up at Kizsports 1Utama. I feel that we should have allowed her to have a feel of various environments before deciding on one. At least you minimise the risks of "What if's...". Still, after her first real class last weekend, we saw a positive development from her with the help of dedicated personnel from Kizsports and the warm learning environment she experienced.

2. Don't settle for one just because it is the cheapest.
I have to admit that I was adamant to trying out Gymboree (at first) not only because it is the nearest to us but also because some people complaint to us that Gymboree is not cheap but so and so centre is cheaper. I can accept other reasons accept one that put a value to education. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying you should try out something exorbitantly priced, although if you can afford it, I don't see why you would want to settle for anything less.

However, after the experience at Gymboree Tropicana City, I guess what our friends wanted to say was to get 'more value for money' where you can probably obtain it from other early development centres. But, they probably didn't know the best way to express their thoughts to us, making way for misinterpretation to their statements.

Whatever it is, do not put a price on the value of education. It is priceless. If you can afford it, invest. Of course, in some cases, expensive does not mean quality. So, back to Point 1, experience them all before making a decision.

3. Enrol with friends who has children in the same age bracket.
Seeing the lack of interaction among children in one centre I went, it would be nice if you have a friend with children in the same age bracket enrolled in the same session. That way, you are helping your child to learn to socialise since your friend would not mind if both your children are friends as well. This can help make the learning environment much more fun.

I think it is so important for children to learn this skill of making friends because the society may have gotten more and more individualistic and children do not have as much fun as we did back then.

4. Talk to other parents.
It would be nice if you had asked around before deciding on a centre. One friend of mine regretted signing up for a full course after going to just one session as the class didn't meet her expectations and her daughter wasn't that cooperative as well because of the unfriendly environment. I did tell her that she should have spoken to me knowing quite well that I was also looking for a play school for Jada. Once you make that first payment for a long term commitment, it is usually not refundable unless there are clauses to the contract that says otherwise.

5. If you want to enrol, it is okay to pay the monthly fees, monthly.
Children's attention span and moods can be unpredictable. They might like something today but totally detest the same activity the next day. Therefore, don't be afraid to tell the centre that you'd only pay their fees on a monthly basis... that is, if you don't mind that you are actually paying much more compared to a 3-month or per term basis.

Thus, if you decide to go elsewhere, you can continue one more month of lesson from the deposit you have paid at registration instead of having to forgo the few months' fees. By doing this, you would also have understood that you have to forgo good discounts for fees paid upfront, should you decide to enrol your child for their full term. Guess you can't win them all, in this sense.

6. Read through the contract terms thoroughly.
Some centres provide discounts and freebies upon enrolment and membership confirmation. Like Kizsports, Jada is allowed unlimited free access to their playland at the centre she is registered with and her abang gets to enjoy membership entrance rates. Some other centres do not have such facilities. Thus, if this is an important factor in you considering a centre due to the many children you have in a family, you might just want to ask the centres for further info.

7. Don't be afraid to ask for a free trial if the centre does not offer one.
One friend told me that she displayed an obvious hesitation when she visited one centre that does not promote a free trial class. But since she looked genuine enough, the centre did offer one trial class for her toddler, FOC. Thus, I guess you'd just have to be firm and ask. If they don't, then at least you know you've tried and it is up to you to decide the next steps.

8. The Who's Who factor.
I've heard of some parents enrolling their kids to certain centres because some personalities/politicians enrol their children there. Well, I don't see anything wrong in this as long as your intention is right and that what you do does not give the right for anyone to judge. However, do note that the learning experience must bring an advantage to your child because they need to acquire the necessary skills for them to grow into a more confident and better individual. So, do not let your intentions hinder the learning process of your child because like it or not, you are not paying peanuts to these centres.

9. Do not force your child if she is not ready.
It's true that children need encouragement for them to be interested in something. But we all know that children nowadays are a smart bunch. It's probably due to the food mommies consume when pregnant or the milk that they drink. So, if your child is not ready, it is not a good idea to force them. These sessions are supposed to be fun for them. As much as we as parents would always want the best for our children and some parents being overly competitive, every child is different and so are their development needs.

Have I missed anything else? Do you have anything else to share?


unlisted_one said...

Juan, thanks for this info. Lepas bawak Madihah pegi Kizsport hari tu, my mom keep on asking me to enrol her in one of the child development centre. but Kizsports seems to be ok jgk kan?

I paling tak nak kena facilitator mcm u cerita dkt Gymboree tu..iee..dah selalu terkena dgn org2 yg tak membantu ni.

toughcookie said...

no problem... i just had to put all these in writing because i felt that there isn't many info out there in the internet for us malaysian mommies looking for early child development centres, and that many friends i spoke to have made mistakes in the past, of enrolling without finding out information beforehand.

i bukan nak ngutuk gymboree tapi dah banyak sangat i dengar comments yang sama. but then again, all children are different. you just have to try out and see for yourself... jangan percayakan just one source of info. bila you try semuanya, baru puas hati bayar mahal2.

good luck, and have fun!

Sharifah Zahira Syed Iedin said...

Hi Juan,

Bumped into ur blog when i was searching for gymboree fees. I am currently looking for a weekend playclass for my 2yo daughter.. want her to spend as much time with us having fun and at the same time, learning something new.

what sort of comments did you hear about gymboree? I'm interested to know. I have been to gymboree bangsar once, and the playgym was just okay. i was just reluctant to sign up for the whole course (rm17xx/48 weeks) cuz sometimes I'll be outstation and skipping the weekend class seems inevitable. if you could share your opinion, i'll be so grateful.