Childcare has come a long way from when we were kids.
I’m sure you remember it.
“Kinder” – while serving its primary purposes of teaching children to interact with others and allowing mum or dad to return to work – was often a simple combination of playtime, storytime and arts and crafts, like ‘spatter’ painting or gluing pipe cleaners and macaroni to sheets of paper.
Not so much anymore.
Centres across Australia now offer activities as extravagant as cooking classes, fitness sessions, gardening lessons and language classes, to name but a few.
The evidence is in the name itself – childcare centres have become increasingly known as “early learning” or “early childhood education” facilities and with good reason. Many prominent experts consider early childhood education a critically important precursor to a child’s primary schooling and an essential developmental step in their growth.
As commercial property agents, the proof of early learning centres’ significance within their communities could not be more apparent. Both new and established facilities are now worth millions of dollars – some in the tens of millions – partly because they almost always occupy prime sites, and partly because their long leases mean they’re among the community for decades.
While they’re true focal points for their suburbs, some parents still don’t see early learning centres as anything more than child-minding services.
How do we change that mindset? How do we reinforce the view of early learning as a key education platform, rather than simply a place to drop the kids?
Turning that perception around has been a long and slow process, and there’s still considerable work to do in this space, but the wheels are turning.
For many parents it comes down to us, as an industry, educating them on exactly what early learning can offer their children now and for the future. Other countries who’ve embraced early learning as a key pillar in their education system have seen huge benefits for their children further down the track, and yet in Australia around one in five of our children enter primary school well behind the baseline for where they should be as they start in Prep.
As key childcare stakeholders, let’s continue to spark the conversation, educate people on the value of early childhood education, and ensure more families begin to foster early learning as one of the most vitally important phases of their children’s lives.