KinderRijk provides child care to children from a variety of cultures. What’s most striking is the numerous different languages among the children. Yet this diversity involves other aspects as well: how does it affect the educational staff, parents and children?
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One of the locations that provide care to children mostly of working parents and students from abroad, is the day-care centre Boechorststraat. This location is close-by the Free University and the Free University Hospital. 60% of the parents at this child-care centre work or study at the University. The other parents are from other locations.
I spoke with Hannie Nieuwenhuijse, the location manager, and with several Dutch parents. It turned out to be an interesting conversation. Besides the usual differences between children of foreign parents and Dutch parents, such as language, there are some other factors that are less obvious.
Make eye contact
Hannie says ‘KinderRijk’s policy is to always use the Dutch language as the language of communication. ‘This means even if staff are bi or multilingual, they must always speak to the children in Dutch. Children mainly of non-Dutch speaking parents generally tend to stay in the background at first. We speak with these children in short and clear sentences and with lots of eye contact. This is a very quick way to learn the language, and also reading to the children and singing helps language development. This is something we do very often, also with Dutch children.’ Parents can be talked to in English if necessary. Hannie says: ‘This normally works out well, but sometimes the staff encounter parents who don’t speak any Dutch or English, for example grandparents who come to pick up the child.’
‘A less obvious factor is for example playing outside’, says Hannie. ‘For some parents, mainly those from warmer countries, it’s good to know that the children play outside every day here. Also when it’s a bit colder. That’s why we always advise parents to make sure their children wear warm clothes, but not overly warm. This also includes proper footwear, so their children can play around outside.
Some of the younger children at the day-care centre tend to lose their rhythm and become upset when they return from extended holidays from their mother country. They often are indulged at home by family members and therefore have a different rhythm. KinderRijk applies a daily routine. Some of the little ones, who have just got into a comfortable rhythm, become out of sorts after long holidays when getting back into the child-care routine.
The Putri family is from Indonesia. Their 18 months’ old son Aiden attends the Boechorststraat day-care centre. They were very happy that they had opted for KinderRijk as it’s a top location with a beautiful garden. What’s more important to them is the structure Aiden receives here. ‘Indonesian parents tend to adapt their lives around the children with no routine, whereas KinderRijk routines produce a calm and regular atmosphere. This works very well for Aiden and lets him understand his place and makes him a very happy little boy.’
Reading and writing
Also Mrs Dixit with her almost four-year old son Sharvas at the Lindenlaan child-care location in Amstelveen says she thinks the structure and the clear and open educational policy is a tremendous advantage. ‘I also see that the educational staff develops a very strong connection with the children, very warm and loving’, she adds. ‘This isn’t the same in India. Day-care centres mainly have tutor type Misses, and in addition have household personnel who take care of feeding the small children and babies. They do the general pseudo parenting with all the cuddles the children need.
The Misses are mainly there to encourage reading and writing as each child around the age of two-and-a-half is able to write in India. This is necessary as they go to school from that age, which is around the age of three. And they will have to do annual tests and must be able to read and certainly be able to write.’
This pressure to perform at a young age is also present in Indonesia. Indonesian children are also able to read well at a young age, and this is also being encouraged. Yet both ladies prefer the system in the Netherlands. Mrs Putri was surprised that Aiden knows all the names of animals and is able to point out colours and shapes. And that he learns to associate with other children and develops well on a social level. These matters receive less attention in Indonesia as the focus is mainly on the development of knowledge. Mrs Dixit has also noticed this with her elder daughter who is now in primary school. ‘She is now able to read on a much higher level than she ever could have in India, despite the fact that they don’t learn to read in toddler care.’
Communication with the parents
Ella’s parents, who are from Poland, are very enthusiastic about the day-care location Nicolaas Tulplaan where their daughter attends. They believe that the educational staff is highly professional and much appreciate the personal attention, not only to their daughter but also to them. Mrs Putri and Mrs Dixit are in agreement. ‘It feels very familiar and personal, we are kept abreast of everything that goes on with our children, which is unique. There is open communication.’
Yet both of them have some points of improvement. ‘To non-Dutch speaking parents it would be better if there was more communication in English,’ says Mrs Putri, ‘for example during parents’ evenings and in some of the documentation.’ Hannie Nieuwenhuijse admits that this is an issue: ‘Also our staff feel there’s a need to speak clearer English. It’s not always easy to explain certain things to the parents. Especially when it comes to medical terminology.’
Mrs Dixit would like to see more interaction with other parents. ‘Sharvas goes to toddler care, where you don’t meet the other parents very often.’ For Mrs Putri this isn’t a great issue. We get to meet other parents at the annual summer festivities of the day-care centre. This is also a good way to learn to understand each other’s cultures.’ These festivities are always celebrated with savoury snacks from all parts of the world at the day-care centre Boechorststraat. ‘And that’s of course a very pleasant and indeed tasty aspect of all those various cultures at KinderRijk,’ Hannie adds.
This article is written by Yvette de Mes-Schouten.