As a parent, you naturally want what is best for your child. However, it can be hard to choose the best childcare option. Not everyone can or wants to leave their job to stay at home, or has the option to reduce their work hours. If you are considering childcare options as a working parent and expat in Singapore, then this guide is for you.Here we outline the options available to you, weighing up the pros and cons of each, and giving an overview of cost expectations, so that you can find the option that is the best fit for you and your family.
These tend to be the most popular options for expat parents who work part or full time, with half day and full day programmes available to best fit in around your working hours. This option is generally considered to be the best value for money. Children will learn to socialize with others through play, as well as grow intellectually.
Highly popular pre-schools in multiple locations around Singapore include:
• Alphabet Playhouse
• Carpe Diem Preschool
• Children’s Cove
• Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse
• Little Green House
• Little Paddington Preschool
Pros: Affordable option, highly reliable form of childcare, children can play and socialize.
Cons: Some children (particularly those with separation anxiety) may prefer one to one interaction, as well as set opening and closing times.
Bear in mind that if you are a permanent resident of Singapore, your children could be eligible to attend a ministry of education (MOE) kindergarten, which is a government run facility with lower rates than private preschools or kindergartens.
If you want something that will offer further stimulation for your child and that has a higher budget to work with, it is worth considering a premium childcare centre, such as a Montessori school. The child-centered approach to education at one of these establishments will teach children a range of skills such as independence and leadership, encouraging curiosity and ‘out of the box’ thinking. Studies have shown that children who attend Montessori schools tend to have more advanced social cognitive skills and higher performance in academic tests.
Some of the best Montessori schools in Singapore are:
• Brighton Montessori
• Greentree Montessori
• House on the Hill Montessori Pre-School
• Raffles Montessori Kindergarten
• Milagros de Montessori School
Other premium or alternative pre-schools to consider that are similar to Montessori schools are Reggio Emilia (such as Between Two Trees, Blue House International School, Odyssey the Global Preschool, the Children’s Place and White Lodge) and the Waldorf Steiner association.
Pros: Highly reliable form of childcare, can offer some children the chance to excel and flourish, offers learning skills that children would not gain in mainstream nursery schools.
Cons: May not be the right fit for every child, uses systems outside of the structured “norm” for education in Singapore which may make adapting to regular schools later on difficult, is significantly more expensive, set opening and closing times.
The key differences between preschools and childcare centers are the hours. Child care centers are required to be open all day, which is usually from 7am until 7pm. Some are open for half days on Saturdays as well. Some childcare centers accept children up to six years old. Childcare centers also provide two meals per day and snacks, though this will vary.
Some examples of childcare centers to have a look at:
• Everland Childcare and Development Center
• Brightkids Childcare Center
• Genesis Childcare Center
• Bumble Bee Childcare Center
• Twinkle Childcare & Development Center
AOPS (Anchor Operated Scheme)
Anchor Operated Schemes are childcare centers subsidized by the government, meaning they can offer discounted rates to children that attend their facilities. Some examples of AOPS childcare:
• NTUC’s My First Skool
• PAP Community Foundation’s Sparkletots
• Metropolitan YMCA’s MY World Preschool
• EtonHouse’s E-bridge Preschool
Pros: Can be a very cost effective option, provides meals, longer hours than at preschool or Kindergartens, higher age limit.
Cons: Each AOPS school has their own eligibility requirements and registration process, plus fees vary.
If religion is important to you, there are a number of churches and religiously integrated childcare institutions in Singapore which provide affordable childcare options throughout the week. These teach core principles and values of religion alongside play and other curriculum. The main options available tend to be christian, catholic and Buddhist. Suggestions include:
• Ascension Kindergarten
• Presbyterian Community Services
• St James Church Kindergarten
• St Anthony’s Childcare Centre
• Marymount Kindergarten
• Magdalene’s Kindergarten
• My Little Gems Preschool
• Tai Pei Child Care Centre
• Tzu Chi Great Love Preschool
Babysitters, Nannies, Au Pairs Or Domestic Workers
Another option may be employing a worker such as a babysitter or nanny, or perhaps live-in help such as an au pair or domestic worker. This provides you with the option of round the clock childcare as well as help with domestic duties, which in the long run may save on separate bills for childcare and a maid.
There are multiple agencies and websites that one can use to find a worker that fits your requirements, such as:
• Nanny Pro PTE Ltd
• Island Maids
• Nanny SOS
• Happy Maids Happy Homes
• Maid City
Make sure to read all up to date reviews on the companies and agencies.
Pros: One to one interaction and care for your children, more flexible care that fits around your hours, no need to come up with contingency care plan if your child is sick, child less likely to get sick as not mixing with as many people. Age limit not applicable.
Cons: Can be more unreliable than an organised childcare center, such as leaving at short notice, can take more time to research and find appropriate person.
Preschool and childcare centers: approximately S$1.5k per month. Factors include whether you choose half-day or full-day care programmes, age of child, private, MOE or AOPS.
Babysitters, child minders or nannies: starting at S$900 per month. Freelance childcare of this sort can cost around S$900 per month, whereas agency workers may cost more, but will have been interviewed and vetted by the company, so may be more reliable.
Live-in nannies, au pairs or domestic workers: approximately S$1.5k per month.
Flexi-Work Arrangements (FWA)
Singapore prides itself on being a pro-family environment, hence why the government has introduced the FWA scheme, also known as the work-life grant scheme. This scheme provides incentives and funding to encourage companies to implement flexible work arrangements.
This can be in terms of flexi-time, or flexi-place and includes part-time work. Other alternatives can be considered on an individual case basis. It may be worth contacting the HR department of your company to enquire about any schemes in place that would be beneficial to you before looking at other childcare arrangements.
Child-Friendly Co-Working Spaces And Child-Friendly Offices
If you’re fortunate enough to predominately work online, then it may be worth looking into co-working spaces in Singapore which have child-friendly services and amenities, such as Tree Haus.
If you haven’t already entered an agreed contract for a place of work, then it may be worth researching and applying to companies with childcare amenities on site. Some of the most family friendly employers in Singapore are places such as the following.
KK Women’s and Children's Hospital: Benefits include private child care center for employees, family days, support initiatives, private breast feeding room and hospital grade breast pump equipment.
NTUC Income: This company provides excellent family care benefits and a private breast feeding room.
Ernst & Young Solutions LLP: A FWA company that implements FlexiTime, FlexiPlace and FlexiWork arrangements, allowing flexible hours and working for home as well as private breast feeding room.
OCBC Bank: Provides a private breast feeding room, excellent schemes and benefits including scholarship programmes for education, encourages family activities, on-site child care, implements various FWA principles.
Republic Polytechnic: Dedicated nursery room, on-site childcare facilities, corporate pass for family events such as day trips to the zoo.
We hope this guide has given you all the necessary information to help you make an informed decision on what childcare options are best for you and to fit around you busy working life as an expat in Singapore.
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