The single most important thing for us as soon as we landed in India, almost 2 months ago, was to find a day care. Although my parents were here to help us transition, I wanted to get Varun settled in a routine right away.
Thanks to Microsoft taking care of our accommodation and car with a mini army of help staff we could focus on finding a daycare. Daycares in India are a different ball game than in US or since the time we were younger. I remember my mom taking my brother to a neighborhood ‘crèche’ for some time where he learnt a few things. Not sure how good it was my modern measures but she mostly got some free time to spend on her hobby – writing!
Daycares in US, on one hand, are regulated, licensed and a bit impersonal even if it is tagged as ‘grandma’s home’ by others. The focus is on the premise (safety/hygiene/training of staff /student: child ratio etc.) and child (development/independence/routine) – which I had started to love and depend on.
On the other hand, in India, although you will be bombarded with hundreds of daycares billboards (as many as real estate projects), to find one that will work for the child is a herculean task. When we visited the first daycare, the conversation went something like this:
Principal: Are you looking for playschool or nursery?
Me: I am looking for daycare.
Principal: Yea, but playschool or nursery
Me: Ummm….What’s the difference?
Principal: How old is the child?
Me: Err…19 months!
Principal: Ok then he can come to Mommy and me group and then start Playschool in June
Me: (A bit panicked and frustrated at this point) No, but I need daycare. I work – I really need daycare!!! Also what is Playschool and Nursery? (Mentally I was thinking- why am I paying for Varun to play – when reason kicked in- I have always paid for Varun to play ;))
Principal: We have several programs. Mother -toddler groups are for less than 2 year olds for a couple of hours.2 – 3 year olds are in Play school, 3-4 years olds are in nursery, 4+ are in Kindergarten
Me: I see. (I didn’t really see which option worked best for us)
Principal: (Probably sensing that I am lost, finally asked) – how many hours do you want to send the child?
Me: Probably 9 hours
Principal: Fee is based by hours. 2 hours minimum. Hourly rate is Rs x/hour.
Finally, it made sense. All programs had a daycare facility appended. Based on the age, the child went to nursery or playschool where they focus on age appropriate activities. The daycare is for pre-program and post program care.
I spoke to several working parents- but none of them were in the same boat as us. Most have older kids so only need daycare for part of the day, if at all. Or they have family living in the city that takes care of the grandchild. Others resort to 18- 22 year old girls to take care of their little ones. These girls many a times are not educated (beyond primary school education), speak very little English and primarily tasked with feeding/bathing/cleaning the child, taking him to the park, assorted household work when the baby sleeps and not really with developmental activities. They have varying ability to follow instructions and here in Hyderabad, can manage well if you can communicate to them in Telugu.
Most daycares in India focus on money- deposits, form fees, monthly fees, meal fees, and not on child – how can they help transition, development activities of the child like gross and fine motor skills, language development, social etc. . . . Sure, we had deposited money at Bright Horizon almost a year in advance just to secure a spot and another daycare wanted a full month’s fee as deposit – it didn’t irk me as much then as a similar requirement here.
Probably because I knew what I will get in exchange- quality service, peace of mind and the fact that the wont nickel and dime me further. Here, I wasn’t too sure what to expect.
Here are my notes on the daycares we checked out:
1. Strawberry Fields – Nice bright building, decent teacher: student ratio, segregated classes by ages, Montessori style, monthly theme based teaching, separate dining area, Telugu speaking maids- far from current house, may be further if we decide to stay near campus. No AC backup.
2. Kids Paradise – In basement of Raheja IT mind space park (convenient for parents working there but not otherwise), no outdoor playtime, cooped up/dark space artificially brightened by tube lights, extra charges for meals, Hindi or English speaking maids, felt a bit stuffy and pretentious. No AC backup.
3. Esperenza – Popular daycare amongst IT workers here. Segregated classrooms, separate play area, dining area, nice and bright, emphasis on music and art, but smaller room sizes with poor teacher: student ratio. Also I saw the dance teacher yell at the kids at rehearsal. Negative points for that. Webcam to watch kids from office and also have weekend/weeknight care.
4. Blue Blocks – Not really a daycare but a Montessori style preschool. Really awesome place – something I have filed away for future. Access road was bad so may cause issues in rainy season.
5. KinderKare – First place I could actually see Varun going to. Nice bright gated building, garden and sandpit – Big indoor play area with lots of ride on toys. Separate classrooms. The principal actually talked about various developmental activities, meals charged extra but served several times a day keeping up with tiny active bodies and their little stomachs. Staff seemed friendly. We almost finalized this when we released that the school focused on forms, formalities, payments etc. without making an effort to transition Varun. Was put off by that.
6. KidsKare – A small daycare started by a US returned mom in the same housing complex that she stays in. Close to Microsoft campus. Telugu speaking maids, has AC backup, meals are included (with 2 daily servings of fruit and milk), mixed age daycare, 2 primary teachers who are extremely likeable. Focus was on Varun, helping him transition not only to daycare but from US to India. The owner doesn’t even provide form or ask for payment till she is sure that it’s a mutual fit for the child and the provider.
We received feedback on couple of more options- Polka dots, GlobeToters and Indus School – but they are in Jubilee Hills/Banjara Hills area. Some of them also pickup and drop-off kids but I wasn’t going to trust my precious to someone to transport in a brand new city.
Needless to add, we went ahead with KidsKare. The daycare also has a Kidzee playschool across the hallway which we are thinking of enrolling Varun in from June.
Varun seems to love the daycare. There are no tears at drop-off. He loves seeing older kids play and tries to sing the rhymes and songs that they recite. Every evening we sing Jack and Jill, Ringa Ringa Roses, Mr. Golden Sun etc. He’s begun to talk more and gets frustrated when he can’t speak as much as the older kids he observes. The other day he didn’t burst into tears when he could sing ‘Wheels on the bus go round and round’ and kept on repeating till he could master it in his own babyish way!
The food served is mostly rice + dal + veggies and Varun’s mimicking the rice eating style of the maids. I am not too thrilled about that but the ‘Endakooo’ that he asks me just makes me smile.
Will we stick to this place? Likely for a while. Globetoters is opening a branch near MS office which is full despite being under construction. Once things settle a bit on home/car front, we may revisit this again.
Do you have any other suggestions for daycares or playschools near MS area? Any observations on how daycares in India are different from US? Drop a comment…