Younger children get care, parents get relief
Children play with teachers at the Sunshine Children Daycare in the Hemu community in Gongshu district of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Chen Ping sent her son to a nursery center in March when he was 2 and a half years old.
"We can very much predict one's future from their childhood," said Chen, a 32-year-old working mother, who considers 3 years to be an important age for a child to start their education.
The center — Sunshine Children Daycare — provides daycare service for kids up to age 3 in the Hemu community of Hangzhou's Gongshu district in Zhejiang province.
Unlike most nurseries in China that only take in children above 3, Sunshine is the first full-service infant care facility in the district. It is within a five-minute walk for residents of Hemu community and costs 2,950 yuan ($438) per month — much cheaper than comparable ones in the market.
The center provides two types of services for children — one for children from 15 months to 24 months and the other for children ages 2 to 3.
"The development of children's social skills is of great importance for children over 24 months," said Lei Yan, the principal of the center. "It is vital for them to adapt to social life."
Lei said children can cultivate self-management skills as well as their emotional management when they interact with peers in the center. For center managers, growing happily is much more important than literacy, which is in line with Chen's thinking on education.
"I am pleased to see my son knows how to communicate with other children," she said. More importantly, thanks to the more affordable nursery center, her dilemma over caring for her child while working full-time has been solved. Sending her son to the center also helps ameliorate conflict with her parents-in-law, who have different ideas of child-rearing.
Thanks to the new services, some parents in the Hemu community have decided to have a second child with the center available to alleviate added pressures brought by working.
Children read with a teacher at Sunshine Children Daycare in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Social Research Center of China Youth Daily among 1,938 people born in the 1980s and 1990s, more than half the respondents thought there were not enough qualified nursery centers.
Since the universal three-child policy took effect last May, new initiatives were launched to encourage births. Maternity and parental leave have been prolonged in many provinces and regions. Care expenses for kids under the age of 3 have been included in the special individual income tax deduction, and various kinds of child care centers and facilities like Sunshine are being established.
At present, up to 80 kids can be accommodated in the Hemu nursery center which covers 1,700 square meters and features a 1,000 sq m outdoor activity space.
"The care service fully satisfies the need for parents in Hemu," said Zhou Cheng, a daycare staff member.
Chen decided not to have a second baby because of her health. "I would love to have a second child because of the convenience of child care in the Hemu community and the favorable policies, but unfortunately I will soon be at an advanced maternal age," she said.
The nursery center also asks fathers to participate in parent-child activities, the principal said. It offers parents lectures about better natal and prenatal care, better upbringing and parent-child activities including playing with building blocks, drawing, arts and crafts and singing. Chen and her son have attended classes before.
"We are going to build a safe and pleasant environment for our next generations to grow up," Zhou Cheng said.
Mi Qiqi contributed to this story.
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