To understand childhood and parenting in modern China, one needs to appreciate the effects of the official "one child policy". In the mid-1970s, issues with food shortages and crowding were harming China's fragile infrastructure. Officials began a campaign to curb the population. In 1979, the one-child policy became official. Severe penalties were placed on large families (parents may incur a fine equivalent to ten years wages, lose jobs) and in urban areas a second child may be denied medical and educational services. By 1996 the birthrate had stabilized to about 1.7 per household, but the desirability of boys had led to some undesirable results. Uneven numbers with more men than women has led to difficulty in finding a match. More alarming is the thinly disguised history of abortions and murdering of baby girls.
This dwindling of the family has also encouraged a new generation of over-indulged, spoiled children. Four grandparents, two proud parents, doting on the one child. And as all hopes and dreams have laid with one child, disappointment has been inevitable.
It is expected that all able-bodied citizens work full-time and childcare is a necessity. Often, the grandmother is enlisted to help. However, some modern parents prefer to enroll their children in residential boarding schools to offer them structure and social skills. Other parents rely on daily child care facilities or babysitting. The options are available, it is up to you to decide what works best for your family.
Always be sure to screen all applicants and ask for references. Professional screenings are one of the benefits of going through a service. Make sure that you are comfortable with any person you leave your child with.
Budget: It is important to know what you are able to spend to help determine where you should look. Think about the number of hours and time to day you will need a sitter to determine your total costs.
Language: Is there a language requirement? While children pick up language easier than adults, it can be quite alienating to drop them into an entirely foreign language situation.
Age of Children: Care for infants (0-12 months) is more limited. Some schools require that children be potty-trained.
Service Provided: Some facilities offer "drop-in" care which you can use on a sporadic basis. Other places require a contract and a regular schedule.
When choosing a care center, check staff turnover. Consistency in care givers is a major benefit for your child. Proximity is often the deciding factor when choosing child care. This is an important element in creating a happy situation, and a happy life.
Many nursery schools or kindergartens won't take children younger than two. International schools are the usual exception to the rule, but are generally quite pricey. Chinese schools are the cheapest option and of generally respectable quality.
International early-childhood educational center. From Australia, the center is located in Workers' stadium (between 2nd and 3rd ring). There is half-day care and hourly care services.
Children's House Montessori
Offers play groups and classes. Also has a free baby play group.
Deutsche Schule Peking (German School of Beijing)
Offers care and instruction in a bilingual institution (German and Chinese).
Eton International School
International kindergarten with bilingual instruction (Chinese and English). Multiple campuses with certified English speaking kindergarten teachers. Uses Montessori preschool education practices. Accepts children aged 2 – 6.
Gymboree Play & Music is an early childhood education service and offers directed parent-child developmental play programs. These programs are designed to enhance early childhood development through fun-filled sensory and motor skill development.
The Ivy Academy is a Multiple Intelligences pre-school created in collaboration with Harvard Graduate School of Education researchers for children ages 2 - 6. In partnership with Ivy Bilingual Pre-School, which offers classes taught in both English and Chinese.
Some parents choose to send their children to boarding school from a very young age for more interaction with other children an for academic success. While this may seem strange to some Westerners, it is not seen that way by most Chinese. Dormitories full of thirty or forty children and excellent facilities offer a safe, stable, learning environment for some children. The Chinese teachers are usually highly trained in both teaching an child care.
Babysitting is useful if you are not looking for full time care, but need someone to occasionally watch the children. Often times this is a family member such as the grandmother, and may or may not be paid as it would be treated more like a favour. Other people may be looking for these roles as a paid position. In China, the best example would be an ayi. An ayi is a housekeeper/maid who also watches over the children. An ayi is usually very affordable and there are many people willing to fill the position. Ayis can be hired for as little as 10 RMB per hour, but that is for Chinese people. It may even be hard to find someone with out a connection. Connect with Chinese friends, neighbors, etc. as well as expats to find someone for the position.
For consistent babysitting, you may look at an au pair. Consult the section on "Au Pair" under "Find a Job".