Daycare in South Korea is fantastic. All the expats we know with kids at any of the centres near us rave about the service. Our son has adjusted really well and I’m surprised at how easily he’s adapted to a new environment. The main consideration if you’re considering daycare here, is that while the staff are friendly and great with the kids, there is obviously a language barrier. Most don’t speak a lot of English.
The daycares here use an app called Kids Note, where they upload stories and images with translate functionality, so I can see what my son has been up to at daycare. It also has message functionality and any message I send can be translated by the teacher into Korean, making parent-teacher communication easy.
Adjusting to a teacher who doesn’t speak your language may be a little rough at first for kids, but it hasn’t caused any major issues for my son. Most of the time he understands what the teacher wants him to do, whether it’s painting or cleaning up toys. He’s also formed a very strong bond quickly and gives his teacher a huge hug every day when he leaves.
An obvious benefit is that exposing kids to a new language at such a young age means they pick it up quickly. Many of the kids who have attended the daycare my son attends can speak and understand at least basic Korean.
In terms of costs, our daycare service costs around $370AUD per month full-time. In Brisbane, with the government rebate, I was paying around $1,000AUD per month.
For an extra fee (of around $11AUD per month), a bus service collects the children and drops them home again every afternoon. While putting your child on a bus may seem scary at first, the system is incredibly well organised. They have dedicated staff to help the children on and off the bus, make sure they’re buckled in and the driver is very safe. It’s the norm here for all daycare centres and after-school activities. The collection point is also right across the school from where my husband works and a two-minute walk from home, making it super convenient.
Our daycare provides all food, which is Korean, so my son gets to try local food. They organise day trips to the forest, hold birthday parties and even held a huge dress-up party for Halloween.
I had to provide toothbrushes (five in total to last a few months), and they brush teeth after lunch and morning tea every day. I also needed to provide some baby wipes. My son is toiled trained, so I’m not sure whether nappies are provided.
Just like at home, there are some standard tips I’d recommend before signing up:
- Get recommendations from other teachers and parents within the expat community. There will be a few options that you can get some feedback on before making any decisions.
- Set up a meeting and meet the director of the centre. Arrange a tour and take your child along to get a sense of how comfortable they are.
- Check what you need to provide, the costs, any additional fees, and when (and how) to make payments. Our daycare offers a statement once a month and can be paid by a bank transfer, but each centre will have different rules. We also pay for the entire full-time service even though my son doesn’t attend every day. Other centres may offer more flexibility, again it’s about what’s best for your family and finding a centre that works for you.
- Ease your child in. Consider that in most daycares in Korea, English won’t be widely spoken, so your kids will have the added challenge of communicating. In addition to settling into a new environment (in a foreign country).
- Go with your gut. If you feel it’s not right, chat to the director about options. I only send my son three mornings a week because it fits my schedule. Plus, he doesn’t like being forced to sleep and they prefer the kids to sleep at every age bracket.
- If it’s not working for you, explore other options. I have heard of other teachers using nannies, although expect the cost to be higher (around $AUD15 – $AUD25 per hour). Chat to your local community and find out what they do, how they sourced a nanny and if they can recommend anyone.
Daycare in a foreign country can be somewhat daunting at first and a significant change for you (and your child!). We’ve adjusted well, although it definitely took a few weeks. So be kind to yourself and go slow if you can!