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DESIGNER PRESCHOOL

Designer cots, organic everything, personal chefs, million-dollar views… Today’s childcare centres are becoming six-star to cater to our most discerning market; the preschooler.


WORDS Liz Ginis PHOTOS Cherelle

THE BMW OF CHILDCARE
There are ample indications that Sally’s Place is much more than a traditional long daycare centre, but perhaps the most informative is its luxury setting on the glittering harbour of Sydney’s lower north shore.

Then there’s the European cots and deluxe bedding, designer nursery, high-end furniture sourced from the US and Europe, a dedicated art and craft studio, an al fresco dining space and an in-house chef who uses nothing less than the best organic fruit and vegetables and prime cuts of meat.

Owner and director, Sally Lock, says the purpose of the 48-place centre, set among lush bushland and with an enviable water view, is to provide the ultimate experience for children.

And ultimate it is. Kids here unwind in yoga classes, are members of the exclusive Le Club Français (French lessons), learn the intricacies of touch-screen and keypad computers, take instruction in dance, singing, music and cooking, and eat meals such as slow-cooked (48-hour) lamb pie with couscous and organic greens. The food’s so mouth-watering, in fact, that parents have asked for home-deliveries of the same.

Too much? Lock thinks not. “Our goal is and always will be to go over and above. There’s a demand and a niche for a centre like this.” Described during its opening in 2007 as “the most glorious childcare centre anywhere on Earth” by Tony Abbott, the then Federal Minister for Health, Sally’s Place caters for a privileged demographic.

Fees in excess of $135 a day support the extensive co-curricular activities on offer as well as a higher than regulated staff-to-child ratio, which is fundamental to Lock’s philosophy of providing a loving, educational and happy environment where children come first.

This is evidenced in the ‘reviews’ the children were asked to create about the centre’s recently introduced organic foods. “We wanted to get the kids involved in the menu. We’ve had lots of drawings of our hand-rolled sushi and spaghetti and meatballs.”

Building Blocks Early Learning Centres is another childcare group providing parents with a new approach to long daycare. Peter Raue, director of Building Blocks, has three ‘six-star’ centres throughout Sydney. Promoted as ‘the BMW of childcare’, the premises offer biometric fingerprint access and CCTV coverage as well as onsite chefs, a dedicated dining hall, and higher-than-regulated staff-to-child ratios.

He says that while not everyone can afford to attend the centre, it offers choice. “If people are happy to drive a Ford they can, but we give them the option of driving a BMW.”

Images: Sally’s Place is a designer haven, tailor-made for tots.

All images courtesy of Sally’s Place.

GREEN IS THE GOLD STANDARD
Internationally, eco childcare centres are the new black and toddlers are going green.

The FIO360 centre in Atlanta, Georgia, southern USA, is totally organic, from its custom-made mattresses that are free of formaldehyde and other chemicals, to New Zealand lambs’ wool rugs, wooden toys and hormone-free meals.

The children start their day with an affirmation, take recycling and yoga classes, and enjoy a massage to help them drop off to sleep.

The centre’s name sums it up; ‘Fio’ is Latin for ‘to become’ and ‘360’ is about wholeness and coming full circle.

Daily fees are about $90, $35 more a week than other high-end childcare centres in the city. They are also working on a ‘family concierge’ service to coordinate doctor’s appointments and other events.

ALL ORGANIC, BABY
Perth mother and naturopath Debbie Reuben is providing the healthiest options for children at OrganiKids, said to be Australia’s first fully organic childcare centre.

At OrganiKids there’s not a wheat or dairy product in sight. Morning tea might be white-bean dip with fruit sticks, and lunch is meatloaf with organic tomato glaze or vegetable quiche, using veggies and herbs the kids have grown and fertilised (using worm castings from the centre’s worm farm) themselves. Dessert is apricot tofu mousse.

One mother* who uses the centre says she was opposed to day care until she discovered OrganiKids. “I would rather spend $8 on something that’s organic and the saving in my mind is $8 that I’m not spending on a medical service.” For many parents, that’s $8, or $135 a day, very well spent.

The centre’s name, sums it up; ‘Fio’ is Latin for ‘to become’ and ‘360’ is about wholeness and coming full circle.

Daily fees are about $90, $35 more a week than other high-end childcare centres in the city. They are also working on a ‘family concierge’ service to coordinate doctor’s appointments and other events.


*Name withheld for privacy


Info: Sally’s Place www.sallysplace.com.au

 OrganiKids Childcare www.organikids.com.au

 Building Blocks Early Learning Childhood Centres www.buildingblocks.com.au

 FIO360e www.fio360.com

Click here for more information on designer preschools in Australia


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