Tuesday 7 February 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Local, National
Charlee Lowe went back to work when her baby, Roimata, was just three months old. However, she decided to resign as Apii Te Uki Ou’s head teacher of Early Childhood Education (ECE) and launch Little Uto Home Daycare when she realised she was “missing out on a lot of moments” with her daughter.
“I was blessed to find someone to look after her, but it seemed kind of weird to send her to care when I’m looking after other little kids,” Lowe said.
“Maternity leave is too short, especially for mothers who are breastfeeding. My daughter was exclusively breastfed and I was having to pump at work. It was a bit hard.”
With paid maternity leave set at a minimum of six weeks in the Cook Islands, Lowe decided to open her Tupapa-based daycare to children aged between six weeks and five years.
“During my 14 years in ECE, I have spoken to a few mums and they struggle to find care,” she said.
“I had to find care for my daughter and it was a little tricky, especially since she was under a year old. You pretty much have to go private at that age.
“Many people here are blessed to have lots of family support, which is really cool – but there are also a lot of people who don’t have that option. For them, this daycare could be a great thing.
“We can’t provide care for everyone, but we might look at slowly growing.”
Alongside Lowe’s daughter, who is now 10 months old, four children have been attending Little Uto since it opened at the beginning of January this year. Plans to expand are already in motion as a second carer and a sixth child joined the daycare on Monday.
“I’m thinking of maybe going up to 10 (children). It really depends on the ages. If we take on a lot of older ones, we could even have as many as 12,” Lowe said.
“I don’t want it to become too many children, where the quality of care drops.
“I do want to grow it in the sense of being able to do more with the children, like expanding the space and teaching local knowledge such as planting.”
Lowe had received “heaps of response and heaps of questions” since she announced her daycare, and hoped to split the children into age groups for activities as more babies and toddlers came on board.
“I’m definitely still taking enquiries. At the moment we’re just looking at full-timers, but we’ll see if we can take on some part-timers.”
For now, the children’s routine followed “the rhythm of the day” but included three to four meal times where they sat down to eat together and wash hands afterwards.
“We have a lot of time between where we do a bit of shape recognition, name recognition, prewriting skills,” Lowe said.
“We also do provocations, activities that can provoke learning in children. We might set something up for stirring or scooping, but then they might use it in a completely different way.
“It’s cool watching them see and do something for the first time.”
The “cool thing” about working with children was “they’re learning no matter what they’re doing”, Lowe said.
“Exploring is the best way for them to learn, and then I try to expand on their needs and interests.”
Lowe, who taught at Apii Te Uki Ou for five years until the end of last year, said she enjoyed not only being close to Roimata during work hours but also having her daughter’s “little mates” around.
“She’s having smaller naps during the day because she doesn’t want to miss out.”