The traditional “daycare” where parents drop off children to be watched by adults while they are at work does not really exist in Beijing. Since it is so easy and affordable to employ ayis to watch children, most parents with children not yet preschool or kindergarten age will keep their kids at home. Families with children often employ full-time ayis who do the cooking, cleaning, and babysitting. Some families employ a couple of ayis–one to help with cooking and cleaning and one to act as a dedicated nanny. Both live-in and live-out ayis are common. Part-time ayis are usually the cleaning kind who come in a few days a week to clean and help around the house for couples without kids.
Almost all international kindergartens in Beijing also include nursery programs that take children from as young as one year old. However, because the costs of these programs can be very high (annual tuition fees for nursery programs at international schools can cost over 65,000 RMB per academic year for a half day program), parents often wait until kids are preschool age to enroll them in school. For those that can afford the tuition fee, be aware that spaces fill up very quickly for nursery classes and will require parents to actively seek a spot as soon as they know they need a space.
There are agencies that help place ayis in homes. However, most matches are made through connections. Some places to look for ayis are postings on City Weekend and TheBeijinger (http://www.thebeijinger.com) classifieds. Another place to check is on forums hosted by these sites, as well as on Beijing-Kids (http://www.beijing-kids.com/).
Ayi / Domestic Help Services
Beijing EX-PATS Service: http://www.expatslife.com (6438 1634). Provides maid and nanny services as well as car/driver services.
English-speaking “Daycares” (Nursery Programs)
- The Children’s Learning Center: http://www.clcbkids.com. Two locations in the Shunyi-area catering to the villa-crowd. CLC aims to develop children’s emotional, social, physical, and cognitive skills and teaches mathematics, language, science, reading, drawing, singing and physical education. There are about 50 students at each campus ranging from 10 months to 5 years old. Playgroup and Nursery tuition program fees range from 25,000-30,000 RMB per academic year.
- The International Montessori School of Beijing: http://www.msb.edu.cn. Three campuses in Beijing cater to children 1-12 years old. Campuses may include facilities such as swimming pools, lending libraries, gymnasiums and outdoor space. MSB is an affiliate member of the American Montessori Society. Tuition fees range from 74,100-136,900 RMB per academic year.
- Ivy Academy: http://www.ivyschools.com/Programs/IA Kindergarten offering Multiple Intelligences curriculum. About 60 students total at the school from 2-6 years old. Tuition ranges from 35,880 RMB for part-time nursery programs to 116,000 RMB for the full time kindergarten program. Need-based grants are available.
Mother and Toddler Groups
- Gymboree: (5869 4087) With several locations in the city, this international chain of music and play centers for young kids holds classes in Chinese and English. Each parent and child session helps build the foundation for sensory and motor skills as well as language and music skills. Play classes are capped at 15 students from babies to 5 years old. Fees are about 3200 RMB for 12 classes.
- MyGym: http://www.mygymchina.com (6582 0092) Their facility in the city is devised to encourage development of physical, cognitive, and emotional skills in children 6 weeks to 13 years of age. Classes incorporate music, dance, relays, games, special rides, gymnastics, sports and other original activities. My Gym’s state-of-the-art facility has custom-designed equipment, the configuration of which is changed each week to provide new experiences for the children. English classes available. They’re also available to host birthday parties.
- MyLittleMozart: The curriculum at MyLittleMozart Studio contains group-setting classes (ages 0-7) and private music instruction (ages 5+). The group classes offer a series of parent/child programs geared toward nurturing the development of the child while the private music instructions caters toward the growing child with advanced musical skills. Fees range from 70-150 RMB per time depending on program.
- KindyRoo International Early-Childhood Development Academy (6553 6362 or 5166 8078). This international branch of Toddler Kindy Gymbaroo uses an Australian syllabus to encourage sensor perceptual motor integration, balance and coordination, and social skills. English classes are available. 100-200 RMB per session.