KINDERGARDEN ZUIDAS: A warm home away from home for expat children
Surrounded by the imposing architecture of Zuidas, Kindergarden is an oasis of calm, with walls painted in soft shades, wood furniture and a spacious garden. Above all, it’s a cosy, safe space for children. And that’s precisely what this childcare centre wants to project. “We want to be a home away from home for kids and their parents – a safe haven for the many expat children who come here”, explains centre manager Suzanne Bieshaar.
Twelve years ago, Bieshaar got to experience the Scandinavian childcare system firsthand while studying and working in childcare pedagogy in Iceland. She became specialized in their unique approach, which she saw mirrored at Kindergarden: the organization where she hoped to work one day and for which she now runs an internationally-oriented location. With its exceptional quality, unique pedagogical policy and thoughtful layout, Kindergarden is designed on the Scandinavian model. This is reflected for example in the horizontal grouping of children so they’re with peers their own age. That’s a key part of Kindergarden’s method, Bieshaar says. “Since children of the same age are at the same stage and experiencing same kinds of developments, they can learn from each other. It also gives them a sense of calm and stability.”
Learning through discovery
Led by a team of pedagogical staff, coaches and experts, Kindergarden offers child day care for a range of age groups, from babies to toddlers. Every group follows its own daily rhythm, but staff also look at the needs of each individual child in consultation with parents. In addition to the group activities, this gives children plenty of freedom to play and discover on their own – two things that are central at Kindergarden. Bieshaar: “The idea behind our concept and the pedagogical philosophies we subscribe to, is autonomous play and learning through discovery. Our toys as well as the centre’s layout are based on that. Kids can open cabinets to grab toys themselves, and each group has the same sorts of spaces, so it feels familiar to the children. And they in turn feel comfortable enough to explore new things.”
As well as a varied range of activities like yoga and exercise, children get a hot lunch every day, prepared fresh with organic, seasonal ingredients in Kindergarden’s own kitchen. Which in turn helps fuel Suzanne’s mission to make Kindergarden a welcoming home for children. “We’re a familiar spot in the middle of Zuidas for children who come to us from all over the globe. So, while our first language may be Dutch, our team and the children speak a lot of English. In that respect we’re like all the other Kindergarden locations, but with a cosmopolitan touch.” Also, given the fast pace of daily life around here, Kindergarden can serve an important and rewarding role: “We want to make life easier for parents and give their little ones a wonderful place where they can play and develop further.”
In fact, at Kindergarden, development doesn’t stop with children. Through its Kindergarden Academie, staff members can receive paid training as pedagogical professionals while working at the centre. This allows them to continue learning in a warm and familiar team setting under the close supervision of coaches and colleagues. “This is a brilliant scheme we’re really pleased with. As a team, we’re a very close and friendly bunch. Kindergarden wants employees to enjoy their work, and of course that’s projected onto the children who come here.”