Raising Kids in China? Childcare Do’s and Don’ts

Raising Kids in China? Childcare Do’s and Don’ts
Oct 12, 2013 By Jessica A. Larson-Wang , eChinacities.com

Childcare is a huge issue for families at home as well as in China. In a foreign country families must be particularly careful about who they choose to care for their children, whether they choose an in-home caregiver or a daycare/kindergarten. Not only are cultural and societal ideas of what makes for good childcare different, foreigners in China run the risk of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous providers looking to capitalize off of a foreigner’s assumed wealth. Here we take a look at a few common pitfalls of childcare in China.

Nannies (Ayis)

1) References
In China, references are easy to fabricate and it is important that you be able to directly talk to your Ayi’s last employer. If she can’t provide references or you can’t contact the references she provided, then proceed with caution. When you do talk to the contacts, make sure you ask detailed questions, former employers who have fired ayis sometimes provide decent references out of guilt. Horror stories abound regarding ayis who have stolen from their employers and neglected and even drugged their employer’s children. While most ayis wouldn’t stoop to anything so sinister, you do want to know if your ayi hates cleaning bathrooms or thinks the baby bouncy chair is the perfect babysitter.

2) I.D.
It is important that your ayi be able to provide a valid Chinese ID card, called a shenfenzheng. The shenfenzheng will verify your ayi’s identity, and you can even use it to have a background check run on her to make sure she doesn’t have a record. If there is ever a circumstance which requires you to track down a missing ayi, or if you suspect your ayi of doing something illegal, then you’ll have a much easier time pursuing the issue with a copy of her I.D. Think of this as the equivalent of an American employer asking for your driver’s license.

3) Age
You must decide for yourself whether you’d rather have a young woman working for you or an older woman, but many of the better ayis in China are older women who have already raised their own children. They have experience caring for kids, are unlikely to spend all day texting on their cell phones, and not to jump from employer to employer in search of a better deal as much as younger women might. Try looking for an older woman, a stay at home mom whose kids are now in school and is nostalgic for the baby days, or a retiree looking to earn some extra money.


1) “Bilingual schools”
It is important when choosing a preschool for your child that you not be taken in by the word “bilingual” in the name of the school. Many schools in China which claim to be bilingual really only have a foreign teacher come in and give lessons once or twice a week. A true bilingual school will spend a certain percentage of each day in each language in a total immersion environment. For many schools “bilingual” is a marketing ploy and nothing more.

2) Recommendations
A school should have no hesitation about letting you contact current or previous families with children in the school. If the school is hesitant about letting you contact current parents you should be hesitant about sending your children there.

3) Transport
There have been several cases recently where the vans used to pick up and drop off children at preschools and kindergartens have violated safety regulations. In one case, a young girl even died of suffocation when over 30 children were packed into one van. While these sorts of over the top occurrences are rare, if you are using the school’s carpool service you want to make sure that each child has their own seat and that seatbelts are being used.

4) Potty training
Most Chinese families practice what is known in the West as “elimination communication,” which means that children don’t wear diapers but rather parents watch for their children’s cues and find a place for the child to use the bathroom. A Chinese childcare provider may find a child still in diapers at 1 or 2 years old to be very strange and you will need to discuss with the provider how they will deal with a child in diapers. If you get the feeling the provider has issues with an older child being in diapers then you might want to take into consideration whether or not the teachers will make comments or say unkind things to your child about being in diapers. A potential day care provider should be aware of this cultural difference and make accommodations where possible.

5) Teaching styles
If you’ve chosen a Chinese kindergarten or preschool for your children then you should be aware that Chinese educational methods are a bit different from those of the West. Chinese teachers/caregivers tend to be more strict and might require children to follow orders rather than allowing them creative expression. Children who have had experience in Western kindergartens/daycares/preschools might have a hard time adjusting to the more rigid standards. Chinese teachers also tend to be more critical and will sometimes use methods – like shaming – which would usually be considered unacceptable in the West. If you choose a Chinese-only environment for your child it is important that you research carefully and understand what you may potentially be getting into.

Product Safety

1) Made in China
Not all made in China products are dangerous, but sometimes it is best to buy imported goods just to be safe. In particular, when buying infant formula it is best to buy imported. As for toys and clothing, it is nearly impossible to avoid the made in China label even when you’re living outside of China, and in China it is even almost impossible! Buying toys from the larger chain stores like Leyou will generally ensure a certain quality of product, and high end imported toys can even be found in the more expensive shopping malls like The Place and Solana.

2) Medicines
Chinese pharmacies generally carry children’s medicines, both Western and Chinese. You can find Tylenol and the generic counterparts, as well as remedies for upset stomachs, cough, runny nose, band aids, antibiotic ointment, etc. Be sure to shop from large pharmacies which have their medicines properly packaged and labeled, and do not buy medicines if the boxes look tampered with or beat up. Many medicines, like antibiotics, which are prescription medications back home, can be bought here without a prescription, but consult your doctor before giving your children antibiotics, even if they are cheap and easily available.

3) Personal hygiene
In China it is perfectly safe to use the shampoos, soaps and lotions which are available at your local supermarket. Johnson & Johnson products are popular here under the Chinese name Qiang Sheng (强生) and Western shoppers will recognize familiar products like No More Tears shampoo lining the shelves of most Chinese groceries. Chinese baby stores will offer even more options, sometimes including skincare formulas which include traditional Chinese remedies, which are often more natural-minded than what is offered in the West. For mosquito repellent, Chinese mothers prefer a solution called “Bao Bao Jin Shui” 宝宝金水, which is mostly herbal but remarkably effective at keeping the bugs away.

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Keywords: childcare in China raising kids in China


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Really haven't had any issues with raising kids here.

Oct 15, 2013 15:09 Report Abuse



What is you opinion on education, healthcare and "free will" (dom87)?

Oct 16, 2013 06:34 Report Abuse




Oct 13, 2013 19:49 Report Abuse



I asked myself that question... To provide the same kind of education and environment I had back in Europe, it would be more expansive to recreate it here in China, rather than living in Europe. So I would spend more, while having to deal with the quirks of China's life, which I would largely avoid in Europe. Education in Europe is better ? Well... I think so. University is much cheaper yet better on average. No artificially inflated grades, cheating is seriously dealt with, a fair fraction of teachers go beyond reading slides. Kids can be kids, they have more free time and opportunities for self-oriented activities, without destroying their future prospects. Critical thinking self-discipline, basic scientific reasoning are taught early. All that in a less polluted environment, where people tends to be more polite and observant of basic law (nobody will drive counter-way on the bike lane, those kind of things).

Oct 15, 2013 15:31 Report Abuse



Regarding education, I can agree with you, on the assumption, that the average education level is higher. However, one could discuss the purpose of education, according to you: critical thinking, self-discipline and basic scientific reasoning where kids can be kids, and have free time etc, I think chinese students are more disciplined and focused, motivated. I saw a documentary, where chinese students "competed" against danish students on several subjects, where chinese students only lost the english test, winning on math, creativity etc. Danish students were lazy, not motivated and unfocused.

Oct 16, 2013 06:30 Report Abuse



Well, I worked in Chinese public universities for a few years. This and my relatives gave an insight on China's education system. There are indeed a fraction of brilliant students, like other places I've been. They are brilliant *despite* the education system, rather than *because*, I would say ^^ They would have been fine no matter what teachers they had. I look at the 90% others... and it worries me a lot. High school seems to be hell, from all people I've met. They worked much, yet they are not much beyond gakao passing machines. No knowledge about biology, very poor at physics, very poor English, unable to write an essay (in Chinese !!!) with a consistent flow of though. Seemingly lost and panicked if asked anything not written in the book. Not able to go find informations by themselves on the Internet. Won't do homework unless I switch to a bully-like behavior. I had to teach to 4 year student the basic of inductive reasoning. They never had an open exam, it was always rote learning so far... After a few years of university, the basics where not acquired, yet they were about to get their diplomas and work as engineer : hello, inflated grades. The 10% of brilliant ones mostly went to US or Europe for Master and/or PhD. Never to go back, apart from a few exceptions.

Oct 16, 2013 10:25 Report Abuse



Europe for both.

Oct 13, 2013 12:21 Report Abuse



A question related to the topic, raising children. Where would you raise your children, if you could choose? China, Europe or USA. If conditions regarding, job, salary, etc are the same. Where would you choose to raise your children? Lets say from birth to 5 years, and from 5 years to college.

Oct 13, 2013 05:09 Report Abuse



education, health, free will, laws, etc. i thought this was basic for everyone but then i moved to china. (i come from germany)

Oct 14, 2013 09:58 Report Abuse



"Chinese teachers also tend to be more critical and will sometimes use methods – like shaming which would usually be considered unacceptable in the West". Working in background mode is the "face culture" . To traumatize children using insiduous method like "shame", "losing face", "losing your parents', school's, country's face", ....etc. to control people is the legacy of China's feudalistic culture. It is the use of the collective to subdue an individual's will, to bring him/her into submission. It isn't difficult to imagine the weight of burdens like these piling up, is it? The result of such a culture is the production of plenty of traumatized adults with damaged psyches, running around pleading, demanding directly, manipulating subtly, twisting....doing anything to "get/maintain a face", and/or "not to a lose face, a group's face". Raising kids this way is the surest way to turn out lifelong unhappy adults. Till death do they and their "beautiful, big face" part! Those Chinese who live under this "face curse" live anyone (parents', family's, school's, country's) life, except theirs.

Oct 12, 2013 14:58 Report Abuse



"In China it is perfectly safe to use the shampoos, soaps and lotions which are available at your local supermarket." I disagree, I know of 3 people who have allergic reactions to LUX body wash/shampoo.The chemicals used in some shampoos, body washes, soaps and lotions are far too harsh for our bodys that havnt been bombarded by chemicals from a young age.

Oct 12, 2013 14:14 Report Abuse



I have noticed while living in Bangkok that lots of products in Asian contain whiteners. This is something I always watch out for, as I do not want to lighten my skin color.

Oct 21, 2013 22:05 Report Abuse