Choosing A Nursery
Nursery-based childcare is a popular childcare choice. Although some families prefer the one-on-one, home (or home-from-home) based care that a nanny or childminder can provide, a nursery has benefits of its own. A nursery offers plenty of stimulation, an opportunity for children to develop social skills, and a structured environment that could help to prepare them for school later on.
Depending on where you live, there will probably be at least two or three nurseries to choose from. So how can you tell which one will be the best fit for your child and your family? Following are some important points to consider, and some tips to help you decide.
All registered childcare providers are required to be OFSTED inspected and regulated. The OFSTED reports of a nursery will tell you how well the nursery has scored in its last inspection, its strong points and its weak points. You can also ask to view any of the nursery’s written policies (there will be lots of them) to get an idea of how the nursery is run.
Observe an ordinary day
All of the OFSTED reports and written policies in the world can’t replace seeing how a nursery actually runs, day-to-day. Ask to come to the nursery for a couple of hours one day and simply observe. Watch how the staff interact with the children, how squabbling is dealt with, and how enthusiastic the staff are about their jobs. See what activities are available for the children to participate in, and what the daily routine is like.
Safety & security
How secure is the nursery? What rules do they have about picking up & dropping off? Are visitors required to sign in? Beyond security measures, how are the children kept safe whilst at the nursery? Ask to see their health and safety policy.
Access to outdoors
What is the nursery’s policy about outdoor time? Is the outside space safe, secure and suitable for all age groups? Can the children play outside whenever they want to, or is outside play limited to specific times?
Food and drink
Do the nursery provide meals for the children? If so, what is their typical menu? Do they cater to children with special dietary requirements, such as gluten-free, dairy-free and halal? Are you allowed to provide your own meals and snacks for your child? If you are breastfeeding, make sure that the nursery staff are trained in the storage and correct handling of expressed breast milk.
Starting at a nursery can be an uncertain time for a child, no matter how old they are. It is likely to be a very different environment than they are used to, and it may take time for them to settle in. Find out how the staff can help with this, and what their policy is on allowing parents to stay with children whilst they settle in. Some nurseries will be more than happy to allow parents to stay with their children for as many sessions as it takes for the child to feel confident, whereas others will have a set limit. Find a nursery that fits with what you are comfortable with – you should never feel as though you are being forced to leave your child when they aren’t ready.