Are you wondering how to choose a nursery?
Is the question ‘how do I choose a nursery school?’ overwhelming you at the moment? Well hopefully I can help.
Due to moving house a few times over the last couple of years, I have clocked up a number of nursery visits – and each one, clichéd as it is, was totally different.
It seems quite obvious to say this I know, but the multitude of options can make choosing somewhere quite overwhelming.
It’s such important step, for you and for your little one, how do you wade through the overload of information?
Here are my Top 10 Tips:
1. Ofsted Report
All should nurseries have an Ofsted report. It may seem slightly out of date (they generally happen every three years), but the reports are definitely worth reading.
Overall grades are given and then specific areas are graded too. This is one of the first steps you should take when looking at how to choose a good nursery school.
The grades are:
- Requires Improvement
You’ll generally be wanting to look at nurseries at the top end of the scale.
Here the Government talk a little more about what is involved with an inspection and how they create the reports.
To search for a report on the nursery you’re currently looking at, search here.
2. Structure of the day
Nurseries have a specific structure to their day, but you can guarantee that it won’t match the one you have been working to with your little one at home.
If you have been following quite firm routine at home, you may want to chat to the nursery about this in detail.
Is lunch at 11:30am or 1pm?
Is dinner at 3:30pm or 5pm?
I have seen all of these variances.
Find out the overall routine of the day and how your child might fit into this or adapt to it easily.
Settling in days often help with any changes that might need to happen, so ask how many of these you will get if you’re nervous about any of this.
3: Sleep matters!
The facilities in each nursery can vary enormously and vary between age groups too.
For babies and toddlers, I have seen the number of cots vary from 1 to 9, with the number of children in each room exactly the same (12).
Now, this won’t necessarily matter if your little one is head down, lights out child. Sleeping on a mat on the floor will be a breeze for them.
But if you have been struggling to get your child to sleep in the day in a cot, then this is probably worth picking up and chatting through.
This could one of the key factors for you when you’re considering how to choose a nursery.
4: Outdoor space
For me, this is crucial. I work FT, my daughter is in nursery 5 days a week and I want her to be exploring the big, outdoor world.
I don’t want her cooped up in one room all day.
Nearly all of the nurseries I have seen have had a good amount of space, which can also cater for various ages groups being outside at any one time. A great way for your children to build their social skills too.
But always go and take a look. What facilities are there outside? I have seen some incredible ones with staging, a wigwam, bridges, large outdoor house etc. Although this was an exception!
Also check in on what clothes will they need and how often will they get to play outside. Will you need to buy an extra snowsuit and wellies?!
5: Local knowledge
If you’re like me and moved to a new area, this can be hard – but try and source local opinions on nurseries.
Word of mouth and direct experience of mums and dads who have their children in the nursery already, is invaluable. You will get honest responses and a deeper understanding of the benefits of that particular nursery.
The brand and reputation of nurseries will be known and you can use social media groups to tap into this knowledge too.
6: Money, Money, Money
This is one of the biggest questions when deciding how to choose a nursery. How much are the daily fees? Do you get a discount for FT childcare? What deposit do you need to put down? Are there any admin fees?
A nursery I fell in love with, brought out a £1000 admin fee right at the very last minute. My experience before then had been fees of around £350, so it was quite a difference.
What frustrated me was that it hadn’t been mentioned during my call to arrange a visit, or when our visit was taking place.
I was sad to no to the place, but we just couldn’t afford that amount of money.
So check the costs!
What extra activities do the nursery carry out throughout the year?
My current nursery arranges:
- Parents Evenings
- Parent Days
- Grandparent Days
- Farm visits
- Christmas Parties
- Summer Parties
- …..and official photographer days
We literally couldn’t ask for more.
Apart from the Parents Evening, where my daughters progress is discussed, the rest isn’t really essential to her well-being.
As a FT working mum though, it helps me feel more engaged with my daughter’s development and with the community of staff that look after her.
In addition to this, make sure you check how staff feedback your child’s day to you.
Is it through a piece of paper handed to you as you collect your child, or do they send an email at 6pm outlining their activity, with photos included?
We’re lucky that we are provided with the email option, which I find this particularly reassuring. Especially, if for some reason, I haven’t been able to do the pick-up that night.
Now this might seem like an extremely obvious one when thinking about how to choose a nursery school for your child – but I think it can be too easily be overlooked.
Getting your child to the nursery in the timeframes you are working to needs to as efficient as it can be.
If you struggle to get your child across town in time because of rush-hour traffic and then you can’t park outside the nursery, you’ll be in a meltdown before the day has started! So no matter how good the nursery is, location really does matter!
Think, plan and try and test your routes before making any commitment.
There are some basic details to collate information on when you’re looking at how to choose a nursery – what is the ratio of staff to children? It’s 1:3 in babies and toddler’s rooms normally.
How many children are there in the room? I’ve seen numbers between 6-15.
What kind of food do they eat? Where is it prepared and who cooks it? Can they accommodate any special eating needs?
Does the environment in the rooms feel light and airy? Have they got a good selection of toys to play with? Do they undertake arts and crafts activities?
How many spare clothes will they need?
There are a number of these questions you will want to ask during a visit and it is advisable to write these down beforehand. This way you will ensure the nursery covers them all in your visit.
10: What does it feel like and how do you respond to the staff?
All of the above means that deciding where to go is a huge balancing act of priorities and finances. Deciding how to choose a good nursery school for your child is an important decision and one that you want to get right.
But go with your gut.
Some nurseries will feel too stale and too cluttered. Or they’ll be too academic or not academic enough. Or a whole host of other things, but inside you will get a feeling.
You’ll get a feeling about the staff and how they’ll care for your child and if your child will feel relaxed in their company. A feeling about the environment and how your child will interact with it.
I know I certainly did.
Trust that feeling!
If you’re choosing a nursery at the moment, join My Circle UK and download our Nursery Check List.
Good luck x