How to Choose a Nursery: the Definitive Guide
Embarking on the journey to choose the perfect nursery for your little one is an exciting yet significant decision for any parent. The vast array of options available can sometimes be overwhelming, making it crucial to navigate this process with careful consideration. So we thought we'd share a few tips to offer some insight into choosing a nursery that aligns with your child's needs and your family's values.
When should I start looking at childcare?
If you're pregnant or have just had a baby, we know that the last thing you want to be thinking about when you're in that bubble is who's going to look after your little one when you decide to return to work. There are a lot of choices out there, whether it be at a nursery, childminder or grandparent. But, to guarantee the days and start date that you want, it's a good idea to put names down as early as possible, as you may find that the nursery or pre-school that you choose has a waiting list.
So what's next?
If you want the best start for your child, then have a good look around at all of the options available. All good nurseries should be happy to show you around their setting.
Visit the nursery to explore its facilities and learning environment. Check for well-equipped classrooms, stimulating play areas, and a safe and secure atmosphere that fosters learning and growth. Where possible, try to schedule your visit during regular session times. This allows you to observe the daily routines, interactions, and dynamics between staff and children, which in turn provides a more accurate representation of the nursery's day-to-day operations.
What questions should I ask when I visit?
Think about the areas that are important to you, and fire away. There is no question too big or too small, even if you think it sounds silly. And if you forget to ask about something on your visit, don’t worry, just call or send an email to follow up. You’re making a huge decision, and nursery managers understand this all too well. They are there to help you make the right choice for your family, and will do everything they can to make the process as easy as possible for you.
If you're at a loose end, here are some questions you could start with:
- Do they have an open door policy, where parents can drop in unannounced?
- Do they have activities or days where parents can join in?
- What food do they serve and how is it prepared? How do they deal with allergies?
- How does the nursery support staff to learn and develop?
- Are the staff who work in the nursery DBS checked?
- What activities do they have set out during your visit? Are the children engaged in them?
- Are the staff spending time with the children? Are they friendly and welcoming?
- Does the manager ask about your child, their routine and what they like to play with?
- How will they support your child settle in? You would want at least three settling in sessions.
- Do they supply formula and nappies?
- Where is the milk prepared? They should have milk preparation areas.
- Where are nappies changed? What are their nappy changing policies?
- What is their sickness policy? This will impact when your child is sent home and how they deal with illnesses.
- What security measures have they in place? Do they have CCTV in and outside of the nursery? Is the main gate/door secured?
- Do they have an outside area for the children to play? If so, how long do they get outside daily?
- Do they have cots and beds for the children to sleep on? Where do the children sleep? How often are the children checked on?
- What is their Ofsted rating?
- How do they provide updates on your child throughout the day? Do they have a phone app?
What is OFSTED?
All nurseries are registered and inspected regularly by the appropriate authority. Kindred Nurseries are regulated by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education).
A good day nursery will have their registration certificate displayed prominently, or ask the manager if you can see it. You can also ask the nursery manager for a copy of the nursery’s latest inspection report. This will tell you in which areas the nursery excels or needs to improve.
How do I find out if a nursery has a good reputation?
Glowing recommendations from other parents may be enough to convince you that a particular day nursery is right for you and your child.
When you visit a day nursery, chat to one or two of the parents and get a feel for the place. If there are no other parents around when you go, ask the nursery if they can provide a few references or testimonials.
You can also talk to local parents at toddler groups to find out what they think of the day nursery you’re interested in or visit www.daynurseries.co.uk to read real, verified reviews.
The benefits of a Nursery environment
Sending your child to nursery is one of the biggest steps you will have to make as a parent. At Kindred Nurseries, we believe that giving a child access to good quality preschool education enhances their future life chances and has a positive and long-term impact on a child’s development.
We all know that children are like sponges in their first five years. They develop emotions, speech, taste, touch, behaviour and skills that will shape the rest of their lives. So picking the right childcare environment is essential and will provide them with a variety of experiences that will maximise their growth and learning.
Research by the Department of Education (June 2015) found that children who had attended a nursery and pre-school setting had a better overall attainment than children who did not, and that an early start for children in a high quality setting was especially beneficial.
Other benefits include:
- Children make new friends of a similar age, develop relationships and social skills. These skills will help them to grow as confident individuals.
- Activities focused on each child’s individual stage of development and interest in line with the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning, helps them to develop at their pace.
- Helping them to develop confidence in new environments away from their parents, which will help to prepare them for their future. Each child is allocated a member of staff known as a ‘Key Person’. This dedicated person is committed to making sure that children are supported in key values of mutual respect, managing feelings, making relationships and self-awareness.
Trust your Gut
Often, your instincts will tell you all you need to know when it comes to the overall atmosphere of a nursery, providing valuable insights into whether the setting aligns with your expectations and values. As we previously mentioned, this is one of the biggest decisions you will make early on for your little one, and no one knows your child better than you. Remember: while accreditations and ratings are essential, your own comfort and intuition play a significant role in ensuring that your child thrives.
So, whether you're a first-time parent, or navigating the nursery selection process once again, we hope these tips will help you make an informed and confident decision, ensuring a positive and enriching early learning experience for your little explorer.
Thinking about joining a Kindred Nursery?
We'd love for you to be part of the family. Use our handy Postcode Search feature to find your closest Kindred location, and get in contact with our friendly team who will be more than happy to help with any questions you may have.
Fancy coming along to one of our Nurseries to see what we do for yourself? Our next Open Day will be held on Saturday 3rd February across all of our locations— you can find out more information, including how to book tickets, here.