Before you start looking at nurseries in your area think about what it is that you want for your child and how you want the setting to help you with this.
Why are you looking for a nursery?-to provide childcare whilst you work or more for the social aspect for your child? This may make a difference to the nurseries you look at as some open earlier, giving you time to get to work, whilst others may be term time only.
Do you want to get involved in your child's day at nursery? Do they have summer fayres, parents days/evenings, parents committees so that you can be involved.
What is important to you? Outings, meals, your child's development, emergency and discipline procedures etc-ask about the things that matter to you. If it is important for you to know what your child does during the day find out how they inform you of this.
Hot Tips to ask and look out for during your visits to nurseries.
Before you visit: ensure the setting is registered with Ofsted (in England), Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (in Scotland) or similar-read the most recent reports online of the settings you are interested in.
During your visit: check the ratios of staff to children, guidelines set are:
1:3 for 0-2 years
1:4 for 2-3 years
1:8 for 3-5 years
Are at least 50% of the staff trained in childcare level 2 or above? Do staff have first aid and child protection training? Is the setting proactive in updating qualifications?
Is the environment clean, bright, welcoming, and stimulating, inside and outside?
How does your child seem to react to the environment? Do they cling to your leg or do they want to join in and explore? Children will react differently at different settings. Depending on their age, there reaction will tell you a lot about how they feel about the nursery.
Are the other children in the setting happy? Are they doing the kind of things you want your child to be doing? Are the staff interacting with the children's play?
Are the staff friendly, calm and confident? Do they talk to you, and more importantly to your child? (getting down to their level, asking them their name and what they like to do, encouraging them to join in)
Ask about the activities the children do, for your child's age, and as they get older. Experiences should include, creative, outdoor, physical, music, malleable, role play, maths, literacy, story time, there should be opportunities for quiet activities and for more energetic activities. Ask to look at photo albums of the activities the setting involves children and families in. Are the toys, activities and equipment appropriate for the age of the children? Do they encourage the children to be challenged?
Do they follow a Keyworker system? Someone who will be your main point of contact and built a special bond with your child, getting to know their person
ality and development, enabling a smooth transition into the setting and consistent care and support during their time there.
What is the procedure for settling your child in? Will there be more than one opportunity for your child to stay and play with and without you to get them used to a new environment and new faces.
Maybe most importantly - Did you and your child enjoy your time there?
Don't forget to ask about the cost and what it includes (nappies? Wipes? Meals and snacks etc) If classes' such as French or gym are offered do these cost extra?
Does the setting accept Childcare vouchers and offer the free entitlement for 2, 3 and 4 year olds.
Remember that although all nurseries offer childcare, they all do it very differently from each other and what may be suitable for one family may not be for you - Visit a few different nurseries, and take your child along with you.
Ria has 2 girls and previously worked in nurseries for over 15 years and left managing a day nursery when her eldest was born. She now works for Raring2go! as our Digital Content and Strategy Manager
If you are interested in writing for Raring2go! or featuring on our site please email Ria.