The questions to ask, look for, and consider when choosing the right nursery for your child
For many parents, embarking on finding the right childcare options for their little one can be a daunting task. After all, it seems like only yesterday that you were bringing your little bundle home from the hospital, and now they’re taking their first wobbly steps towards independence. It’s enough to make any mummy or daddy want to put a stop to the growing up process altogether! However, all the socialising and learning benefits of nursery make it a great option for children of all ages - from babies to toddlers - and if you do your homework, you can ensure you’ll feel confident leaving your child in the expert care of a nursery - a confidence that will filter down to become instilled in your kids too. So whether you’re going back to work
and are putting your new baby into nursery, or have waited a couple of years and now want your toddler to enjoy time with other kids, we reveal the important things to looks out for and the tell-all questions to ask when choosing the right nursery for you and your child…
Assessing Your Needs
When it comes to finding the right nursery for your child, begin by deciding what you need and want from your childcare provider. How far away is the nursery? Will you walk or drive, or will your child be picked up by transport services? If both parents work, who will do the pick-up if your child is only there for half a day? Logistics play a big part in your day to day life and the ‘nursery run’ needs to fit in
Best For Your Child
You know your child best and you know what’s best for your child, including how they like to engage and socialise; which environments they thrive in and what their play style is. Factoring in who your child is will help make your choice easier when it comes to the size of the nursery. Some parents seek a bigger ‘school’ environment while others prefer a smaller operation. There are also alternative educational options, such as the Montessori approach which you may feel is more beneficial.
“Within the nursery environment comes the curriculum or approach to how they teach children,” says Jan Webber, Founder and Director of Willow Children’s Nursery. “With so many approaches to choose from parents should research and take time to be able to see a nursery in action. For those who love the child led approach to learning, you may choose the Reggio Emilia approach or the
When you’ve put together your shortlist of nurseries, it’s time to take a tour to see which one best suits your child. The first thing to look out for is the welcome you receive. Are staff attentive and engaged, or are you left waiting and ignored in the reception area? Are staff genuinely motivated by a love for and desire to work with children, or do you sense that it’s less a vocation and more a day job for them? Give free reign to your gut instincts from the moment you enter the nursery.
“Look for somewhere that’s warm and friendly, where the children and staff are smiling,” advises Helen Black, Principal at The Children’s Garden Barsha. “Is there a positive atmosphere in the school and do they have positive rules about behaviour?”
Things To Look Out For Take a look at the children already at the nursery and use them as a ‘happiness barometer’. Do they seem happy and relaxed? Are they engaged in different activities and playing happily together? The happiness and ease of the pupils will help you to picture your own child fitting into the environment. Check out the walls - are there plenty of educational pictures (1,2,3’s and A,B,C’s, and children’s artwork hung up? Is there a daily and weekly schedule that you as a parent can see to check in on what your little one is doing? Keep an eye out for cleanliness - including checking out the bathroom facilities and, if you are able, the kitchen - as well as a general sense of order (which might seem difficult with yelling toddlers running around having fun, but you’ll get a sense of organised chaos as opposed to just chaos). When it comes to the staff, what languages do they speak, and do you see yours and your child’s cultural identity reflected in the staff and/or teachings at the nursery? On their website, the KHDA recommends, “Check that the daily programme will provide your child with different experiences within a clear routine and that the centre is committed to the importance of play for your child to learn.” Also, be sure to look out for the security measures at the school. Are gates locked? Are their cameras? What is the identification process for adult entry and for picking up children and is it rigorously enforced?
“Staff turnover is another important aspect to consider,” adds Jan Webber. “Ask how long staff have been at the nursery. High turnover can be unsettling for children, so take time to chat to some staff and you’ll soon be able to tell if they love their job.”
Questions To Ask
Be sure to write down everything you want to ask before you go. Certainly, more questions will arise as you chat to nursery staff, but with a list you’ll cover all the things you want to know. Ask about the staff-to-pupil ratio and how many children are in the class on a daily basis. Be sure to enquire about (and ask to see if necessary) staff qualifications and ask about their individual childcare experience. Familiarise yourself with the daily and weekly nursery schedules, and if you child is on a particular schedule (ie sleeping and eating), ask how your child’s can fit into the one followed by the nursery. Be sure to ask about their disciplinary procedure - do they use a naughty step, time out, etc? - and also their steps to manage children’s behaviour.