Quite often, one of the first things we think about during pregnancy is “How do I find the right nursery for my child?”. And if it’s not something you’ve thought about as yet, I can promise you that it’s only a matter of time before someone you know asks whether you have booked a nursery place yet. This is followed by a panicked feeling in the pit of your tummy as you try to smile and remain calm as you respond with a mumbled “not quite yet, no…”. It might sound crazy but with nursery places in London getting harder and harder to find, you need to be on top of it. So if you are searching for the ultimate nursery - great location, price, environment and staff - read on to see what you need to consider, in order to find the right nursery for you and your child.
Round one. First things first, you need to think about the following three points:
- the hours a nursery provides and for what ages (for example, some nurseries only take children over the age of two, whilst other nurseries are only open during term time)
- the hourly, daily and weekly cost
- are there places available for your child for the days and hours that you need?
Once you know exactly what you are looking for, it’s best to have a shortlist of three to five places. It’s important to remember that every child and every parent is different, and so are the nurseries. Therefore you have to find the one that best suits your family and lifestyle. It's a good idea to visit each of your options and ask questions in person about the service provided.
Right, round two. The most important things to look out for and ask when visiting are:
- Staff. Your first impression is key, so check that they are engaging with the children. Ask what the general turnover of staff is, about their experience and qualifications, how they respond to individual needs, what the ratio of staff to children is, and how many children are cared for in one go?
- Setting. See if the children appear happy and purposeful at the nursery and whether it looks like a busy yet relaxed environment to be a part of. Ask about the daily routines and how they incorporate the children's’ individual routines.
- Premises. Check what facilities they have, how clean and tidy it is, and whether there’s an outdoor space for the children. It’s also worth asking whether they provide meals, snacks, nappies, etc.
- Understanding. It’s important to make sure that the nursery understands your cultural background and can accommodate it easily. It’s also good to ask about the policies on discipline and how they manage children's behaviour.
- Activities. Look into the normal daily routine, such as active vs quiet times, indoor vs outdoor, individual vs group activities, and so on. Ask whether there’s plenty of opportunity for children to learn new things with varied, carefully planned things to do.
- Impression. Always trust your gut feeling. Does the nursery welcome you in the way you hoped for?
- Cost. Make sure you ask straight up what the pricing is and whether you are able to use your childcare vouchers.
Round three (final round). Once you have ticked off your visits, sat down and mulled it all over, you will most likely have made up your mind. Having said that, you will still probably want final reassurance. There are two things that can help you:
- OFSTED. Check Ofsted's grade and report for the childcare providers you are considering at www.ofsted.gov.uk.
- Personal References. Other parents' experiences of a childcare provider can also be very useful. It’s advisable to have at least two references. However, please remember that what works for one family might not work for another one.
So there you have it. Now you are equipped with all the information to make an informed decision. Our next piece of advice is not to waste time! Once you have made up your mind, book your child’s place and arrange the details. And remember to give yourself and your child some time to settle in, whilst they get used to the new surroundings.
#childcare #nursery #ofsted #nvq