Choosing the right childcare is often a difficult task for parents. Naturally you want the best for your child, but how do you choose a nursery when there are so many options out there? The majority of children start nursery aged between two and three, but some nurseries can accommodate babies from around six weeks.
There’s no right or wrong time to start nursery and it will depend on the needs of you and your family, but choosing the right nursery is vital. You’ll want an establishment that can cater for all your child’s needs, as well as practical considerations like a ‘nursery near me’. If you’ve been looking for a nursery school for your child but aren’t sure how to choose, see below for our handy guide of what to consider.
Location is key and some parents even move house to be closer to a school or nursery of their choice. Think about how far you’re willing to travel and whether there’ll be any issues dropping off or collecting your child (e.g traffic if you’d need to drive).
You might want a nursery that’s close to your home, or a nursery close to your workplace might be more convenient. Make a shortlist of nurseries in your local area and ask friends and family for recommendations.
The staff to child ratio is key, so don’t be afraid to ask how many children are under each member of staff’s care. As a general rule, look for a ratio of one member of staff per four children for two year olds and one member of staff per eight children for three and four year olds. If the nursery takes children under two they should have at least one staff member for every three children.
It’s also a good idea to ask whether the nursery has a key worker scheme. This means that one member of staff has key responsibility for your child and it allows for more specific, personalised care. Pay attention to staff interactions with the children too; are they happy and engaged with the children in their care? Did you receive a warm welcome and are the staff happy to answer any questions you may have?
The facilities are also key when choosing a nursery and you’ll want to make sure an establishment can fulfil all your child’s needs. Look for facilities that are clean and secure, as well as a mix of indoor and outdoor play areas. You might need a nursery with suitable toilet training areas, or an establishment with a focus on outdoor play.
Make sure that all facilities are age appropriate and safe, with plenty of engaging toys and equipment.
The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) is responsible for inspecting educational institutions, including schools and nurseries. Ofsted visits all registered childcare services to ensure that standards are being met and children are well cared for.
Look for a nursery that’s registered with Ofsted when making your shortlist (the certificate should be displayed alongside a current certificate of insurance). You can search for an establishment’s latest Ofsted report on the government website here. The rating will give you a good insight into the quality of the care and facilities.
It’s a good idea to visit a nursery during mealtime so that you can see the food on offer. Does it look healthy and nutritious and how do staff deal with any fussy eaters? You could also ask to view a sample menu to get a good idea of the food on offer.
Food should be fresh and prepared daily with a healthy, nutritious variety available. Your child may also have some dietary requirements or a specific diet that you’d like them to follow. Will the nursery be able to cater for this or will you have to provide food?
Security is essential and parents will want to know that their child is safe at the nursery of their choice. Pay close attention to the nursery’s entry system and sign in policies; many will have a password system for unfamiliar faces collecting children. Look for additional security measures too, including CCTV and secure fences for outdoor areas.
Don’t be afraid to ask about supervision and the areas that children have access to, including toilet facilities and indoor/outdoor play areas. It’s a good idea to ask about staff too; are they DBS checked? Do they have additional training in first aid and safeguarding? You can also ask for references from the nursery, especially if one particular staff member will be caring for your child.
A good nursery should provide a range of activities that are fun, engaging, stimulating and educational. Toys and equipment should be clean, hygienic and well maintained and any outdoor play areas need to be safe and age appropriate. Look for a mix of messy play, creative activities, outdoor play and educational activities.
Most nurseries offer a mix of free-form and structured play to help children grow, socialise and foster independence. It’s also important for children to have quiet time and space to relax if needed. Ask about ‘quiet time’ and whether the nursery has a dedicated area or room to do this (e.g some nurseries have nap time areas with child-sized beds).
Cost is another significant factor when it comes to choosing a nursery, as well as what the costs include. All three and four year olds in England are eligible for 570 hours of free childcare a year (usually split as 15 hours a week over 38 weeks). You may also be able to claim child tax credit to help with costs.
If you need childcare before your child is three (or if you need more than 15 hours a week) then it’s likely that you’ll have to pay additional fees. Costs vary greatly, depending on the area you live in, whether you require full days or half days, and the age of your child. You may also need to pay more for meals or certain activities. Most nurseries have a transparent pricing scheme listed on their website so this is a good place to start.
Parents will want to choose a nursery that fits in with their child’s routine, especially while they’re very young. You may have specific mealtimes or nap times in place for your child, so consider whether the nursery can adhere to these.
You may have started other routines, such as potty training or teaching children to dress themselves, so make sure that the nursery has the facilities to continue this. It’s a good idea to ask about discipline too to make sure you’re on the same page. Ask nursery staff how they deal with bad behaviour and how good behaviour is rewarded. This helps to keep things consistent and avoids any confusion for your child.
If you’re looking for an outstanding children’s day nursery in Eastleigh or Hedge End, get in touch with the team at Little Acorns. We’re proud to offer a warm, supportive environment that allows every child to thrive, with specific care tailored to each individual. We have a baby nursery that can cater to little ones from birth to 18 months, as well as a toddler room and facilities for pre-school children up to five years of age. We’ve received a continued grading of ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted and all of our staff are fully DBS checked and safeguarding trained.
Children can enjoy indoor and outdoor play areas, a mix of stimulating, engaging and varied play and regular event days. We also provide nutritionally rich food and can cater for any dietary requirements you may have. For more information or to arrange a visit, don’t hesitate to give us a call or contact us online.