It’s one of the hardest decisions to make. You have decided to return to work and this means you need to explore childcare for your little one.
You have options, lots of them!
First and foremost, you need to make sure that you visit the settings. It is great to get recommendations from friends and family, but you know your child best. Some children will thrive in a larger nursery with lots of space and atmosphere. Others will be stifled by this and find it too much, in this instance a smaller more homely setting would be more suitable.
Make sure you take your little one with you, they will give you clues as to how they might behave when / if you chose that nursery.
Of course, some nurseries do have waiting lists so it is also advisable to call around even when pregnant to get a feel for how long lists might be etc.
All nurseries are regulated by OFSTED once you have narrowed down a shortlist you should check the setting’s OFSTED report. You can search here: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report
Below is a list of things that you should also consider when choosing the right nursery for your little one. The priority order is very much an individual thing and so I shall leave that part up to you!
Ask to see the menus, how is the food prepared? Brought in or cooked on site by a chef? Ask about how they deal with special diets or allergies, its important that settings have clear provision for this. If you have a baby, ask them about weaning and what the nursery do regarding the stage of food your little one is on ie: purees and lumps etc.
We have all seen the recent news regarding Millie Thompson and this brings to the forefront the upmost importance of paediatric first aid training for staff in nurseries and other childcare settings. Ask how many staff are first aid trained and what the nurseries policy is on this.
How does the nursery make provision for new children? It is good practice for all nurseries to provide (usually free of charge) settling in sessions. These sessions are usually short periods of time where a parent can bring their child in to the nursery so that they become familiar with the surroundings, staff and other children. Great nurseries will build these up over time, perhaps starting with a session where you stay and play together, and then the next you leave for a short time and so on.
When you go to visit the nursery cast your eye over the staff in the room/s, not just the one you’re speaking to, look at the staff that are with the children, are they engaging themselves with the children or are they sitting bored in a corner pretending to be busy? Do they have a uniform?
If your child is one that loves to be outside exploring then it would be wise to look out for nurseries with good outside provision. By this I mean, is there space to run and be free in a secure and safe environment? Great outdoor areas will have all sorts of equipment to challenge and interest your little one from bikes to climbing or balancing equipment.
The EYFS also suggests that the outside area should mirror the classroom environment, mark making equipment and books outside will make for a fabulous learning environment.
How does the nursery ensure that only authorised people can enter the building? How do they ensure that only the correct person can collect your child?
Other questions to ask:
– Ratios – how are staff – children ratios maintained?
– Do you need to bring your own nappies and formula? If so how are they kept?
– How many children will be in the room that your child is going to be attending and what is the maximum number of children for that room.
– Sleeping arrangements, how and where do the children sleep and how does the nursery monitor sleeping children? Eg, is there someone with them at all times or does someone just go in and check on them periodically?
– Does the nursery accept childcare vouchers? (If you are entitled to these from your employer) and do they offer the 15 hours government grants for children over three years old?