An Informative Guide on How to Choose a Nursery
Updated: Jun 27
What to look for and what to ask when looking for a nursery
After you have a baby, there’s no end to the big decisions you need to make. For many people, choosing a nursery is one of these.
Whether you’re returning to work after maternity leave or looking to put your little one into nursery for some interaction with other children, the thought of choosing a childcare facility and leaving your child there is sure to make you a bit anxious.
If you’re looking for some pointers and guidance on how to go about the process, you’re in the right place.
This guide discusses when you need to start thinking about nursery, the benefits, the research you should do beforehand, the things you need to look for, and the questions you should be asking the nursery centres on your shortlist.
So take a deep breath and break it down into these stages. Your son or daughter is going to love nursery!
When should you start thinking about nursery?
If you have plans to return to work after having your baby, you’ll need to think about childcare. For many people that means nursery.
When you’ll need start looking into your options will depend on where you live. Some people even suggest you do your research when you’re pregnant.
In general, people tend to look into nurseries a year in advance of their child attending them, or less.
What are the benefits of nursery?
If you’re feeling a little apprehensive about sending your child to nursery for the first time, that’s understandable. But just think of all the benefits nursery offers.
Your son or daughter will be in a happy, safe environment where they can interact with other kids and adults. By learning to share and play with others their social and emotional abilities will improve.
In addition, they’ll build their confidence through these interactions and the freedom they have to play and express themselves.
All of the experiences they have at nursery will ultimately help to ready them for school.
And you as a parent will get the time you need to go to work, do things around the house, or recharge your batteries.
How do I research nurseries?
It can be a little overwhelming if this is your first baby so start simple.
Would you prefer your child’s nursery to be near your home or near your place of work? There’s no wrong answer here. It’s simply a case of what suits you as a family.
If it’s near home, you won’t have to drive far with your child to drop them off or pick them up. If it’s near work, you can get there quickly if there are any issues, such as your child feeling unwell.
Then you should make a shortlist of the different nursery facilities near your chosen location.
A great way to gain insider knowledge is to ask other local parents about the nurseries on your shortlist. You can try asking on online forums and social media groups, speak to neighbours, and ask questions at your toddler groups, if you attend any.
Then you’ll need to actually visit the nurseries you have earmarked. When you visit, make sure you ask if they’re registered with the correct authority (this will depend on the country and/or area you live in), and ask to see any relevant reports, awards, or certificates that are important to you.
What should I look for during my nursery visit?
There are lots of things to look out for when you visit any of the childcare centres you’ve listed among your preliminary favourites.
The first, and perhaps most obvious one, is the staff. Are staff members welcoming? Do they seem passionate about their job? Are they enthusiastic about their place of work and the activities they do? Are they willing to answer your questions?
These are some of the internal questions you should be able to answer during your visit. And the answer should be yes to all of them.
If your visit falls during a time when there are still kids at the nursery, look out for their reactions when their parents come to pick them up. If a child is enjoying nursery so much that they don’t want to go home yet, that’s a great sign.
Make sure you ask to see the nursery’s outdoor play area, as well as the nap space used for kids. Look to see if they’re clean and safe.
Inside the nursery it should be colourful and well-decorated, usually with projects done by the kids themselves
You can also keep an eye out for musical instruments and decorations that indicate they offer foreign language activities. If you don’t, you can always ask the staff member showing you the facility about these, along with all the other questions you have.
What questions should I ask when looking for a nursery?
During your visit, you’ll get a general feel for the place but you’ll still have many unanswered questions.
Make sure you ask about the nursery’s ratio of staff to children. Will your child be in small classes with one staff member? Or will they be in a larger class with several staff members?
You can also expand on this and ask if there will be a key person assigned to your child. Some centres have a key person who is your point of contact for your child’s progress and their time spent at nursery.
A nursery’s opening hours are key for working parents, so make sure you ask if they’re flexible with pick up and drop off times, and the hours they’re open. You should also check if they are open all year, what holidays they follow, or if they are only open during term time.
Does the nursery have an adaptation period? This adjustment period might see your child attend the nursery for fewer hours to begin with, so make sure you ask this question and factor this in before returning to work.
Ask for an overview of their daily routine at the nursery. Do kids get to enjoy set activities or can they explore and express themselves completely with free play?
Nowadays, some nurseries incorporate technology into their tools, both in the classroom and for communication. Ask about their policy on TV, tablets, and other devices in the nursery, and ask how they communicate with parents. They might provide daily written progress reports or upload their summary to an app.
Also make sure you ask about how the nursery works with you as parents and how they will adapt to your child’s routine. For example, you can ask if you can supply them with your son or daughter’s favourite toy or dummy. In addition, you can ask them how they support parents who are potty training.
In terms of fees, you need to ask what’s included. This means asking if you need to provide nappies, wipes, water, meals (formula if you have a baby), or snacks. If food is provided, or included in the fees you pay, you can ask to see the menu or how they cater to children with allergies.
You can also ask if any government assistance is offered. Depending on where you live, this may be in the form of free hours based on your personal situation or the age of your child, or it may be a reduced rate.
Lastly, ask the nursery about their vaccine and sickness policies. You might need to provide evidence that your child is up-to-date with their vaccinations. And depending on their sickness policy, you may need to keep your child out of nursery for a certain period of time if they fall ill. In this case, you’ll need to make alternative childcare arrangements or take time off work.
There are many things you need to consider, look for, and ask when choosing a nursery. When making the big decision, take all of these into account, as well as your overall impression of the place.
If you came out of your visit feeling positive and pleased with the centre, chances are your child will enjoy their time there too.
What was your experience with choosing a nursery? Were you happy with the choice you made? What’s your favourite thing about your child’s nursery?
Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog.