A Guide to Choosing the Best Nursery for your Child

Choosing a nursery for your child is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a parent or carer.

From a practical point of view, it is of course important for the nursery location to be close to your work or home but it is also vital to ensure that the childcare facility you choose meets the emotional and developmental needs of your child.

We are here to help you understand the different types of nurseries and services available, important points to consider before choosing a setting and some advice for getting your child ready for this next step.

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There are different types of nursery to consider, these include:

Day Nurseries:

Day nurseries are the nurseries that follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, which is the national curriculum for the early year’s sector.

The main principle of these nurseries is ‘learning through play’. Most nurseries provide morning, afternoon or all-day sessions, typically running from 8:00-18:00 all year round.

Costs of day nurseries vary depending on the child’s age and the required facilities. For example, nursery places for babies may be more expensive as more staff is needed to cover their care. Most private nurseries care for children from 3 months to school age.

Montessori Nurseries:

Montessori Nurseries are run under the principle of Maria Montessori. This approach is a holistic one, which aims to develop the ‘whole child’ by allowing them to be guided by their natural curiosity and independence, with careful oversight from Montessori trained teachers.

Montessori nurseries have a good balance of the Montessori approach as well as EYFS.

School Nurseries:

School nurseries (also known as preschools) are generally day-care centres connected to primary schools. Nursery facilities depend on the school, but in most cases, you will need to have a secured a place in the connected school for your child to attend. School nurseries tend to offer shorter hours than private nurseries and only run during school term time. Most of them will give a space preference to siblings.

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What to consider when choosing a nursery:

It’s important to visit the nursery on their open day or make an appointment to get in and get a feel for the space. All childcare facilities provided have to be inspected by Ofsted, and you can find inspection reports for your chosen nursery or school online.

From the visit and speaking with staff, you should get a general feel for the atmosphere in the setting, but there are also other considerations to keep in mind:

Policies:

Whether you child is going to be attending a day nursery, a Montessori nursery or a school nursery, each setting will have clear policies that you can access. These policies should cover everything you need information on from what happens when you drop your child off, how they deal with meal times, nap schedules, illnesses and in the case of an emergency.

Some questions you might want to ask are:

  • What happens if I need childcare at short notice outside of my child’s regular schedule?
  • What is the nursery’s policy on illness, particularly during COVID?
  • What is the nursery’s emergency procedure?
  • What happens if your child injures him or herself?
  • Who do you speak to if you have a problem/question relating to your child’s care?
  • Who is your child’s ‘key carer’ or go-to person?
  • How will the nursery help your child learn and develop; will there be a learning log/ online portal you can access?

Health and Safety:

All UK nurseries and schools have to abide by government health and safety regulations. The setting’s inspection report will be available to view but while you are visiting, you should look out for the following:

  • Safe, secure play environment
  • Clearly marked fire exits and procedures in the case of a fire
  • Children shouldn’t be able to leave the building without being let out and similarly, visitors should not be able to just freely enter the setting.
  • Clean playrooms, toilet facilities and eating areas
  • Proper light fixtures
  • Locks/ bars on external doors and windows

Interest in your child:

It’s important to take note of how the staff express interest in your child and their development. Your child’s care team should be passionate about helping your child make the very most of their nursery experience and you should be happy and comfortable with the relationship.

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Getting your child ready for nursery:

Starting nursery is an exciting yet also uncertain time for your child. If possible, take your child with you to the nursery when visiting the open day and allow them to get a feel for the atmosphere as well.

Most nurseries offer settling in sessions where you can stagger your child’s introduction and accompany them for the first couple of visits.

It may take you child a while to get used to the new routine and settle in. This is completely normal, don’t worry and remember the benefits in terms of socialising, learning and development are well worth it.

If you are searching for the best nursery for your child, visit the nurseries section of our website, here, where you can compare different nurseries on multiple criteria such as opening hours, ratings and reviews.

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