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A Guide to Choosing a Nursery for Your Child

Choosing a nursery is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as the parent of a young child or children. You may need to find somewhere local to your home or work. However, you must also make sure the childcare facility you choose meets the emotional and developmental needs of your child.

These days, there are many different types of the nursery to consider, including:

Day Nurseries

Day nurseries are the nurseries that follow the national curriculum for the early years and that is the early year's foundation stage (EYFS). The main principle of these nurseries is "learn through play". Most day nurseries provide morning, afternoon, or all-day sessions, typically running from 8.00 to 18.00 all year round.

Costs vary depending on the age of your child and the facilities you require. For example, nursery places for babies are often more expensive as there is more staff required to cover their care. Most private nurseries care for children from 3 months to school age.

Montessori nurseries

A Montessori nursery is run on the educational principles of Maria Montessori. This approach is holistic, aiming to develop the ‘whole child’ by allowing them to be guided by their natural curiosity and independence, with careful oversight from Montessori trained teachers. Nowadays, loads of Montessori nurseries have a good balance of the Montessori approach as well as EYFS. 

School nurseries

School nurseries (also known as ‘pre-school’ nurseries) are generally daycare centers connected to primary schools. Nursery facilities depend on the school, but in most cases, you will need to have 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 term time. Most of them always give a space preference to siblings.

Choosing a nursery: what to consider

First impressions are important when it comes to choosing a nursery. Most nurseries run open days, but you may also just be able to make an appointment to look around. It’s important to point out that all childcare facilities have to be inspected by Ofsted, and you can find inspection reports for your chosen nursery or school online.

You will get a general feel for the atmosphere, staff approach, friendliness, and presentation by visiting the nursery, but there are other considerations to bear in mind.


Whether your child’s nursery is a day nursery, school nursery, or a Montessori facility, they should have clear policies that you can access. Policies should cover everything from what happens when you drop off, to how they deal with meal times, nap schedules, illness, and emergencies.

You’ll want to ask questions such as:

  • 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?

You should also ask specifically how the nursery will help your child learn and develop. Will there be a learning log or an online portal you can access?

Health and safety

All UK nurseries and schools have to abide by government health and safety regulations. You will be able to view the center’s inspection report online before you visit, but it’s also important that you and your child are comfortable with the caring environment.

You should look out for:

  • Safe, stable play equipment
  • Marked fire exits and fire procedures
  • Children shouldn’t be able to leave the building without being let out. There should also be a security procedure for people entering the building.
  • Clean playrooms, toilet facilities, and eating areas.
  • Proper working lighting
  • Locks/bars on external doors and windows

Interest in your child

Staff should express a clear interest in your child’s development. Your child’s care team should be passionate about helping your child, and you should both be happy and comfortable with the relationship.

Getting your child ready for nursery

Starting nursery is an exciting and uncertain time for your child. Depending on their age, it may be a good idea to involve him or her in the process of choosing a nursery. Take your child with you to open events and let them get a feel for the atmosphere and start to connect with others. Most nurseries offer ‘settling in’ sessions where you can stagger your child’s introduction to daycare and accompany them for the first couple of visits.

It may take a while for your child to settle into nursery, but the benefits in terms of socializing, learning, and development are well worth it.

What do you think are the most important considerations when choosing a nursery?

Leave your comments below.


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