Choosing a nursery can be a daunting task. Not only are there so many to choose from but more importantly this may be the first time you and your child would have been separated for any length of time.
Before starting on your quest research the type of nursery you wish for your child to attend e.g. Montessori, Steiner, mainstream etc.
Location will be a very important factor; if you have older children that are at primary school you may want a nursery to be in the same area rather than closer to home. If on the other hand you plan on working then a nursery close to your office may suit you better.
If at all possible visit the nurseries without your child first as this will give you a chance to ask questions, look at the paper work and get a feel for the place without constant interruptions. Once you have short listed your preferred nurseries take your child along, using this time to observe their reactions to their new environment, the other children and how well the teacher interacts with them.
Questions to ask during your first visit:
Price for 3, 4, 5 mornings?
What are their hours?
Do they have early and late classes? What are their fees?
Do they hold winter, spring and summer camps? (A must for working parents)
What is the teacher to child ratio?
Does the teaching staff hold relevant qualifications?
Does the teaching staff hold an up to date first-aid certificate?
How does the nursery deal with allergies?
What happens in a medical emergency?
Which hospital/clinic would my child go to in case of an emergency?
What security measures does the nursery take at home-time?
What are their methods of discipline?
What are their views/methods on potty training?
What snacks, change of clothes, nappies etc. do I need to provide?
If they have a paddling pool how do they keep it clean?
How often do they clean the toys, dressing-up clothes, equipment?
What are their views regarding parents staying with their children when they first join the nursery?
Does the nursery have an open door policy?
How do the FS1/2 teachers prepare the children for their transition FS2 and primary school?
Are the FS1 children assessed on their numbers, colours, letters etc.?
What themes does the school cover?
Do the children have show and tell?
Do the children have an opportunity to bring books home?
How often do the children bring their artwork home?
Does the school have concerts/parents days (spring concert etc.)?
Does the school arrange field trips?
How does the school keep you informed regarding school holidays, up-and-coming events, a shortage of nappies etc.
What to look and listen for:
How do the children interact with each other?
Does the teacher listen and answer questions when a child talks to them?
When the children arrive does the teacher seem genuinely pleased to see them?
Does the teacher encourage the children to find solutions to problems e.g. sharing, attempting a puzzle etc.
Is it calm in the classroom with the children happily doing set activities or does there seem to be a lack of order and control?
Are there plenty of stimulating toys and activities?
Is there artwork on the walls?
Does each classroom have a toilet?
How clean is the classroom, toilet, tables, toys, floor, indoor and outdoor areas?
Are there plenty of toys and books for the children to freely choose from?
How does the teacher deal with a crying/disobedient/shy/rough child?
Does the nursery have adequate shade?
Time to reflect:
How did the admin staff make you feel?
Did you feel the teacher had a good rapport with yourself and your child?
Was your child made to feel welcomed by the teacher and the other children?
Did you walk away feeling excited for your child?
Do you feel emotionally happy to be handing over your child to their care?
Were there any red flags, such as TV, lack of hygiene, too many children walking around with dirty noses, crying children not being comforted etc.?
A big no-no for me is television. I have a real bee in my bonnet about nurseries putting TV on for the children, even for those children that attend nurseries from as early as 7 am until 5/6 pm. Experienced and qualified staff should be able to entertain, motivate and stimulate children without the aid of TV. If children do stay all day having a half hour/hour nap would be much more beneficial for everyone concerned. Then more fun activities can be done in the afternoons with refreshed children and staff.
Even though this is a deal breaker for me it may not be for you so go with your gut instinct and don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all your child’s happiness, mental and physical development is the most important thing here.
If you are interested in how we can work together then why not grab a coffee and book a free Clarity Call and let’s see if we are a good match!