perfect Picking the nursery for your little one

What to look for and how to make the best choice

Now that we’ve clarified the free hours of childcare parents can count on, it’s time to tackle a crucial question: what should parents prioritise when choosing a childcare facility? For those of you with three and four-year-olds, nurseries often come to the forefront as the preferred option. Our guide offers practical advice to help you navigate the task of selecting the right nursery for your child, ensuring a seamless fit for both your needs and your little one’s.

1. Start with good research

Definitely, one of the key pointers that stands out is the importance of thorough research when you’re on the hunt for the perfect nursery to entrust with your little one’s care. Taking a close look at reviews is a step that can’t be overlooked. Although the internet can sometimes throw in some misleading feedback, if a nursery is consistently racking up negative reviews, it’s a solid hint that exploring other options might be a smart move.

If you’re looking for a place near your home or work, make sure you know where it is. Cross off any that aren’t in the right location for you. Also, see if they have government funding for childcare – that’s important. Check if they’re private. And take a look at their website. The more info they provide, the better.

If you know people who have children in nurseries, ask them which ones they would recommend. Their experiences and insights can provide valuable information about the different options. Find out how they decided on the right nursery. Choose a few that seem good for you and have reviews you trust. You can send them an email or call to ask questions. If they let you visit, that’s a great idea.

2. Visit the nursery

You’ve found a few nurseries that seem right for you and your child. But online, they might only show the best bits. Is it really that good? The only way to know is to visit and see it for yourself when children are there. That’s when you’ll get the real picture!

Here are the important things you should be on the lookout for:

■ Firstly, how do the staff greet you upon arrival? Are they warm and friendly?

■ Do the children attending the nursery look happy? Children are blunt and honest, and you’ll be able to read from their faces whether they look like they are enjoying themselves.

■ Spend time observing how teachers and staff interact with the children. A positive and

engaging interaction style indicates a nurturing environment.

■ Enquire about the nursery’s curriculum and approach to early childhood education. Look for a balanced blend of structured learning and play-based activities that cater to different developmental needs.

■ Check if the nursery has a variety of age-appropriate learning materials, books, and toys that encourage creativity, problem-solving, and cognitive development.

■ A good nursery focuses on each child’s individual needs, interests, and learning pace. Look for signs that the staff personalise their approach to suit each child.

■ Assess if the classrooms are organised and inviting, with designated areas for different activities such as reading corners, art stations, and play areas. Also, a strong learning environment includes opportunities for children to interact and collaborate with their peers, fostering social skills and teamwork. Can you see these on your visit?

If your child is eating at the nursery and is perhaps a fussy eater, ask how does the nursery handle children with specific dietary preferences or fussy eating habits?

Can the nursery describe the daily routine for the children? How often do they have outdoor playtime, and are there structured schedules for outdoor activities to ensure they get fresh air and exercise?

■ What about outdoor space? Ensure that the nursery offers outdoor playtime and activities. Outdoor play promotes physical development, exploration, and a connection with nature.

■ How many members of staff are there? As many parents are well aware, young children require constant supervision. If there are only a few staff members, how will they manage to monitor every child effectively?

■ Ask about the qualifications and training of the staff. Welltrained educators with knowledge in child development can create a more effective learning environment.

■ Is the place safe? Imagine if an emergency occurs – do the staff seem prepared to handle it? Check for clearly marked fire exits and protocols in case of a fire. Can you be certain that a child can’t easily wander outside?

■ Is the nursery environment clean? We understand children can be messy, but

3. What questions should you ask

For children attending the nursery for the full day, do they have a designated nap time? How do they ensure children’s comfort during nap time?

In cases of unforeseen changes, for example in a work schedule, is the nursery accommodating and open to being flexible with drop-off and pick-up times.

In the process of evaluating a nursery, if you encounter situations where staff cannot provide satisfactory answers or too much mess with active toddlers can lead to problems. Check for any broken toys or equipment that could be unsafe. Are there places for children to wash their hands? Toddlers often pass around germs, so it’s important to know if the staff are working to stop sickness from spreading.

■ Check if the nursery provides regular updates on your child’s progress and activities. This demonstrates that they value open communication with parents.

■ Look for nurseries that encourage parent involvement through activities, meetings, and workshops. A strong partnership between parents and educators benefits a child’s overall development. if their responses don’t match your requirements, it might be wise to look at a different nursery.

Remember, every child is unique, so prioritise what aligns best with your child’s personality, needs, and learning style. Visit the nursery, ask questions, and trust your judgment and instincts when determining if it’s an excellent learning environment for your child.

A Guide To Childcare