Visiting nursery. What to ask/look for.(11 Posts)
My DD is 4 months old and I have to go back to work soon. Tomorrow we visiting our local nursery and I really dont know what to look for/ask to make sure it will be suitable for us both.
1. Look at their OFSTED report
Some of the things:
How happy do the children and staff look?
If you can collar a parent or two outside get their opinions
How clean does it look (make sure you go to the loo while you're there to give you an idea, always a good test for me!)
What are their resources like (outside and inside)
What is their daily routine like?
Child to carer ratio / will your child have a key worker and how does it work
What are their menus like (yes I know you're not at that stage yet but if you continue working then you presumably want your DD to stay there) or do you provide the food
Look at all the different rooms - as above, you'll want DD to progress and stay there so think ahead to when she's older, not just the baby room. Is there a clear distinction with the rooms and do the children seem to be developing well?
Is it large with lots of resources or smaller and more intimate and which would suit you better
Are they welcoming, do you think you could speak to the manager if you wanted advice or have a problem?
Ask if they'd mind if you just had a look through their policies and try to sit in reception or somewhere while you do a) to look at the policies and b) to listen out and get a feel for the place while you're leafing through a file and everyone is getting on with things
Even if you love this one, go and see a few, it will give you a feel for things.
All I can think of for now
Go by gut. We saw a nursery that had a brilliant reputation. The older children were being taken into another room and all looked frightened to death. In the baby room a hard-faced teen was bashing a baby rocker up and down with her foot while ignoring the screaming baby. Not one of the staff smiled at us or said hello.
All the other nurseries we looked at, the children came over to see us and talk to us, and any baby/ toddler crying was promptly picked up and cuddled.
Wonderful facilities and new toys are less important than staff who genuinely love small children.
The other thing you want to know with a small baby is where she will sleep/ what in/ whether they will fit in with your routine or expect her to sleep at set times. Our nursery had a proper separate sleep room with cots. Other nurseries expected babies to sleep in buggies, which we didn't like, or in cots in the main play room.
You will know whether you like a nursery or not just from being there.
Will they adapt to your baby?
Ds was a most anti-routine baby and the nursery he goes to were very happy to follow him and keep his meals for later if he slept through naps.
Do they cuddle a child who is crying? Are they nice to them?
Do lunch supervisors and the manager chat to the kids or ignore them?
Like the above poster I saw one 'Outstanding' Ofsteded nursery and refused to send ds there - the manager made repeated nasty remarks to some perfectly-behaving children, the lunch supervisors spoke no English and ignored the children, and they wouldn't let you look round except on their monthly open days.
Beautiful paperwork everywhere, though.
The others I saw all invited me to visit the next day.
I agree with the others - go with your gut feeling, not their reputation or policies.
Also, take your baby with you. I've looked round three nurseries, and they each responded to my babies very differently. Not surprisingly, I've chosen the one who were great with the babies, not the ones who spent most of the visit talking about the Early Years Foundation thingy and how often they have a fire drill. Those things are important, yes, but I expect them to be covered adequately. What makes a nursery good (IMO!) is the staff and how they interact with YOUR child.
Marking my place as was just about to post the same question
Thank you very much for your help. Nursery was lovely and my baby forgot about me just soo expensive don't know what to do.
Interested happy staff who appear to like children.
A good nursery all over. You will want your child to be there till school at a guess. Don't just look at the baby room.
Good basics. Is all the equipment ready for the children to use? Paper in the art bit? Sand uncovered?
Is it too tidy? Some nurseries spend all their time tidying up!
What is the proportion of level 3 qualified staff? I would expect all management and room leaders to be level 3 as a minimum.
- what's staff turnover like? (staff are the most important thing and it tells you a lot about the environment if people don't stay for long periods).
- how often do they have to use agency staff and how do they do that (try and keep a consistent pool?)
- how do they support staff learning/development/upskilling?
- what are the room leader's qualifications? How do these compare to the other rooms in the nursery? (often a tendency to put the lowest qualified staff in the baby room)
- how do they deal with your child's routine or the need to fit into the nursery routine?
- how does the key worker system work? What can be done if you're not happy/don't think your baby is bonding well with the key worker
- What's the handover like? Do they give you a book which just tells you when they slept, were changed etc or does someone talk to you and tell you how your baby's day has been?
- how 'open door' is their policy on communicating with parents? How is it best to communicate if you have concerns or want to talk about development etc? I've found a correlation with the more 'open door' the better the nursery.
Overall I'd also agree with others. Visit a few and follow your gut as well as looking at how people interact with your baby while you're visiting. Good luck!
- What do they do when a baby is hard to settle/is crying for more than a few minutes?
On the expense front, there generally isn't THAT much of a difference between nurseries in one particular area - I think in my area, prices can vary by £10-12 a day - yes that can make a difference if your child is full time, but if you love the nursery and DD forgot about you, thats surely what you want. My DD goes to one of the most expensive nurseries in my town - I'm not suggesting that expense = quality in every case - but I loved the nursery and the staff as soon as I walked in. I can honestly say apart from the first 3 or 4 days when she was settling in, I've never worried about leaving her there or whether she's getting well cared for (and loved by her key worker). When we drive past she shouts the name of her key worker and claps her hands!!
Have you checked your eligibility for tax credits, as they can pay up to 70% of nursery costs. Also, you can get childcare vouchers, which come off your salary (and DH's) before tax so can save 20-40% depending on your income.
Another thing to bear in mind is that it is expensive now, but the term after DC turns 3 you get your 15 hours free, then school takes a lot of the costs. In the grand scheme of things, can you wear the loss of your income to nursery fees for a couple of years, is it better than dropping out of the workplace for that couple of years. I have used all sorts of childcare over the years, staying home, part time work using nurseries, childminders, informal care. ATM I work 2 days, me and DH cover school holidays, and we use after school clubs.
Childcare is always a compromise in some way, if you find something that works for you, stick with it.
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