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Am I being a nursery snob??(31 Posts)
My DS is nearly 2.5 and we have started to look around the local nurseries (6 of them) with a view to him starting once he turns three. As an only child I obviously want him to have the opportunity to develop social skills etc. But.... The nurseries are all a bit mediocre. All have the expected resources, like mud kitchens, sand, slides, indoor tables, small world play etc, but none of them are presented or tidied in a way to show they are looked after and look tired. Staffing ratios are fine, but when looking round actual engagement with children has been very limited, at one place a woman just sat for the whole 3/4 hour we were there just sat on a bench drinking her tea. None seem particularly bothered about academic stuff either (I was worried about too much sitting and worksheets but there's nothing). The space is the only thing that varies some have more outdoor space than others some more indoor but is that really all I should expect???
Maybe look at pre-schools instead of day nurseries? They are usually shorter hours so wouldn't work if you want it for child care, but there will probably be a more focus.
2.5 year olds don't do 'academic stuff'. They learn though play.
How many worksheets were you expecting at 2.5?! Worksheets?!
As for the tea break - they are obliged to have 'one the floor' time (usually away from the kids). At that age they aren't sitting for long and learning through play. Did you see any progress folders or ask about early learning or prep for schooling?
2/3 is way too young for academic stuff. You sound like you have unrealistic expectations of your child
www.gov.uk/education/early-years-curriculum info on EYFS.
3yos dont do worksheets and desk based learning.
They learn through play, exploration and adventure.
Eg. Dds preschool had a "Goldilocks and the three bears" week. They read the story, then most of the activities were loosely based. So the home corner had three bears in. The outside den was turned into a wolfs lair. The water box had porridge in for squidging. Colouring in sheets. Red colour activities. Counting 1 2 3 for the bears etc. All free flow activities.
Are there any Montessori near you? My son went to one and it was fab, not dull at all.
Do you mean a nursery that your DC would attend for a whole day while you work? Or just for a 3-hour playgroup slot a few days each week? If the latter, then that sounds like what my DC had, and sounds fine. The social / learning through play thing is the most important aspect. For the former, I'd expect more as they're having your child for a lot longer.
As long as the nursery are up to date with learning journeys and in ratio then there shouldn't be a problem. My dd went to a nursery that had tired decor but the main thing there was that the girls were amazing at their jobs and dd was happy.
I would look at pre-schools - the children spend less time there, and so they're more focused on learning through play and less on childcare. I had a fantastic experience with a Montessori - the facilities weren't great (a church hall) and it all looked a bit shabby, but the staff were totally engaged, knew each child and understood them as individuals, and very well led (the manager was in the room all the time, and dealt with anything that was tricky calmly and effectively).
I wouldn't expect worksheets or anything - and in fact, I would be put off. I'd look for lots of rhyming, storytelling, signs on things - all the stuff that familiarises the children with sounds and letter shapes and stories. And similar equipment for maths, all the stuff they can use for early counting and measuring.
Personally, I'd also like to see the older and younger children mixing, and not being separated out into separate rooms.
If the toys are a bit tired doesn't that show they get lots of playing with?
I'm not sure what you expected TBH, did you think it would be like a school?
Sounds like you might be looking for a school nursery rather than a nursery.
Sounds like you are looking for a preschool rather than a nursery. Which is fine, you're allowed to be a snob about a place your child will attend during the most developmentally important period of his life.
And as pp said, a Montessori might suit you well. I work in one and it is lovely, the children are so well rounded, calm, and bright.
I was a nursery teacher in a school nursery class for many years - the EYFS guidance now (and for the last few years) has very much been about learning through play, demonstrating learnt skills through independent activities and building the 'prime' areas of learning first (Communication and Language, Physical Development and Personal, Social and Emotional Development).
There shouldn't be worksheets at 3 (there shouldn't be many worksheets at 6...8...10...but that's for another day). Lots of opportunities to talk and interact would be my main requirement.
The equipment may be tired, and the decor may be faded, but at least that equipment and environment is being used.
I would be looking foremost for staff who interact with the children, and whom the children like - you can generally tell if there is a member of staff that is 'visited' less than the others.
Ask to look at Learning Journeys or whatever they call them - it will show you how things are recorded. It should have a mixture of adult led activities (cooking, specific tasks with an adult), adult initiated (activities set out for the children to complete) and child initiated (children get the resources and do with them what they will!).
If you're looking for the 3 hour sessions, a pre-school or school nursery would probably be slightly more 'academic', but at that age the focus is still very much on those prime areas, so don't be put off by the lack of sitting down and writing or counting!
You could also look at Reggio Emilio nurseries or those that are nature/forest school type nurseries.
You should be worried about lack of staff engagement with the children.
Agree that the lack of engagement is the problem. I work as supply staff in quite a lot of nurseries. Very few leave me thinking "That was great childcare". Most are "meh", and quite a lot are "I'm never going back to that shithole again". There are good ones, frequently they have slightly tired decor.
And nobody should be doing worksheets. They were unofficially banned in the mid 90s.
I would t be happy TBH. Find one you love. Our nursery is great. I actually worry I'm not doing enough with my dc! They put me to shame. She's learned a lot (all play related) and loves it. It's a real relief. Taking your time to find the right place is a must.
Thanks for your responses, two of the places I looked at were pre schools. Just to be clear I was worried about worksheets as in the area I work this does happen, not because I was looking for them... ( pretty sure my post said that!). By academic stuff I meant I was asking about letters and sounds phase one, looking for book areas in the environment (which I found one) and language and numbers in the environment (very limited). Incidentally one of the nurseries actually referred to looking at stories with the children as the more 'academic' stuff alongside explaining that they focussed on 'other stuff' more... I would consider sharing books together essential but based on opinions on here perhaps my expectations are too high.
Adult engagement was poor- learning through play does not mean adults standing around watching children play all day- there was very little talking between adults and children at all, which again I would consider essential for children's development.
Learning journeys were either not very up to date paper ones or we were shown samples on tapestry, but these were all group based so things like 'today we all enjoyed riding the bikes' not individual to the children.
Also I'm not bothered about things that are worn and loved either it was the piles (literally) of often broken plastic tat just dumped in children's play areas that put me off.
I suppose I just want him to go somewhere where the staff will be interested and engaged enough in him and his activities that he makes appropriate developmental progress and who care so it feels more nurturing.
Oh no that's definitely crap imo. My DS2 (who is the same age as your son) is starting at his nursery next week. For comparison to your experience, we went in and the kids were doing circle time with stories, followed by sitting round tiny table (poor nursery assistants, their knees must be knackered) doing messy play with some theme they had. A smaller group were playing with building stuff, with an assistant playing alongside them. They had a lovely outdoor area which, whilst obviously well used, was tidy with zero broken bits about. They had a different regular activity each morning (music, swimming, forest school) and showed us an example of a few children's learning journey which were very much individual (they have a consent form that you sign to say your happy for your child learning journey to be shown). The assistants were obviously well loved as each had a gaggle of kids around them. I wanted to go!
SO for you, I'd find somewhere else. FWIW this nursery was attached to the local girls private school and is where most locals send their children.
Do you have nursery classes in schools in your area? I know it's not always that common - where I'm living currently, for example, doesn't have many at all, but the area I moved from, it was considered the norm.
That might be more appropriate. I agree with your last post - it sounds like they weren't great at all. Reading and sharing books is vital - it's in all 3 strands of Communication and Language - so it's a bit worrying there didn't seem more defined book areas. Same for environmental print - my 3 year old loves telling me what signs 'say' and I'm sure he does it at nursery too!
Are there more options you can look at? More providers?
You may have to drive quite a long way to get what you want. I took DS 40mins to a very purist Montessori setting. It didn't suit him at all, but that's another story.
Have you got any different settings you could look at if you cast your net wider?