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Choosing a nursery(9 Posts)
We’ve just started to look around for a a nursery (we have a 7 month old and I am going back to work in May).
We live in London so there are loads, and they all have space because of covid (tiny silver lining). I am bewildered though - what sorts of things should I be asking / looking for?
DS May end up having special needs as he has a chromosomal syndrome, so any idea around what to ask around that would also be appreciated
Thanks very much in advance
When we looked for our oldest we saw quite a few.
One was new, fancy, had top-end tech to give feedback to parents and had a big emphasis on serving organic food from a local restaurant.
Another one had an outstanding ofstead rating and an 18 month waiting list because it was so popular.
Another was based at a city zoo and had a real focus on environmental issues and once again had a long waiting list because it was so popular.
We saw another which was a bit shabby around the edges and had a clipboard with updates they would give parents at the end of the day.
On paper the first three sounded the best, but we chose the slightly shabby one. The building may be old but when we walked in, the staff were all on the floor with the babies, giving them cuddles and the children just seemed so happy and content. Plus, the structure for the day and activities were really well thought out. They had a really big outside space for kids to play in and every question we asked they had really well thought responses.
I don't know if you are currently able to do visits but if so you may well find yourself choosing an unexpected one. For us it came down to which one we thought would be nicest and comforting for our child. Oh and they have an app now instead of the clipboard.
We looked around last year (just after they'd reopened after the first lockdown). We asked about their routine, how flexible they are if our working hours changed (my hours are on a trial basis since going back as I've cut from full time to part time), they use an app to update us, monthly newsletters etc. The staff were sat playing with the babies, they are very much 'we fit in to your routine, we don't have our own', they're very supportive of our parenting choices and follow them when she goes there. Its a small nursery in terms of numbers but the baby area was great, they showed us the older areas too for when she'd be moving up. It's on the grounds of one of the most sought-after primaries too and it's a kind of 'feeder' up to there which was one of the factors.
Oh and in terms of questions we asked about the curriculum and structure of the day, safety and security, diversity (both in terms of education and general attitudes to it - for us it's important they have a positive attitude to it), how they deal with nap times, food etc.
Thank you all. It’s tough as whilst we can visit we can’t be in the same room as the kids
Outdoor space is another thing to ask about - how much there is, how often they go out. Are any of them near busy roads?
A lot of nurseries now offer video tours.
I went to view three when I was looking. One I was allowed in with whilst wearing a mask, one I went to in the evening once they had closed. Another you can see into all rooms from the windows outside so I had a tour around the outside so I could look in.
Even without the kids there I found it all very telling with how everything was set up and how the staff where.
Questions to ask:
What is their normal routine, where are the cots located for naps, what is their security measures, staff ratio to children, how do they set targets, details on their recent ofsted and how they are dealing with any recommendations, how much outdoor time the kids get.
I also asked about staff turnover as obviously a high turn over means the kids can't make those long term bonds.
If your child needs any additional support do they have the staff and means to do so.
The first one I saw was nice and everything looked well set up etc but I left having a doubt in my mind. I couldn't explain to my husband what it was I wasn't sure on but there was just something.
The second one had quite a high staff turnover as 95% of their staff where young who had just finished their qualifications. Whilst I sat waiting in reception alot of staff kept coming to check their mobile phones (they had to leave them in a box out the front for safety reasons), they commented how the kids get 30mins outside but if its wet or windy they stay inside - the way she said it made me think that they made the decision to stay indoors alot.
The third one I saw was perfect! The staff were a good mix of ages and staff turnover was very low. They also did a 1:2 ratio in the baby room which I thought was great. As a mum of twins I know how hard it is to care for two children let alone 3 under the normal 1:3 ratio. It felt very much a home from home. They had a huge outdoor space with each age group having a separate play area so they weren't limited on time outdoors. They actually said they go out come rain or shine as they will just wrap them up etc. In the summer they tend to do more activities outside than inside.
I left feeling excited for my girls to start.
Just go with your gut OP. Your instincts will tell you whats best
Thanks very much @Wishing56 those are great questions. Out door time is very important to me too - the one I saw last week made vague excuses about covid meaning they had only been on one walk since Christmas. I thought that was pretty poor!
Check on nap times - will they facilitate your routine. Mine stopped napping at 20 months and thankfully the nursery were happy to accommodate her being the only non-napper in the toddler room by taking her elsewhere to play during this time. Otherwise I’d have really struggled as I need 3-4 hours of quiet an evening to keep up with workload (teacher).
Also check on how they get them to sleep if this is important to you, e.g. do they help the babies nod off if they’re struggling.
The main thing for us was that while I was having my tour one of the girls in the baby room excused herself from talking to me because a baby was getting upset and she responded immediately with a cuddle 😍
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