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What to look out for when checking out a nursery for DC

5 replies

MrsPatMustard · 04/10/2013 19:35

That's it really.... Am currently pregnant with DC1 and thinking about nursery provision after I return to work. There's a nursery very close to my office that has a great reputation but apparently places fill up very quickly and you have to get in early.

We're going for a look around on Monday but I have no idea what I should be looking out for - I'm not even a Mum yet! Can any more experienced Mumsnetters suggest the right sort of questions to ask...

OP posts:
RubyrooUK · 04/10/2013 20:11

I suggest making no definite decisions until your DC is here. What seems important before birth can seem dramatically different when you get a baby who seems to have a fully formed personality of their own at birth.

For example, before birth, I wanted my son to go to a nursery/childminder that had plenty of educational resources and which would help prepare him for school (he will start at just turned four).

When he was born, I realised I didn't give a stuff about all that. I wanted someone who would cuddle my clingy, bottle-refusing, nap-avoiding, sensitive little boy. I didn't need him to learn French at age two; I did need someone to learn all about my son and what makes him tick.

More specific things:

  • does each child have their own individual routine or are they all expected to fit into one set by the nursery? The nursery where my son goes tries to gradually move everyone into a similar pattern but if your child doesn't fit it, well, they do their own thing. Some babies are rocked to sleep, some are bounced to sleep in chairs, others in cots. Other nurseries that I visited put all the children down for coordinating naps in cots and wouldn't budge on that. If you have a cot refuser, that's a pretty big deal.

  • are they supportive of your parenting choices? My babies have both been breastfed and have refused bottles from day one. This is quite a tricky situation for nurseries as it is obviously easier to settle a bottle-fed baby (understatement of the year). But my nursery has always been supportive of me breastfeeding and helped me find ways of getting around this with solids and naps so neither child was unhappy (DS1 went full time from 9mo, DS2 is just starting at 6mo). Other nurseries I saw were very anti-breastfeeding and made me feel like my DS1 would have to starve if he couldn't take a bottle. That made me feel very stressed.

  • how involved is the manager? At my son's nursery, the manager is there every day and her own two children attend the nursery. Other members of staff also have their children or grandchildren there and are happy with their care. Other nurseries I saw had had two or three managers in the last few years.

  • what is the staff turnover? In the two and a half years my eldest son has attended his nursery, two members of staff have left. Otherwise the staff are identical, so he has known the same small selection of people his whole time there. The staff rotate around the rooms but very slowly and in a staggered way, so children have at least two people caring for them who are the same every single time they go. And the rotating means that he has some people caring for him currently who he has known since he was nine months old and know all his quirks. They do not use agency staff at all; if they need staff cover, they have a regular pool of part-timers who do extra shifts. That was important to me; it makes me feel that everyone is very invested in their jobs rather than just passing through.

  • how strict are they on ratios? My son's nursery is always really careful to ensure they have plenty of staff so that any breaks etc are covered. They tend to have more staff than strictly necessary for the ratios, rather than scrimping.

There are probably loads more things but I have written too much already! Basically, write down the things that are most important to you and try to work out which you can't budge on and which you can compromise on.

I couldn't compromise on having people who would cuddle and kiss my babies; who would supportive me breastfeeding; who would be the same people all through their time there; who would call me whenever they seem "not like themselves" because they know them so well...and so on.

I have compromised on outdoor space (I wish there was more); I have compromised on food (they eat pretty healthily at nursery but are probably more generous on the biscuits than I would be); and on TV (the over-2s are allowed to watch a little TV while the smaller ones nap which I would rather didn't happen).

Hope that helps....sorry I wrote so much!!!
RubyrooUK · 04/10/2013 20:28

Oh when I say make no definite decisions, you can of course put your DC's name down early if it is a very popular place and you like it. Just request to come back a few months before they are due to start so you can reappraise it.

And ask about settling in sessions. With DS1, I settled him in for four weeks (two and a half for more confident DS2). That meant that I went daily or almost daily, building up time there and the time away from me. My nursery are very keen on this approach (although it adds an extra child to their workload for quite a while) because they think it helps minimise the stress to the child. Other nurseries I saw wanted me to literally go twice and then leave my baby there for 10 hours a day. I found that too quick for me and my babies. So check what policy the nursery has - some children are very independent so may be fine quickly, others need lots more time.

MrsPatMustard · 05/10/2013 08:16

Oh wow! Ruby thank you so much for taking the time to write all this down. It's very very helpful...

OP posts:
TheCrumpetQueen · 05/10/2013 08:30

Great advice!

TiggyD · 07/10/2013 11:38

Happy staff who interact well with children. Decent resources. Activities out that the children can use. Not a messy untidy tip, but then again not spotless either. Pencils that work, no broken toys being used, electronic toys with batteries in, an interesting garden, and happy busy children. If you like a place, try to pop in at lunch time and ask to taste the food.

There's a long rambling blog with useful bits on here.

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