One of the hardest things any parent has to do is choose the nursery setting where their often very small child will be looked after while they are out working. The nursery sector is hugely competitive and there are likely to be many different options to choose from. As a parent working out which is the best for your child can be a daunting task, but there are several key factors to consider.
Generally, the nursery is best located either close to where you live, or close to where one parent works as this makes picking up and dropping off easier. Consider the convenience of the location should another person have to pick up the child in an emergency, how easy it is to park, whether the nursery is on a busy road, and how long picking up or dropping off is going to add to the working day.
Cost and Contract
There’s no getting away from the fact that cost is a huge factor when looking at a nursery. As well as asking about the fees which are charged, make sure you are clear about what extras the nursery will provide. Do you have to provide milk or food for your child, or are meals included in the fees? Will nappies be provided? Will you bed expected to pay when the nursery is closed, or when you take your annual holiday? Knowing the answers to all of these issues will help make a clearer comparison between the different nurseries on offer.
Atmosphere and Welcome
One of the key factors should be how you and your child feel when inside the nursery. Arrange a visit and spend some time with the staff and observe how they interact with your child, whether they appear happy in their work, whether the children appear bored or interested in their activities, how clean the nursery is and how involved parents are with what their children are doing every day. Try to visit at a time when other parents are picking their children up, and make an effort to chat to them to get their impressions on all aspects of the nursery.
Wherever you are in the country, the nursery will be inspected by OFSTED or the appropriate regulatory body. These reports can be a good starting point to see how the officials grade the nursery, but shouldn’t be the be all and end all in your decision. Reports are widely available online and you can compare the past few inspection reports to see if the nursery is improving or not.
Cleanliness, Hygiene and Resources
Nurseries cannot be expected to be immaculately tidy all of the time, but there should be a general sense of order. There should be plenty of things for the children to play with, and a good outside space is another hugely positive aspect. There should be policies on things like infection control, handwashing after changing nappies or behaviour, and you should be reassured that the staff know what they’re doing and confident with the children. Some nurseries are now using more environmentally friendly resources when looking after children, such as the ranges of re-useable cotton nappies from Bumgenius and Tots Bots as these can reduce running costs and reduce the environmental impact of their nurseries. The fact is that all waste needs to be disposed of and commercial disposal has to be paid for either to the local Council or through a contractor.