Entrusting your baby to a stranger may seem to go against all your natural parental instincts. Understandably, lots of mums and dads feel very nervous about handing their bundle of joy over to a nursery and want to make sure they find the very best care for their little one.
With so many choices of nursery available in most towns, especially in Farnborough, Aldershot and Woking where our nurseries are situated, parents may feel overwhelmed when trying to pick the right one. But don’t despair, because there are some easy things to look out for which will tell you that you’ve found a great nursery.
1. Happy, relaxed children
One of the best markers of a good nursery is a bunch of happy, cheerful and content children. Of course children cry, so don’t expect there never to be a grizzling baby in a good nursery. But as a group, you should be able to see that they’re having fun, making friends and enjoying their time at the nursery.
Children crying should not be ignored, and conflicts should be resolved quickly with appropriate guidance from the staff. A room full of smiling, happy faces is everything you could ask for from any nursery for your little one.
2. A good range of age appropriate activities
All nurseries operating in the UK should be following the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum – EYFS. This outlines what children should be working towards between birth and five years old, and ensures activities are included that are stimulating and challenging for all age groups.
This might include things like:
- Painting, sticking, cutting and gluing,
- Messy play including sand, jelly, shaving foam and water,
- Story sharing, singing and dancing,
- Construction blocks, play dough and other building activities,
- Cooking, cleaning and ‘helping’ the staff.
To the untrained eye, of course, this is all just play. But in their early years this is how children learn, so look for a nursery that combines a good range of structured play with opportunities for child led discovery too.
3. Motivated, qualified staff
At least 50 per cent of the staff in the nursery should hold appropriate Early Years qualifications to at least a level 2 standard. Some nurseries have much higher numbers of qualified staff, but don’t be put off if half the workers do not hold any certification. As long as certified Early Years workers are present, you can be confident they will support the unqualified staff to ensure children are happy and well cared for.
More important than qualifications however, is to have people in the nursery who truly love their job and genuinely like spending time with children. Look for friendly, warm people who are happy to get down on the floor and play. Talk to staff, and see how you click with them.
4. Healthy, nutritious food
Many nurseries will provide a meal for your child if they are staying over lunchtime. Others may ask you to pack a lunch, but will provide snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon for your child. Ask to see the menu, or visit during a mealtime to see what sort of food is being served. Check how often the menu changes, so your child doesn’t get bored with the same food every week.
If your child is on a special diet or suffers with intolerances, make sure you are confident that the nursery workers understand what their needs are and are happy to take care of them. Check what other allergies or medical problems they are dealing with, so that you feel comfortable putting your trust in them. For more on how nurseries manage food allergies read this blog post.
5. Happy parents
One of the best signs of a great nursery is how happy other parents are. If you visit at a drop off or pick up time you will soon spot how engaged parents are with the provider. Good relationships between staff and parents ensure that there is excellent communication about your child’s needs, and any issues that might affect them.
Most nurseries will be happy to put you in touch with parents if you want to find out what they think of the setting. Or look to see if the nursery has a Facebook page and get a feel for how enthusiastic the parents are about the nursery from their online activity.
Of course, there is no better recommendation for a good nursery than from someone you know and trust, so speak to friends and family to find out where they would send their children.
Choosing a nursery can feel like a minefield, but when you watch out for these five markers of an excellent nursery, you know you can’t go far wrong. Trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to go back again, and again, until you’re 100% confident that this is the right nursery for you and your baby.