I am very lucky to have family members that pretty much biting my hand off to look after Parker. We have never required childcare outside of Parker’s grandparents which has allowed us both to work without having the burden of childcare costs.
However, in preparation for school next year (aaahhhh!) he needs to be interacting with a lot more short people.
Nursery, look out, Parker’s coming.
Choosing a nursery was a much bigger task than I had first anticipated. There are the basic considerations:
- All staff should be well trained and suitably qualified.
- Safe and clean premises with friendly welcoming staff
- Great indoor and outdoor space with a range of toys/equipment to meet the developmental needs of your child.
- Well planned system of care providing a variety of activities for your child.
- Disciplinary procedures that align with your own beliefs.
- A ratio of staff to children that follows the government guidelines which are:
under two year olds — one member of staff to three children
two to three year olds — one member of staff to four children
three to five year olds — one member of staff to eight children.
- Cost and what is included within that cost e.g food etc
- Location – will you be able to get there after work without paying any late fees?
The above recommendations are great but when you embark upon your search for the perfect nursery you will realise that it is a little more complicated than a checklist.
The first nursery we visited was deemed ‘good’ by Ofsted. So my first question was why isn’t it outstanding?The answer to this ,given by management, was that it was a young nursery and it still had a few things to tweak.
On entering the nursery I was hit with a barrage of noise. Having never entered a nursery before I was not sure if this was normal. The building itself was a converted house and had a very homely feel.
We were given a tour and the purpose of each room was explained to us from the art room, to the dress up room to the play areas for different age groups. When entering the pre school room Parker was welcomed not just by the staff but also by the children after being encouraged by their teacher.
I asked many questions and the nursery did feel like a space for children to learn through exploration rather than regiment. They explained their policy of positive discipline and their need for constant communication between carer and parent. The manager leading our tour also made an effort to interact with Parker throughout.
When the tour was over, information was given on the government scheme offering free childcare to children aged 3 years and up and off we went, eventually, Parker did not want to leave. I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t know if the noise I had encountered was due to a lack of organisation or due to the children feeling free to express themselves.
The second nursery we visited was given an outstanding rating by Ofsted. I was very excited. The pictures displayed on their website showed the facilities to be excellent and it was very popular within the local community.
We entered the building and…..silence.
The children were very much kept in their separate spaces, everything was very very organised and the young lady leading our tour seemed very knowledgable, almost academic on the subject. She was professional and efficient and was very focussed on giving me the information required.
We entered the area of the pre-school group and I was informed of the very structured day that the children experienced to facilitate their learning. On paper that sounds great, I obviously want my child to be educated but from next year he will be embarking upon a 14 year minimal stint of disciplined education, should now not be the perfect time to learn through play?? Would more of a child led learning process be better suited to my child? I queried this out loud, the response was one of mild shock, and I was reminded that they had a waiting list.
Once our tour was over, and no other members of staff had made an effort with Parker and no children had been introduced, we left the almost silent nursery very easily.
The third nursery that we visited was also rated outstanding and it seemed pleasant but when Parker went to play no other children joined him and I had a terrible vision of him being on his own all the time (irrational I know). They did have a great garden but we only got to see it through a window.
They also had a system of awarding the government free hours only if you paid for an additional fifteen. This annoyed me. A) because we don’t need extra hours and b) because to me it smacks of money grabbing…. but maybe that’s the Scottish in me. Parker didn’t want to go in but he was happy to leave.
So I had a think and back we went to the first. We rang the door bell and Parker was in before they had time to say hello. This time they asked if Parker would like to play for half an hour with the pre-school group. They didn’t need to ask twice.
Eventually the noise had gone and all I could hear were children interacting.
We have now signed up to our ‘noisy’ nursery. We often see staff members out on the high street and they are as quick to say hello as Parker is to them. He tells people about his friends at nursery and we haven’t even begun our settling in days yet!
So my advice to any mums looking for their perfect nursery is that it probably doesn’t exist as nothing is good enough for our little ones. However, read the guidelines above, do the checklist and after that it’s all about your child. How does your child react when they visit? How do the staff react to your child? You will know in your gut, not very scientific, but you will know.