Finding a Nursery – what questions to ask

Date: June 11, 2013 Author: admin Categories: Freebies, Real Life, Whats hot 13


If you’ve had a brilliant maternity leave and really enjoyed your time off but its now time to go back to work, then you face the daunting task ( if this is your first child) of finding a nursery for your little one.
Its a minefield of places, information and the fact you want your child to be happy, safe and cared for in a positive environment.

I really felt that stress and so hopefully the following post might help break it down.

Knowing what to look out for, what questions to ask and what to observe.

Heres my list. I would like to hear from you also about your experiences so please use the comment form below.

  1. Outside space – Are the play areas (especially the outdoor play areas) secure?
  2. Activities – what do they focus on?
  3. Toilet procedure/potty training
  4. How long is the waiting list – if its a popular place its likely to have quite a waiting list, sometimes over a year!
  5. Security. What are the security measures of the nursery like? How does the nursery safeguard your child against unauthorized people entering the building?
  6. Are external workmen checked out, no kids left on their own in the same room with them?
  7. What procedures do they have in place to ensure that the children go home only with a person authorized to collect them?
  8. If they have ‘settling in’ sessions (free) with parent before starting.
  9. Costs/fees?
  10. How they discipline the children for each age group (i.e.. sit on the naughty chair/ time out etc.)
  11. Do they provide food and nappies?
  12. Food: How do they manage feeding times with lo’s and what menu do they offer? do they cater for vegetarians?
  13. Average number of trips out of the nursery each month/year
  14. Are trips included in fees or charged separately?
  15. Ask if they have a key worker system? Where the child has a staff member who is main carer and liaises with parents.
  16. How are the parents involved in the nursery? Does the nursery welcome visits from parents and encourage parents to become part of the nursery? Does the nursery have regular parents evenings when their child’s progress can be discussed?
  17. What will happen in the unlikely event of your child being unhappy at nursery?
  18. What is the ratio of staff to babies? the standard ratio throughout nurseries is 1:3 for babies aged up to 2 ….1:4 for 2-3 years and 1:8 for 3 and over (1 being staff to children) Are these ratios maintained during lunch hours and breaks?
  19. Turnover of staff?
  20. How many children to the room?
  21. How many accidents have there been in the past year?
  22. Can they be flexible on days they have the child – notice required (staff permitting)?
  23. What ages are their staff and how long have they worked there?
  24. End of day report, verbal or written?
  25. Staff shift patterns?
  26. Exclusion policy list- illness, temperature etc.?
  27. How many staff are first aid qualified?
  28. Does the nursery feed into a particular first school?

Things to observe and look out for when being shown around

How is the nursery decorated? Children love seeing their work displayed on the walls.  Be cautious if you see a nursery decorated with plenty of posters and drawings, but not of the children’s own work.

Is the environment a happy and positive one? Rather than ask this question, you can observe this yourself quite easily. Do the children smile? Are they keen and enthusiastic? Do they smile a lot at staff and each other? Do the staff give the children plenty of positive reinforcement/praise? Do the staff smile? Is the work achieved by the children valued by the staff and rewarded with encouragement and praise? Is there a happy buzz  in the place? Are the children enthusiastic about the activities they are doing?

What does the nursery want to know from you? This is particularly important. Any nursery that insists your child will settle in with almost no information is one to be wary of. The best UK nurseries will ensure that they have as much information as possible about you and your child to ensure that they can tailor their provision to suit the child coming to nursery as best they can. The more information you can give the nursery, the quicker your child will settle happily at nursery.

Some places are very strict with following Ofsted guidelines and have a strong focus on the development and education side however you are only young once and all of that will happen soon enough at school. Its good to have that education focus as a pre-runner to school but striking a happy medium is best!

Does it have any awards of excellence, especially those endorsed by the government such as Ofsted? or Investors In Children Kitemark such as NDNA’s Quality Counts? You can check the nurseries Ofsted Inspection reports by visiting the Ofsted website here:

Half the staff must hold relevant childcare qualifications such as NVQ Childcare Level 2 or equivalent. One staff member should have a First Aid certificate and all of the supervisors must have an NVQ Childcare Level 3 or equivalent.

Also when you ring to arrange an appointment, look out for having to arrange a specific time to visit ( they might be putting on that extra effort for your visit). Places they say you can come along anytime are comfortable in the fact that they have nothing to hide!

Hope this helps! Let me know your thoughts readers :-)


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