We asked London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) for some tips on choosing a nursery for your little one:
Speak to friends with children in nurseries and your health visitor, local children’s centres etc. Online directories (e.g. daynurseries.co.uk), parenting sites, nurseries’ websites and social media are also helpful.
Write a check-list
Create a check-list before you visit so you can ask the same questions at each visit and then easily compare after.
Visit multiple nurseries
Visiting a few different nurseries will help you to compare and get a feel for which one is right for your child. You can learn a lot just by calling to book a visit. Were they friendly and professional? Answered all your questions? Accommodating with dates and times? During your visit make sure you look at all rooms, not just the one your child will start in. This will give you a good feel for the nursery and how children move through it as they get older.
Give yourself plenty of time to research, visit and choose a nursery. Some nurseries have long waiting lists so check this as early as possible.
Trust your instinct
You know your child best so trust your feelings and instincts to help you choose a nursery they will thrive in.
What to look for
Clean, safe and stimulating environment
The nursery environment is crucial to your child’s happiness and learning. Is it clean, bright and airy? Well laid-out? What resources/activities are available? Too many toys and displays is distracting – children should be able to make their mark on the space. Look for natural materials such as wood or hessian rather than too much plastic. Ask about outdoor space and if this isn’t available check there are regular visits to local parks.
Happy and well-qualified staff
Look for fun, friendly, and approachable staff. Find out how they’re encouraging the children’s learning and development. Ask about qualifications, staff training, ratios and the key worker system. Observe the children currently at the nursery – do they seem happy and well cared for?
Ask to see a sample menu, and whether food is prepared freshly on-site each day. Check that dietary requirements will be met. If the nursery doesn’t have a chef, do they provide healthy snacks and teas? Breakfast?
It goes without saying that your child’s safety is priority. During your visit ask about their safety precautions. Answers should cover age appropriate toys and equipment, staff ratios, risk assessments, cleaning procedures and safeguarding policies.
Connection with the community
Children should feel part of their local community and understand their place within it. Ask how often children on outings and where they go. For example, our nursery on Whitfield Street (Fitzrovia Community Nursery) make regular visit to the local Fitzrovia Community Centre.
Partnerships with parents
You should receive daily updates about your child’s day and regular communication on their development and progress. How and when does this happen? Are take-home activities provided to develop learning at home?
Approach to learning
All early years providers follow the government’s Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) so the nursery should explain this and how children’s development is recorded and planned for. Ask how activities in the nursery are chosen. Are the children involved?
The London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) are the UK’s largest childcare social enterprise with 38 nurseries across London, 11 of which have been rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. LEYF provides award winning care and education to children under 5 and were recently named ‘Nursery Group of the Year 2015’ by Nursery Management Today. They write regularly, sharing tips and advice on all things early years and child development from their expert nursery staff.
If you are looking for flexible childcare for just a couple of mornings a week, or would like to try a creche out for the first time, you can also book in to one of Bloomsbury Beginnings’ Parents Workspace sessions in WC1