This is a sensitive topic for me, but one I can no longer keep on avoiding. I’ve kept my head buried in the sand for long enough, ducked all the questions, and ignored every warning about ‘looking early’ to avoid disappointment. The first nursery we went to see, I didn’t take seriously at all and just went through the motions. There was still so much time left of my maternity leave and as much as I missed having adult conversation, exercising my brain, and making an effort to look presentable when leaving the house, the thought of going back to work and leaving my precious little baby in the hands of complete strangers was gut wrenching.
But I have to get a grip, come back to reality, and remember that spending time at nursery will be good for him, and his social and mental development. If this is really happening, it’s time to get serious and put these nurseries through some rigorous testing and interrogation. So I have compiled a list below of everything I could think of under the sun, to ask the nurseries during our visits.
- What qualifications do the staff hold (e.g., NVQ level)?
- What background checks does the nursery conduct when recruiting staff (e.g., enhanced DBS checks)?
- What is the staff to baby ratio (i.e., how many babies per key worker)
- What is the nursery’s temporary / supply staff policy?
- What arrangements are made if staff members are unexpectedly ill or absent?
Health and Safety
- How many of the staff are trained in paediatric first aid and how many will be on site at all times?
- Does the nursery administer medicine if required?
- What is the nursery’s protocol for medical emergencies?
- How are the days structured and what is the general routine?
- Where do the babies sleep for nap time?
- What type of activities do the babies engage in?
- Do the children have any time set aside to play outside?
- What type of equipment and facilities does the nursery have?
- Do parents need to supply anything to the nursery (e.g., nappies, wipes, blankets etc.)?
- What type of food is served, is this freshly prepared and served on site, and is it healthy / organic? Perhaps even ask to see the kitchen if they don’t mind.
- How often are the nursery and toys cleaned and do they have a shoes off policy in the baby room?
Development and Progress
- Does the nursery arrange regular parent staff meetings to discuss the development and progress of your baby?
- Does the nursery provide daily reports or feedback, and what method of communication is used to deliver this as well as any other news?
- How does the nursery prepare the children when it’s time to move to another room (when they’re a bit older). Is there a transition period?
- What is the age range of babies and how many will there be in the room?
- Are babies in a separate room to toddlers?
- Is there a settling in period at the beginning where you gradually build up the hours your baby spends at the nursery?
- What is the nursery’s policy on potty training (this is more for when your baby is older).
- How does the nursery deal with children hitting / pushing or other anti-social behaviour?
- Does the nursery file incident reports?
- What is the nursery’s Ofsted rating? You should be able to source a copy of the inspection report online as this will be publicly available.
- Are there any specific dates when the nursery is closed (e.g., during the holiday seasons)?
The list above covers a lot of bases when it comes to the practical side of things. However, sometimes it does just come down to your gut feeling too, which you should NEVER ignore because it’s very important. Even if the nursery looks good on paper, you have to feel happy and comfortable that it’s the right environment for your little one.
For example, the nursery could have a state of the art building and facilities, but do the children look happy and secure? Are the staff friendly, kind and nurturing? Do you get a good feeling from the nursery manager, and the place overall? The key thing is to observe how the staff interact with the children and whether they look happy. Do the rooms feel calm with all the children happily occupied? Is the setting right? When it comes down to it, trust your instincts and you’ll probably make the right choice.