Every child deserves the best possible start in life and support to fulfil their potential. A child’s experience in the early years has a major impact on their life chances.
A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in its own right, and it provides the foundation for children to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up. When parents choose to use a nursery they need to know the provision will keep their child safe and help them to thrive.
I have worked at Tops Day Nurseries for more than 24 years, 18 years of those as a nursery manager, and I have shown many prospective parents around the nursery with a view to enrolling their child. Some parents are very laid back about the whole process and more than happy to leave their child the following day and others are unsure, nervous and have no idea what they need to know or what they should ask. Choosing a nursery can be difficult, and it’s important to find one that suits your family and your child. I would always recommend viewing a few to see what’s on offer before you decide; I also strongly believe a nursery should have an open door policy to prospective parents.
Drop in: You should be able to view the nursery at a time that suits you without notifying the nursery of your arrival. It’s important to get a feel for the nursery and the best way to do that is drop in, unannounced.
Policies and procedures: All day nurseries should be registered and inspected by the appropriate authority and the registration certificate should be on display. A nursery should have clearly established policies and procedures in place from administering medication to dealing with emergencies. All the policies should be made available to parents to view and if requested taken away to read.
Staff: Talk to nursery practitioners when you visit the nursery, they are going to be an important person during your child’s time at nursery and it’s important you feel comfortable and confident leaving your child in their care. Some staff will be qualified and some may be working towards a qualification. Qualifications are important, but equally important are the feelings you get from the practitioners: Are they caring, alert and do they communicate well with you and your child? All practitioners should have the relevant checks completed prior to working in the nursery and if you want to ask the manager to confirm this just ask. You are thinking of leaving your child with people you don’t know so you must feel comfortable and confident doing this.
Activities: Children learn and develop through play; the nursery practitioners should be providing play experiences that enable each child to expand their knowledge and skills to support their individual learning and development. The nursery should have a wide range of age appropriate toys and activities including sand, water and messy play.
Outdoor space: A nursery should have an outdoor area and ensure children go outside every day. If a nursery doesn’t have an outdoor space, practitioners should take children on regular visits to local places like the park and places of interest. Even if it’s raining or cold when you visit the nursery, ask to see the outside area and hopefully you will find some children having fun splashing in puddles!
After the visit: When you leave the nursery it is important to reflect on the visit and make some notes to ensure you have all the information you need when you make your final decision. A few questions to ask yourself might be: did you and your child enjoy the visit? Was the nursery friendly, relaxed and warm? Did the staff respond and communicate with you and your child? Did the nursery appear clean, safe and secure? How would you rate the nursery environment, both indoors and out? Did the nursery make you feel welcome, confident and relaxed? What are the fees and what do they cover? Would you be happy leaving your child at the nursery? Finally, never be afraid to visit the nursery again or contact them if you have further questions.
A good quality nursery will be happy to answer your questions or welcome you back for a further visit. Choosing a nursery is an important decision. If you are not happy with any aspect ask for more information or look elsewhere. You have to know you’ve made the right decision for you and your child. To visit any of our nurseries across the south of England, please drop in unannounced and if the manager can show you around they will. Alternatively, give our nurseries a call and book in a time to visit us. We look forward to meeting you soon!
Maria Thomas-Luker, Administration Director, Tops Day Nurseries