It is always a good idea to start early. Give yourself at least three months or more, if possible, to find the right Nursery to suit you and all the needs of your Child. Some Nurseries have long waiting lists.
First of all ring round a few chosen Nurseries and vet them over the phone. Have a list of questions you want to ask ready. For example, What are your opening hours? What age children do you cater for? Are they split into separate rooms? How many children do you have? How many staff do you have?
If they gave you the answers you wanted to hear then make your decision as to which ones you would like to visit.
When you do visit, ask plenty of questions. We recommend that you visit the Nursery more than once and at different times of the day. The first time on your own so you can focus your complete attention on the Nursery and its provision. Take your Child with you on the second visit so you can see his/her reaction to the provision and how he/she interacts with the staff and other children and observe first-hand activities for your Childs age. The second visit also allows you to ask any questions you forgot to ask on the first visit.
Questions to ask about the nursery itself include - Is the Nursery bright, airy and colourful? Does it look clean? Are there safe indoor and outdoor areas? Is the outdoor play area fenced in and has a variety of safe equipment? Are Children supervised at all times in the toilets and at nappy changing times, do the toilets smell clean, is the changing mat disinfected after each use? Is hand washing practiced, is there liquid soap, is there a towel or are there paper towels to dry hands? Are the room temperatures comfortable? Are healthy snacks and/or meals provided? Is the Kitchen clean? Are surprise visits by Parents encouraged? Ask to read all policies and procedures.
Questions to ask about the staff include - Are the Staff warm and welcoming? Do they greet your Child and discuss your Child with you? Do they treat the Children with respect, flexibility and patience? Do the Staff get down to the Childs level to speak to them? Is there enough staff in the room to meet the needs and serve all the Children? Are Parents ideas welcomed; are there ways Parents can get involved? Will Staff tell you what your Child has been doing every day? Do the Children enjoy being with the Staff? Is there a low Staff turnover? Is there a Key Worker System, how many Children does each Key Worker have?
Questions to ask about the activities your child will be doing include - Are the activities suited to each age group? Is there enough equipment in the room suited to each age group? Are the toys and equipment safe and clean? Is there a balance between play, structured play, story time and rest? Are the toys and equipment kept on low shelving for the children to choose what they want to play with or kept stored away and only a few things got out at a time? Can you see a weekly plan of the activities displayed on the wall? Is Children’s work displayed on the walls? What is the daily routine? Do you see laughing, caring, sharing, and generally happy Children? Will your Child be happy there?
Trust your feelings and observations. In the end it is the Nursery in which you feel most comfortable and your Child seems most positive about.
Once you have selected a Nursery, work closely with the Staff. Talk often and ask about your Child’s progress, what activities he/she enjoys, and how he/she gets along with the other Children to make sure your Child enjoys the best Childcare experience.