The first day of nursery can be scarier for parents than it is for children. It’s hard to believe your little one is already heading out into the world! When you’re dealing with separation anxiety, the last thing you need is a bad feeling about the nursery school.
The good news is, it’s easy to find a nursery where your child will be happy and well-cared for. You just need to do a little research and make sure you ask the right questions. Check out our list of things to keep in mind, so you can rest a little easier when the big day arrives.
How to choose the right nursery school: Ask Around, Read Up and Take a Look
Start by asking your parent friends for recommendations – they’re sure to have a few insider tips. If you don’t have many parent friends, have a browse online and read the reviews. Remember, though, that what works for others might not work for you, so take every review with a grain of salt.
For a trustworthy overview, be sure to read the nursery’s Ofsted inspection report. Any nursery school should provide you with their Ofsted report as soon as you ask. It will tell you all about what they’re doing well and what still needs improvement.
Next, make a shortlist of nursery schools to visit. It’s important to visit several so you can compare and contrast. Be sure to visit during sessions so you can observe while things are busy. Ideally, visit each nursery more than once, at different times of day.
How to choose the right nursery school: Evaluate the Facilities
From the moment you arrive at a nursery school, you can assess whether it’s a safe space. Is there a secure gate? Are there safeguarding procedures to ensure children can’t run out and strangers can’t get in? Are the building and the equipment secure, clean and in good condition?
Consider what type of equipment is available. Children should have plenty of options for diverse activities, from water and sand play to books and toys which help with literacy and numeracy. All equipment should be well-labelled and easily accessible. There should be plenty of it, too!
Ask nursery staff which activities are on offer and how your child’s day will be structured. If there is an outdoor play area, ask how often children can access it. Outdoor play is really important for little ones, so make this a priority if you can.
How to choose the right nursery school: Review the Policies
The standard of care your child receives is just as important as the facilities. The right nursery school will have carefully-considered guidelines for every situation. Ask them how they deal with emergencies. What’s their policy on illness – which diseases would keep a child at home? How do they handle good and bad behaviour?
Find out about the nursery’s drop-off and pick-up process. Can you stay with your child and gradually leave them by themselves for longer periods of time? Or do you need to leave them alone immediately? For children who have never played in large groups or children with confidence issues, a gradual phase-in can make all the difference.
Also, make sure there is a clear and easy way to track your child’s progress. Does the nursery have a system for recording the milestones your child achieves? Is there a procedure for giving and receiving feedback?
How to choose the right nursery school: Get a Feel for the People
If you don’t get a good impression from nursery staff, that’s a huge red flag. Staff should be welcoming and friendly, with ready answers to all your questions. Of course, they should be caring and attentive to the children! They should also be well-trained, so make sure you ask them about their qualifications. And what about the children? Do they seem happy, engaged and attentive? That tells you a lot.
Choosing the right nursery school isn’t an exact science. Sometimes a nursery ticks all the boxes but something just doesn’t feel right. Listen to your instincts and keep checking in with your child. Our guide is here to point you in the right direction but in the end, remember to trust your gut!
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