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Choosing a nursery

Choosing a nursery

If you’re one of many parents pondering how to choose the right nursery for your little one, Becky Daines has been on a fact-finding mission to help you…

A question frequently asked among parents is ‘What’s the best nursery?’ It’s an impossible question to answer, as what’s important to one parent isn’t necessarily the same for another. And while one child may flourish at a particular setting, another may not have the same experience.

A friend of mine owns a nursery, so I asked what she thought parents should consider when looking at nurseries. Here’s what she said:

“Firstly, check their Ofsted grade online. Then, ratios of children to staff in room – Ofsted set the following as minimums: 1:3 for children under two years; 1:4 for two-year-olds; 1:8 for children three to four years. Ask about staff qualifications: Ofsted require at least one Level 3 member of staff in each ‘room’, with 50% of the rest of the staff at Level 2 or above. How many first aiders do they have on site?”

“Look at the age groups within each room, is it mixed? Think about the activities and toys for each child – are they suitable for your child’s age? Is your child still crawling and mixed with walkers – is safety an issue? You could ask when the children change rooms – is it with their year group or when their funding starts?”

“Questions to ask regarding sessions and funding: do they accept 30 hours funding? If you’re planning on using it, you need to know they accept it? Do they offer set session times or are they flexible? Do they offer shift pattern and allow extra sessions if needed?”


“Talk to the nursery about routines and if they’ll follow yours. Do they give a snack at certain times, do they offer a cooked lunch, or do you send a packed lunch? Ask about key workers and learning journals; how they record your child’s progress and keep you informed. Look at the number of children in each room – nurseries vary in size, some children thrive in busy nurseries, whereas others are more suited to a smaller, quieter environment. Ask if your child will participate in any outings, forest school or in activities provided by a third party. Will your child have his or her own space, coat peg, tray etc?”

“Think about security – are there obvious measures in place? Some nurseries have CCTV within the building as well as outside to check who is collecting your child. Ask about pick-ups and how they ensure the child is being collected by the right person.”


Don’t forget to ask the admin questions – when they invoice, is there a registration fee, do they have an open door policy or do you need to make an appointment? What are their policies on allergies and child illness, holidays and even sun cream application! Do they offer taster sessions?”

Most importantly visit the nursery, walk around and see the children in situ – are they playing and happy? Are the staff engaging with the children? Every parent will have positives and negatives to say about the nursery they use and those they have visited, but don’t let other’s experiences sway you – decide for yourself and trust your instinct – parents know best!

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