Choosing a nursery for your child can be a tricky decision, with Gloucestershire boasting an array of childcare options from national nursery brands to independent pre-prep schools - and smaller, more intimate settings, too.
Helping parents make the right choice for them and their child, SoGlos shares some top tips for picking a nursery from the experts at Little King's in Gloucester.
Consider your requirements beforehand
The right childcare setting for your family will depend on your individual circumstances, so think about what you're looking for in a nursery and consider what is most important for you and your child before you start your search. For example, do you need full-time or part-time care? Does the location suit your schedule? Does the nursery have on-site parking? There's lots to think about!
Arrange some visits
Once you have a shortlist in place, it's a good idea to contact the nurseries and arrange some visits. Seeing a variety of different settings can help you decide what you do and don’t like. You can also establish whether you think your child will be happier in a larger setting with lots of activity, or a smaller, more nurturing environment.
Pay attention to first impressions
First impressions are particularly important - and a warm welcome can provide a really positive start to your relationship with a nursery. Observe whether the staff are friendly and engaging; see how they interact with the children; check out the facilities; make sure the building is safe, clean and secure; and ask yourself if this is an environment you can see your child thriving in.
Ask lots of questions
Make a list of questions and ask the
same ones at each visit to help you compare each nursery and decide
which best suits your needs. Some things to ask about include what qualifications staff have, how the nursery recruits new staff, whether your child will have their own key worker, and a breakdown of what the fees include.
Establish good communication
Going to nursery is often the first time parents will be leaving their children in someone else's care, so it's natural to feel some anxiety around that. To help relieve any worries, it's important to know you'll be kept informed about your child’s learning and development. Find out how the nursery communicates with parents, what feedback you can expect to receive about your child’s day and how frequently it'll be in touch.
Check out the menu
A balanced, nutritious diet is
vital for children’s growth and development, so most parents will want to
know what meals and snacks are provided for their child while they're at nursery. Establish whether the food is prepared fresh on site each day, if fresh fruit is available at snack time and if all dietary requirements and food allergies can be catered for safely.
Ensure there are opportunities for outdoor play
Most children love to play outdoors, with outdoor play and learning also offering great opportunities for children to develop independence and resilience, as well as improving decision making and language skills. Check out if the nursery you're considering has outdoor play areas and how often children can play outside. It's also good to find out if there's a Forest School setting on site, or one nearby which the nursery arranges visits to.
Take a look at a typical day
It can be difficult to imagine what your child will be doing all day, so it's good for parents to get an idea of what a typical day at nursery will look like and what activities are on the timetable. A well-structured, diverse program is key for a child's development - and a major step in prepping them to start school - so making sure the nursery is providing a broad range of activities which are physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally engaging is important. Check out extra-curricular options, such as dance and sports, too.
Support your child while they settle in
Starting nursery can be daunting for both parents and children, but it's also a really exciting time in your child’s development. Making sure they're well supported as they settle into their new environment can be crucial to their long-term happiness, so it's worth finding out if your child can attend a taster session before committing to a nursery to see how your child responds to the staff and the environment. Once you've chosen a nursery, find out how they'll support your child through the settling in process to make sure they make a smooth transition to this new stage in their life.