Babies and toddlers Early Years

How to Choose the Right Childcare Setting for Your Child

When it comes to choosing the right childcare setting for your little one, there are a number of things to consider so it can feel like a difficult task.

You want to make sure that your child can thrive there and be happy, but how can you ensure that it is a good fit? How can you get feedback about how your child is doing? What steps would they take if your little one isn’t settling in very well? 

These are all concerns that are common, without even thinking about the activities that they run, the food that they provide, and how well rated the setting is. So to avoid the overwhelm, here are some of the things to look out for and to ask when you go to visit a nursery like Bullwell Nursery, to help to make your decision easier. Is there anything else that you would add to the list?

Ask around

When it comes to making a decision linked to the right childcare setting for your child, asking around can provide you with a wealth of information that you wouldn’t ordinarily find in the public domain. People’s experiences can give you a genuine insight into how good or poor a childcare setting can be. Do remember, though, that people often shout louder when they have something to moan about rather than when things have gone brilliantly.

Create a shortlist

Having a shortlist of some local childcare settings is a good place to start. A lot of information you can get from their websites, such as their Ofsted rating and details of previous inspections, but it can be a good idea to call to ask questions before visiting. Some of the things to make a note of when arranging your shortlist is first of all, what hours the nursery has. If you’re looking for a full-time place but they only do mornings, then it won’t work well for you. Cost is another consideration, and are the charges per hour, per session, or per week? You should also double-check if they have any spaces available for your child. If they don’t and have a very long waiting list, then there is no point in adding to your shortlist.

Visit your shortlist – and find the right childcare setting

By visiting your shortlist, which should be at least three settings, with your child in tow, you will be able to get a good idea of how they are run and if they are similar or different. Some of the things to look out for are:

  • What qualifications the staff have
  • How the children attending look; are they happy and seem to be busy with play?
  • How clean the premises is and what safety precautions they have in place, such as locking doors and escorting you out of the premises
  • The diversity of the setting; do they have a range of toys, games, and books that suit all cultures and backgrounds?
  • Happiness of the staff and how welcoming they are to your child

Some potential questions to ask on your visit:

  • There are minimum legal child to adult ratio requirements, what are theirs?
  • What are the qualifications and experience of the staff?
  • Is there a key worker scheme for children?
  • What are the setting’s policies around discipline and managing behaviour?
  • What is provided, such as snacks and nappies, or should you supply those?
  • What does a typical session look like, such as indoor play, outdoor play, walks outside, snack, and so on?

Visiting the setting really does make a difference as you can see how it all works and get a feel for the place. Although going with your ‘gut’ instinct is important as a parent, there are some musts that you should check and ask about. 

How I found the right childcare setting for my daughters

I remember my first visit to a nursery as a new parent and being horrified when the lady showing us round almost incessantly talked about what Ofsted thought of the setting. For me, as a teacher, the judgement, while important, is not the be-all and end-all. Calling all of the rooms ‘classrooms’ really irked me, too. I understand that nursery education is exactly that, but I felt that it was way too formal for a nine-month-old baby to be allocated a classroom.

In the end, I opted for a local nursery that was a small setting and that I felt would meet the needs of my daughters. I had a few grumbles, particularly when a new manager took over the day-to-day running of the place and when a new nursery was purchased. However, overall, both of my daughters loved their time there, and both left ready to start school.

Good luck with your search for the right childcare setting for your little one. Don’t rush these things, but do be sure to start looking early enough as many places are popular and have waiting lists.

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