Choosing a great day care provider for your child is no mean feat. With options of day nurseries, school-attached nurseries, childminders and local playgroups, to name just a few, finding the right place to suit you and your child can be a bit of a minefield.
To help narrow down your choices, it’s important to ask questions about the services they provide. More than that, it’s crucial that you ask the right questions, to reassure yourself that your child is in the right place.
Day Nurseries: Top Questions To Ask
Here are some critical questions for you to keep in mind when you meet and chat to your potential day care provider:
Caring for your child
- My child has allergies / an illness / other special needs… do you have experience in caring for a child like mine?
- What is your daily routine?
- Can I see a menu?
- Where do the children sleep / play?
The keen-eyed parent can glean some of this information on a visit to the nursery, but on a busy day it might difficult to see everything in practice. Ask the questions outright, and look for confident, consistent answers to get a good idea of how they will care for your child.
Education and achievements
- Will my child have a key worker?
- How often will I get feedback on how they’re doing?
- How do you ensure activities are challenging enough / interesting enough for children of mixed abilities?
Even at a preschool age, it’s important that staff are monitoring your child’s abilities so that any issues are flagged up early and they can be given the support they need. All UK nurseries should be following the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) Statutory Framework, which ensures all children are getting a good broad spectrum of learning opportunities throughout their days at nursery.
Balancing your work and the nursery requirements
- What’s the policy for extra days or hours? How much will it cost?
- What happens if I’m late to pick up my child?
- What’s the policy for sickness? How long does my child need to stay home?
- Do you open all year round, or close in the school holidays?
- Can we book holiday if we want to go away as a family?
- How much notice do we need to give if we want to leave?
Although many day nurseries strive to be as flexible as possible, and understand that balancing work and family is a challenge, they do need to operate in a professional way. The correct ratio of staff to babies and children is a legal requirement, and so unexpected changes can impact on this. Naturally nursery staff also need to be paid, and therefore if you’re late picking up you may incur a charge. Make sure you understand how flexible your chosen nursery can be, and what charges you might expect if you diverge from your normal arrangements.
Legal and technical questions
- What is the ratio of staff to children?
- Can I see your latest OFSTED report?
- How many staff are qualified, and to what level?
- How long have your staff worked here?
For nurseries with babies, the staff should be in a ratio of one adult for every three babies. As the children grow older, the ratios get bigger, going up to one to eight children by the time they are over three years old. Your nursery should know this, and should be quick to answer this question correctly. Glowing OFSTED reports and qualified staff aren’t everything, but can be telling about how professional the day care service really is. Staff turnover is another big clue to the happiness and professionalism of the business, as a great business will work hard to retain good staff.
Finding a great nursery isn’t always easy, but if you’re prepared to do the groundwork and uncover the gems in your area, you’ll be rewarded with a healthy environment for your child where they can grow and develop happily.
Here at Naturally Curious Childcare we think one of the most important questions you should ask is, ‘can I speak to a parent?’ If you can’t get a personal recommendation for a good nursery, perhaps because don’t know other parents in the area, then ask the day nursery to put you in touch with another parent. Their willingness to provide you with a name, is a good indication of a great nursery!