From the impact on your finances to handy insider tips, work out whether a nursery is the best childcare choice for your family.
Crafts. Music. Listening to The Gruffalo being read aloud. Day nurseries offer your baby or toddler a variety of activities, including the chance to have free play as well as nap and feed. Plus, it’s a great opportunity for him to be around other kids.So, when it comes to choosing childcare, could a day nursery be the best option for you and your baby?
What will a nursery offer?
A nursery can care for children from birth and should teach children in groups according to their age. Many are open from 7am until 7pm, so great for your work hours. There’ll be one member of staff to every three children while your child’s under two, and one to every four kids when he’s between two and three, so he’ll get plenty of attention.
Why it works
It gives your baby’s pre-school life great structure. A nursery should follow the Early Years Foundation Stage, preparing your child for school. ‘Your child will do activities that teach her different skills, such as painting, dancing, singing and cooking,’ says Georgina Walsh, a psychologist who coaches parents on finding childcare. ‘Playing with other babies will help with her confidence and social skills.’
Can you afford it?
A full-time day nursery place is typically £177 a week for a child under two. However in London, prices can be as much as £70 a day.
Look out for Ofsted ratings.
Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) will check how the nursery is managed, how well the children are provided for and the impact this has on development. ‘If a nursery doesn’t have a high rating, it’s worth asking why,’ says Georgina. ‘It might be due to something which doesn’t worry you, such as disorganisation with paperwork.’ Find inspection reports for your local nurseries at Ofsted.
When you meet the nursery staff, ask about their staff turnover. ‘This can often be high in nurseries with young staff on low salaries and isn’t great for children who can become attached to a nursery nurse who then leaves,’ says Vicki Scott, a nursery nurse, midwife and baby confidence coach.
Will you have leeway?
You also need to work out just how strict the nursery will be – with you. ‘Find out what kind of illness policy the nursery has. Some will not accept your child if she has a fever, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis or impetigo, for example,’ says Georgina. Others may call you at work if your child has a temperature. ‘For working mothers, illness is one of the biggest drawbacks to using a day nursery,’ says Vicki. If your child is unwell she can’t go in, and potentially neither can you.