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Top 5 tips to help you choose the best nursery for your child

Updated: Jul 4

With over 70% of parents in England relying on some form of childcare for their 0-4 year old children [1], selecting the right nursery for your child is a decision that weighs heavily on many families.


It’s a big decision, to choose the best nursery for you, your child and family. It's a decision you need to consider carefully. 


At Lucky Beans Childcare, we understand the importance of this decision and will support parents in their selection process. 


In this article, we delve into the essential aspects to consider, from identifying the most suitable childcare options in your area to the pivotal questions you should be asking. Knowing what you are looking for will make this process less stressful and fill you with confidence; you’ll have the insights to choose a nurturing environment where your child can thrive. 


Quick tip: If you're looking for the best nurseries in Norbury, Tooting, Streatham and Balham, you've come to the right place - check out your local Lucky Beans nurseries, and book to come visit!

Children playing at nursery

How to choose the best nursery & childcare providers in your local area


TIP 1 - make a list

It’s never too early to start thinking about choosing a childcare/nursery setting for your child. Many settings can get booked up months, even years in advance!


Start with making a list of all the local settings, considering the location of the nursery ensures it's conveniently located either close to home, work or family. This not only makes drop-offs and pick-ups easier but also comes in handy during any emergencies.


Search engines are the best place to start, as well as online directories such as childcare.co.uk, parent forums, and community boards. 


TIP 2 - Reviews & recommendations

These platforms and search engines, such as Google and childcare.co.uk, often provide insightful reviews and ratings, giving you a quick glimpse of the nurseries. 


Reaching out to other parents in your community, baby groups/classes, and health professionals can offer personal recommendations; talking to someone who has used the provisions provides you with a great sense of how the settings are run, what the communication is like, and how did their children settle and progress. 


TIP 3 - visit the settings

Contact the childcare/nurseries and book a visit. Visiting potential nurseries is a crucial step in the selection process. 


But what exactly should you look for during these visits? Take the time to look at:

  • The cleanliness of all areas including the main rooms, outside, toilets, and the kitchen if you are able to 

  • The safety measures around the settings; are the doors and gates open/closed/locked? Can the children easily access resources?  

  • The overall atmosphere; are the children engaged in their activities/playing? How do the staff interact with the children? Is the environment stimulating and well-organised? Is it calm or chaos? 


Not only will these observations help you identify whether a nursery aligns with your expectations and values, but they will also give you a sense of ease of settling for your child, will they be nurtured and cared for as you care for your child.


It’s also a good idea to take your child with you during visits; you’ll get a lot of feedback from your child.

  • How are they behaving and what’s their body language telling you? (are they clinging to you or do they want to explore?) 

  • How did the staff greet your child? 

  • Are there activities and resources available that your child would enjoy?  


Children laughing at nursery

TIP 4 - Compare the settings’ pros & cons

Visiting a number of childcare/nursery settings can be difficult to remember which one was which.


Consider creating a comparison table of the settings you are interested in. This table could include categories such as location, fees, staff qualifications, Ofsted ratings, and parent testimonials. 


Setting

Location

Fees

Qualifications

No of children

Ofsted rating

Reviews

Notes

A

10 miles

£70

Level 3&4


Excellent

4 *


B

5 miles

£65

Level 2&3


Good

5 *


Table for example use only


For instance, Nursery A may have a higher Ofsted rating and better staff qualifications but is slightly more expensive than Nursery B, which is closer to home and highly recommended by other parents. A comparison table can help in weighing the pros and cons, making it easier to select a nursery that best meets your child's needs and your family's circumstances.


TIP 5 - ask plenty of questions!

Asking the right questions when communicating and visiting potential childcare/nursery settings will let the settings understand that you know exactly what you are looking for - the best childcare/nursery for your child, and how important this is for you to get right. 


Here’s a quick list of questions for you to ask potential childcare/nursery settings during initial contact, during visits, or within communication.


You could even save them in your notes on your phone so you have them to hand!

  • What curriculum or educational philosophies do you follow?

  • How many children will there be in the class?

  • How are individual needs provided for? e.g. if a child needs additional support

  • Are there set activities planned during the day or do you allow children to freely choose?

  • What is your daily routine?

  • Can children have a nap if they wish?

  • What is your policy on nappy changing/toilet training? Do I need to provide nappies/wipes and leave spare clothes here, or bring some in every day? 

  • Do you provide a hot meal? What if my child is a fussy eater, how will you cater for this?

  • How do you support children who cannot settle or things are a bit overwhelming for them?

  • How much outdoor play do the children have? Do they play outdoors in all weather? Do I need to provide any additional clothing e.g. wellies, sun cream etc

  • What is your discipline policy? If we are following a particular discipline method at home, will you continue with this at the setting? 

  • What’s the procedure if my child is unwell, or becomes unwell at the setting?

  • What is the staff turnaround like? How long has my child’s key worker been employed here? 

  • What are your procedures during emergencies? e.g. fire evacuation, health emergencies, accidents 

  • Who can pick up my child? What happens if I need a different adult to collect my child at the last minute?


How do you know if it’s a good childcare setting/nursery? 

Yes, the look of the setting is important, but it's important to look beyond the decor and displays and assess the quality of interaction between staff and children and the overall environment.


A nurturing, stimulating, and secure environment is crucial for your child's development and well-being. 

Look for a setting that promotes cognitive, emotional, and social growth through play.


During the early years, learning through play is the most natural, enjoyable and advanced method that will allow your child to grow and develop their curiosity and a love for learning.  


Another aspect to consider is the setting's policies and values to ensure they align with your parenting style.


Communication is key; a childcare/nursery setting that values open and ongoing dialogue with parents can significantly enhance your child's experience and ease any concerns you might have. 


Remember, the goal is to find a setting where your child can thrive, feel safe, and be happy.



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