Choosing a Nursery – Made Easy

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Its’ an important decision choosing where you want your children to go to nursery and there are many factors to look out for, but the most important one is to let your intuition be your guide and to look at number of nurseries before you choose.

Here are some Positive Parents tips for choosing a Nursery that I hope will, reassure you and give you some practical pointers to relaxing and trusting the wonderful work that nurseries around the UK provide.

  • It’s really important to do your own research  – go and visit many different nurseries so you get a real feel for them – and go at different time so the day too to see their routines and not just at Open Days when everything looks lovely.
  • Talk to other Mums and Dads about nurseries in your local area as they will have first hand experience and will be delighted to help you.
  • Make sure the Nursery is Ofsted registered and inspected – and ask to read a copy of their last report if you want to.
  • Look at the staff, the atmosphere, the facilities and the children – do they seem happy, relaxed and well cared for?  Is it CLEAN, CARING, SAFE AND STIMULATING – is there structure, routines, fun and happy relaxed learning going on?
  • Go and explore a government sponsored site where you can search for all the registered childminders, nurseries and schools in the UK. You can also look up Ofsted reports and find a guide to benefits that may be available to help with the cost of childcare.
  • Check the qualifications of the staff. Half the staff should be qualified and at least one member should have a first-aid certificate.

You should make sure that staff-to-child ratios are always:

1:3 for ages 0-2

1:4 for ages 2-3

1:8 for ages 3-5

Students or volunteers do not count towards the care ratios.

When choosing a nursery make sure it is registered with Ofsted Early Years (or inWalesby the Care Standards Inspectorate). This means that the premises will be inspected regularly for health and safety and the education and welfare of children. It will also mean that everyone working there has the right criminal checks.

The National Day Nurseries Association has a useful guide to choosing a nursery.

There are several types of nursery:

Private nursery – these are geared towards working parents and are usually open from around 8am to 6pm. They will normally take babies from a few months old and offer early education to 3 and 4 year olds

Local authority nursery – for children in the local community

Community nursery – a subsidised, non-profit nursery for local children. You will have to live in the catchment area and possibly meet certain social criteria to qualify, although some allow children of working parents in return for full fees. Visit  ChildcareLink’s website for more information: ChildcareLink

Workplace nursery – run on site by an employer

Pre-school nursery – for children aged between 3 and 5 years (although some pre-schools take toddlers from 2-years-old.) Most places are free from the age of 3 unless the nursery is run privately. Pre-schools close during the school holidays so can be more difficult for working parents.  For more information about your local preschools call the Child Information Service on on 0800 960296 or you can also visit  ChildcareLink for more information.

Pros of choosing a nursery

Here are the pros:

  • They are run by qualified staff.
  • Allow your child to learn and play with other children.
  • Provide lots of facilities and activities for your child.
  • The care is always available so there’s  no risk of being let down by your childminder or nanny if they are ill.
  • They provide meals
  • They suit office hours.
  • They are inspected by Ofsted and required to meet set standards
  • They are open all year apart from Bank Holidays (you will have to pay for the bank holidays if your child normally attends that day of the week)

Cons of choosing a nursery

  • Your child may not have a continuity of carers
  • Nurseries can be very busy places and they might not suit a shy child
  • Some nurseries may not provide enough one-to-one attention needed for a small baby
  • Fees can be expensive
  • You don’t choose the staff working there
  • A nursery won’t be able to look after your child when they are ill
  • Watch out – if you’re late picking up your child you could face a hefty fine!
  • Visit the nursery at several times of the day
  • Check that all facilities, equipment and toys are in good condition, safe and clean
  • Is it a warm and welcoming environment?
  • Watch the interaction between staff and children – are they nurturing the children. Are they chatting amongst themselves?
  • Do the children seem happy?
  • What kind of meals does it serve? Is the food fresh and healthy? Are menus changed regularly?
  • Chat to the staff and get a feel for the atmosphere
  • Ask what kind of one-to-one contact there is with babies?

Points to consider when choosing a nursery

Choosing the right childcare is an important decision and leaving your little one with a stranger for the first time is a huge wrench for you both but if you stay calm, centred , positive and happy your little one will pick up on your positive and relaxed vibes and be much happier and more relaxed too.


Plan ahead, take your time and trust your intuition  and don’t leave it until the last minute. Finding the best childcare can take time and many nurseries have waiting lists running into months.


Whatever option you go for when choosing childcare, the most important thing should be that your child will be safe and happy.

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