From when we found out we had a tiny human on the way, we had thought long and hard about childcare (after all of the other baby related stuff that clouds over your brain). We came to the conclusion that when our child turned 2, we would look for a childminder as we thought we would also get the 15hrs free. Unfortunately (in some cases) we don’t qualify for the free 15hrs but also, the decision on childcare has taken a turn.
We had thought that up until bear turns 2, we could do childcare ourselves and with help of others around us (y’know family & friends) and then he would start with a childminder & things would be perfect. He would be in the best environment for him and his learning and development and it would be a home from home environment too! I had even briefly looked into childminders in the area & looked at a couple of their pages on Facebook or their websites, if they had any, just to get a bit of an understanding and a feel of what would be going on.
Well, we did the 2 years (almost) thing between us perfectly! I returned to work, the other half being a stay at home dad for a while. I’ve juggled all sorts of shifts to try and figure out the best thing for my family & we’ve enlisted help from family on very few occasions. Bear’s daddy has recently been offered employment, locally, but full time shift work. Which is obviously fantastic news from where I’m sitting. But it means we’ve had to start looking, even after finding out that we aren’t entitled to the free 15hrs of childcare (or any help to be honest). I had asked at another nursery I attend occasionally about some tips etc, and honest to god, one thing they said was “I should have probably put his name down for one when he was born” but that wasn’t in our plan?! We didn’t even realise that looking so late on in the game might be difficult. But I’ve tried to keep my head held high.
So, the thing was, I recently signed bear & I up to a toddler group (which was brilliant by the way). It lasted for 8 weeks and it was great. One thing I learned from it though, is that bear is absolutely ready for that sort of environment. One with other children of a similar age for him to learn from & interact with, with structure & discipline & routine and that provides a fun, educational and stimulating environment. I came home after around the 6th session and told bear’s daddy how much he loves it and how much he was thriving. He learnt new words, he learnt routine and structure such as snack time, song and sticker time etc, he learnt about tidying up to get ready for songs and he started to play alongside other children (in the first week, he grunted and put his arm out when any of them came near him, all of a sudden he grabbed a toy car & went playing with a little boy) but I could see how much he needed this. So we agreed to go together to find a nursery.
In total, bear & I have looked around 3 nurseries and his daddy came to one and we have firmly made our decision. But there were a few factors which we had on our minds for the nursery to have, include or provide while our precious little human was in their care. I felt like we were being picky but the nurseries did not mind one bit, in fact they reassured us that all families ask a variety of questions and all have different needs and want different things when their children attend nursery. So what was on our minds? What did we ask about?
Firstly, We wanted for them to give us a good tour of every part of the nursery possible (the only room/s we didn’t see were the baby rooms as bear wouldn’t be going in to those rooms). We wanted to see what his room would be like, what is the access to various provisions like and going outdoors, what were the bathroom facilities like & how did they deal with potty training when it came to it. We saw the cloakroom where all the children had their own pegs however, access was different in each nursery. In one, the adults put the children’s coats on the pegs and the children could barely reach them, whereas in another, the cloakroom was an actual room with childrens pegs all around it with their pictures and names and a welly box underneath (& the children did their own coat and bag hanging up).
Another pointer was outdoor provisions. Did the children have regular or limited access to outside? Was the time allocated or structured or was it free for them to access whenever they wanted to? Going out on trips etc, was another thing we were told about in the first nursery and they told us that children regularly went out (not always) but they might go on a day trip, or a little trip to the garden centre for seeds for the fruit & veg patch (this would be on their minibuses). Another nursery said they didn’t have their own transport but the children went for walks sometimes to the park or they would hire a coach (only for the pre-schoolers however) and another was a mixed bag but didn’t have a great outside for the children to play in.
One thing we asked about was the policies when it came to children having accidents or becoming poorly. This is something I’ve seen a lot of variety of within my job & visiting different childcare providers. First and foremost, I wanted to make sure the staff were paediatric first aid trained. There has been one case quite local to us where a young child passed away due to choking and the staff not having the correct training to provide the best possible basic life support in that situation. This has obviously panicked me. But another thing I wanted to know about was the general “what happens when?”.
We wanted to know that we, as his parents, would be informed immediately & appropriately should any accidents ever happen whether that is to bear or caused by bear. We wanted to make sure that the staff could look after him to the best of their ability if it was safe to do so but we could obviously come to get him should his condition be questionable. Are they able to administer basic first aid including giving paracetamol? Most of them said yes which was really reassuring, however I have known for nurseries/schools to not do this & to ask parents to collect children immediately as they couldn’t administer this. Obviously if bear was really unwell or needed it for any other reason than a small bump or a slight temp, we would come to get him. But we wanted to know that he was in safe hands.
Other little bits that were important for us to know were things like; what’s the ratio of staff to children for each room? what are the meals like? would he be having a cooked teatime meal or a snack type meal? what were any extra activities within the nursery? What is included in the prices? How is feedback about our child’s day given and are we regularly updated on care, any new developments or any extra support they feel he might need? Will our child have a key worker & what kinds of things are they in charge of with him and what kinds of things do they do? Are we still able to supply our own products if we wish such as sun cream, toothpaste, nappy cream etc and on the minibus, what type of car seat will he be in? (I also requested if we could choose a 5 point secure seat as opposed to a belted seat as it isn’t safe for his age or size).
We felt like there was a lot to remember but it was all super important that we asked and found out this information. One nursery even provided us with a pack with their latest ofsted report, fees, menu example, newsletter example & a leaflet of basics of the nursery. BUT, we have now made our decision, eeeeek!! Bear still has settling in sessions and I can ask more questions, give them info about him etc. So I’d love to know if there’s anything else you would ask or find is essential for finding out?