Let’s face it, as much as we might like to, most of us can’t afford to stay at home with our babies and we must begrudgingly return to work at the end of maternity leave.
That means someone else, a stranger, will be looking after your child whilst you are away and this is a daunting prospect. There are so many things that go through your head when you starting thinking about childcare.
One of my biggest concerns was leaving it too late to find somewhere, I was paranoid that all the best places would be full and I would end up having to send her somewhere terrible because I wasn’t organised enough. So I started looking in March (with my Mat leave ending mid July).
I was asked on Facebook the other day about how we chose the nursery she will be starting at next week (eeek!!) so I thought I would share with you the list of requirements we had when we were searching:
- Will we use a nursery or a childminder? At first I didn’t have a preference, until I starting looking at my local area and I found that there weren’t that many private childminders and the only one that really caught my eye turned out to be full. So that left us with nurseries.
- Does it have good rates/grades/reports? Obviously this is the most important thing because you want your child to be safe, well taken care of and to thrive there and develop before school.
- Is it clean and tidy when we visit, what is the space like for the children to play, is there a garden? is there a TV (this would have been a red flag for us), what is the staff to children ratio, how are the bigger kids separated from the babies to keep them safe. This is all information you can get when you visit and you can also answer some of this by looking at nursery websites.
I think really these are the key attributes all parents look for, you know, on paper how does it rate. Is it a good nursery and will be child be happy there but there are also other things to consider too. Like you, as parents, how will this affect you? Putting your child in nursery is supposed to make it easier for you to go back to work, is the place you’re choosing really making your life easier?
For that reason we also had additional criteria to consider:
- Is it within walking distance and is it on my way to the train station so that I begin my journey to work as soon as I have dropped her off. Currently the plan is that I will walk her to nursery in the morning and then continue on to the train station for my commute to work. My husband (who gets home before me) will pick her up in the car on his way home.
- As well as being within walking distance, is there sufficient car parking that my husband isn’t going to have a headache trying to find somewhere to park whilst he collects her at the end of the day.
- Can I leave a pram? Whilst the place we have chosen is only a couple of minutes walk from the house I am going to have so many bags with me that carrying her there isn’t an option. Plus she’s bloody heavy. So I’ll be taking her in a pram (we have bought a small umbrella fold stroller specifically for the nursery walk) but I don’t really want to then take it with me to work. Although it could be handy to carry all my bags. So can I leave it at nursery for the day? Is there somewhere safe and secure where it won’t be damaged or stolen but also won’t be in the way of the staff and children? I wonder how long it will take for my husband to forget to put it in the car on the way home, leaving me no choice but to carry her the next morning…
- Is there an option for an early start? Almost all of the nurseries I looked at online opened 8-6pm. This is fine unless you have to be on a train at 8.03am to get to work on time. The option of an early morning start was a must although I have since made arrangements with work to start a little later meaning I can save the cost of the breakfast club and drop her off at 8am. It’s reassuring to know there is that option though.
- Will food be provided? I am sure this is a yes at most places but don’t assume. Some charge an extra rate if you want food to be included otherwise you have to provide your own. With the nursery we chose the children get breakfast, lunch and tea, two snacks during the day and of course any milk the babies need as well. This is probably more food than Amelia will eat at this age but she will progress and make good use of the food on offer I’m sure. During our visit we were able to meet the chef (yes there is actually a fully trained chef who used to run her own catering business but got tired of the hours and now she cooks fresh meals for the children every day), we were shown the three week rotational menu and I’m not gunna lie, Amelia’s meals are going to be better than ours that’s for sure.
- Where will she sleep? My god does my girl love her naps (sorry to any mums struggling with nap time at the moment please don’t hate me). Amelia will sleep for hours given the chance, so having somewhere for her to take her naps was really important. We were shown the sleep room on our visit, it has two cots and a pram because some babies love a pram nap. Amelia does but only if it’s moving and I don’t think anyone is wiling to push her around for hours.
- Will there be outside time? Fresh air is so good for children and there is so much to explore outside so we were pleased to see the little baby and toddler garden which is also separate to the pre-school garden so that the bigger children can run and play without fear of stepping on a baby.
These are ultimately the main things we looked for, we of course considered the price, there’s no point (in my opinion) going to work only to spend every single penny of it on childcare so we were careful to make sure that the nursery we chose was affordable.
Want to know what really swung it for me? Why I chose this nursery over any other that was within walking distance of the train station? It was recommended to me, by another mum who had sent her three children there over the course of 8 years.
I didn’t know this lady, she didn’t work for the nursery, she was running a baby group at a local church and we were casually talking about returning to work and childcare and she asked if I had looked at nurseries yet? I said I’ve looked online and I quite like the look of this one from what I’ve read online. Oh, I’ve sent all of my children there she said. All three of my boys and they loved it. I don’t even work anymore but my youngest still goes twice a week because it’s so good for him and he has so much fun there. She even told me that the staff had picked up a speech development issue in one of her children and had taken extra learning steps to help him over come it in time for school.
I was sold! Honestly they can write anything they want online (within reason of course) and they can show you all the good bits on your visit and leave out the bad bits but to hear words like this from a fellow mum who didn’t even know me, it really sealed the deal. Her words were in my head when we looked around on our visit, they still play in my ear when I get nervious about leaving Amelia there all day but I know she’s going to be just fine.
Because another mum reassured me that she will be.
Amelia is currently having a few settling in sessions at the nursery so that she is used to the ladies there and it isn’t such a huge shock to her when she starts full time. Once she has finised all of her sessions I’ll do another post about how it all went.
I hope you have found this helpful, what were some of the things you looked for when choosing childcare?