Navigating Nursery Options: A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Nursery

16 Apr 2024

Navigating Nursery Options: A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Nursery

Welcome to our ultimate guide on choosing the perfect nursery setting that is right for your child. With so many options available, choosing the right nursery can seem like a daunting task. There are so many options available that cater to different needs, and finding the perfect nursery for your child is so important to help you feel happy and give your child the space to grow and thrive. In this guide, we’ll outline the essential factors and provide practical tips to help you decide what to look for in a nursery.

1. Understanding Your Child’s Needs

children playing in a nursery school

Age and Development

Most day nurseries and preschools will take children aged 0 to 4 years old, and provide specific age related rooms to further children’s development through appropriate play. When visiting a day nursery, make sure you discuss your child’s development with the nursery staff to ensure they will meet your child’s needs. Most nurseries will provide tailored education and care for all stages of development for children, and even of your child is not at the same developmental stage as other children their age, you will find they will soon catch up by interacting with their friends. It is always a good idea to chat to nursery staff about your child if you have any concerns.

Personality and Temperament

Right from birth, children start to develop their own interests, preferences and personalities, and you may consider factoring this into finding childcare for you and your child.

Your child will have specific interests, they may love the outdoors and a Forest School with access to outdoor play and outdoor equipment might be the right nursery for your child, or you might have a child that loves to read and might choose a day nursery that regularly visits a library or receives visits from a book bus.

Chat to the nurseries you are interested in and find out more about their teaching style and what learning programmes they use, this will quickly give you a good indication of whether or not a nursery will suit your child’s needs and interests.

2. Assessing Quality

Regulatory Compliance

When you want to choose a nursery school, it’s important to make sure it meets the national standards and regulations for Early Years Education.

These will be different depending on your country of origin. In England, we follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework which has been created by the Department of Education and outlines the standards that school and childcare providers must meet for the learning, development and childcare of children from birth to five.

Childcare providers can either be local authority nurseries, a privately run nursery or community nurseries, all Grandir UK day nurseries and preschools are privately run, providing good quality childcare.

Ofsted Ratings

Within the UK, the majority of childcare providers will be registered with Ofsted, which is a governmental department that asses nursery and school providers on their quality and performance against the following standards:

  • Outstanding
  • Good
  • Requires Improvement
  • Inadequate

An Ofsted result can provide you as parents with an understanding of the quality of childcare. All registered day nurseries latest Ofsted reports can be found via Ofsted’s inspection report finder on their website.

Health and Safety Practices

The health and safety of your child at a day nursery is a top priority for many parents, therefore it’s always worth double checking the health and safety protocol within each nursery environment.

When choosing childcare, you should consider asking the following:

  • How accident and emergency reports are completed
  • How they handle medicine within their setting
  • How many children they have per key worker
  • How many qualified paediatric first aid trained staff are onsite at a time

3. Exploring Educational Philosophy and Curriculum:

Child playing with nursery school teacher

Educational Approach

Many childcare providers apply a specific approach to their setting, and some may align with your personal values as parents more than others. Be sure to ask the nursery staff about any specific teaching methods they like implement.

Here are some key methods you might like to keep any eye out for:

  • Forest School
  • Montessori
  • Reggio Emilia
  • Curiosity Approach

Curriculum Components

Some day nurseries will offer extra curriculum activities such as yoga or art lessons.

These can be great for ensuring your child gets enough exercise throughout their day, exploring their creativity or expressing a greater interest in different areas of play.

Many nurseries have more information on their wider curriculum on their website and you can always ask the nursery manager about this when you visit.

4. Considering Practical Factors

Location and Accessibility

Choosing a nursery within your local area will play a major part in your childcare decision. Parents will generally prefer a nursery close to home making it more accessible.

Whatever nursery you choose, make sure this suits your child’s routine, your commute and family lifestyle.

Open Hours and Flexibility

Today, flexibility has become an increasing benefit in the working world and you should expect no less when choosing a nursery too.

Most nursery will display their opening hours on their website or webpage, and on their Google profile as well so you can be certain that the provision can work around your schedule. Equally, you can speak to the nursery team to see what hours and days are available that suit you and your child. It is also good to consider if your nursery is full year round provision or term time only. Term time only can be useful if you have older children in primary or secondary school.

Grandir UK has a helpful parent engagement team which can give you more information on each of their nurseries and can help you find the right one for your family.

Cost and Affordability

There are many costs to consider when choosing a nursery for your child, and many funding options available too. Some nurseries will provide free childcare, however, you should factor in staff turnover, when the nursery open and how the cost could impact a good nursery.

Before committing to a nursery, make sure you check:

  • The fee structure – is there a retainer fee where will you be billed monthly, termly, annually or are there any flexible options available?
  • Is there a registration fee you need to pay?
  • If you need additional hours, do these come at an extra cost?
  • Are there any additional expenses to cover meals, nappies, extra curricular activities etc?

In order to make sure you are covering all of your childcare needs, ensure you discuss a payment plan with the nursery team and make sure this is within your childcare budget.

5. Visiting and Observing

Child playing with teacher outdoors

Schedule Nursery Visit

Securing a nursery visit is crucial when thinking about the right nursery for your child. Make sure you visit your most desired nurseries so you can get a feel of the nursery rooms, meet the nursery team and your child’s key worker, and see for yourself what the children get up to everyday.

Ask Questions

Visiting a nursery is the perfect time to ask as many questions as you can.

Here are some to considering asking at your next nursery visit:

  • When do the children go for outdoor play? Is there a set time or is ‘free flow’ an option?
  • What are the day to day activities like here?
  • What are your procedures when it comes to potty training? Are you willing to work with me and my child so we can establish an effective routine and award system that is consistent at home and at nursery?
  • What is the food like here? Can I see an example menu?
  • How do you navigate challenging behaviour? What procedures are in place to promote positive behaviour?

Come prepared with nursery checklist of questions to ask during your visit to maximise your knowledge of the site and what they can provide.

Trust Your Instincts!

Nobody knows your child or what you need in a nursery setting better than you, so trust your gut instinct when evaluating nurseries. Carefully look at the space, the way the staff interact with the children, if the children are happy in their environment. First impressions matter, and a child’s behaviour will be a good indication of the way they are treated every day. Finding a nursery suitable for you and your family will very much depend on your own personal preferences and requirements and most importantly what you need for your child. How did the nursery make you feel?

If a nursery made you feel welcome, you got on with the team and left feeling happy and secure, then that’s a pretty good indication that the nursery is right for you.

6. Recommendations and Reviews

Seek Recommendations

Word of mouth is a great place to start when looking for a day nursery. Speak to other parents in the surrounding area and find out what they have to say about their local nursery or have a look on social media sites such as local Facebook groups or local parenting networks to find out what other parents have to say.

Read Reviews

A good indication of a nurseries credibility is by looking at reviews. Reviews can provide a good indication of what a nursery is like. Google is a great tool and have a look at, which is the UK’s leading nursery review website and provides an overall score out of 10 for each listed nursery, these are based on parents who have children who attended the school so are a very good indication of the quality care provided.

7. Making the Decision

Weighing Pros and Cons

It’s always worth creating a pros and cons list for all the nurseries you visit so you can see at first glance which day nursery is a better fit for you and your child. A few things to take into consideration:

  • Nursery rooms
  • Outdoor space
  • Staff interaction
  • Low staff turnover
  • Number of children
  • Ages of children at the nursery compared to your child’s age
  • Proximity to your home
  • Extra murals on site

Finalising Enrolment

When you have made your decision, it’s time to secure your spot!

Some nurseries will require a registration fee in order to hold your place while you complete the required paperwork.

By contacting the nursery school or customer services team, they will be able to take payment, walk you through the next steps and schedule you in for your first settling in session to ease the transition into nursery life.

Choosing childcare for you

Grandir UK has many day nurseries and preschools across England, there are so many different types of nurseries available. We want to encourage you to explore the different childcare options and invite you to find a local Grandir UK nursery near you by visiting our website and see if we are the right fit for you.

Visit an Open Day near you today!

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Once you are all signed up you can follow our top tips for starting nursery here.