WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A NURSERY
If you, like us, have recently embarked on the journey of seeking out your ideal nursery, then this might help you know exactly what to look for. Now, I'm no expert, but I am a clingy mother who was looking for any excuse not to find the right one, and I looked around a lot!
When narrowing down my list of nurseries it became apparent that there were 'trendy' nurseries to go to in our local area (waiting lists as long as my arm), and even though I felt like someone who knew someone had done the job of researching, I decided to go against the grain and have a look for myself. For us, the following things were important.
We were keen for Knox to have a similar environment to a school set up, we felt this would prepare him for when he goes to school. We live in a woods, so even though forest schools are wonderful, they're not really necessary for us, as we're outdoors most of the time. With regards to room settings, the one Knox goes to is like a mini classroom with an abundance of toys, reading area and their age group also has a small gated outdoor play area where they can play alongside the older children without getting caught up in the chaos. If your little one is quiet, I think this is key as they can grow confidence from a safe environment whilst watching their older peers.
Another reason that drew us to the nursery was that it was within the grounds of the school we hope to send Knox to.
They also have pegs to hang their coats and bags on, small toilets if you're into potty training, a sleep-room fully fitted with cots and a window to allow the nurses to check on them and nappy changing room.
Now, I must say the idea of handing my precious little baby over to anyone was hard for me, but upon meeting the team, I was instantly put at ease. I don't even want to label them staff, because they're clearly far more to the children than that. The relationships you can see they have formed were really lovely to watch, and this only gave me hope that they would be able to bring Knox out of his shell around new people.
You may be getting the idea, but I'm one of those smothering types, so the idea of leaving Knox crying was just not an option. You can imagine my delight when I found out there were three, one hour settling in sessions. I'm not sure what the protocol is for other nurseries, but I know this seems to be the most anyone does.
At our nursery you have the option to stay for all three full hour sessions, or you can pop out if you feel like they're settling in. I decided to stay for the first, leave for 20 mins on the second and 30 mins on the third (more for me than Knox, my anxiety was through the roof). Now he obviously cried when he realised I'd vanished, but he was soon playing and seeking out new horses (he's obsessed).
One thing that our nursery team do, is put out some buggy's (or your own) for your little one to get in and out of (with help of course) when they feel anxious or tired, allowing them to observe their new environment without being in the thick of the action. This, to me, is genius and has really helped Knox. After two weeks of his two half-day sessions, he is already a lot more confident in himself and now his buggy is put away until nap time (we chose for Knox to nap in his buggy as he often does at home after going out). Speaking of which, I still can't understand how they manage to get every baby sleeping at once.
We're now three weeks into his settling in, and even though the rubber lip does come out when we initially leave, there are no real tears and when we go to collect him, he's now waving goodbye to his friends and the team.
Observations & Ofsted
Our nursery rates Good on the Ofsted rating. TBH, I have no idea why, because in the short time we've been with them, Knox has come on leaps and bounds, and I believe he will continue to do so in the coming months. Plus, I have to be one of the pickiest people out there. My advice would be, to actually look at the nurseries and speak to the other parents who's children attend, as they will give you far better perspective than a report.
With regards to observations, our nursery uses Tapestry to upload images, videos and assessments on milestones and developments according to the age bracket, this allows you to see if your LO is on track. This was really important for me, as Knox is my first and I have literally no idea what to gauge as being 'on track' so to speak. I'm also always being told by people little Jonny does this, or little Freddie does that, then wonder why Knox doesn't, then I see the baby and actually only the mother understands that 'Ddddddd' means 'dog'.
Timings & Sessions
So, Andy and I don't have generic nine to five jobs, and the thought of being out of the house before 8am hasn't sat well with me since leaving my full-time job, but through gritted teeth, I decided it was best for Knox to try a morning session. The team are actually very flexible so if we don't want to drop him that early we don't have to, but we're keen for him to get the full benefit so 8.30am is the earliest we've managed. The timings run 8am to 1pm and 1pm to 6pm for half days or 8am to 6pm for full days with the option of breakfast club if you need. It's quite astonishing how quickly the time flies when your LO is at nursery, and I find I'm a lot more productive when Knox is at his Monday morning session in comparison to the Wednesday afternoon lull I find myself in.
Our nursery has a min requirement of 2-3 half sessions, as they feel that in order to settle in, they need to attend frequently so not to forget. We were also advised to space them evenly through the week so the gap in-between each session wasn't too long.
Our nursery provides cooked meals, and adheres to any dietary requirements. Apparently it's common for the child to go on hunger strike when they start, and Knox actually did this, but has recently started trying things. We have also noted that his eating has come on greatly at home and he now competently feeds himself a full meal using a spoon.
The fees up north and down south vary quite a lot, but we went for a nursery that wasn't the most expensive and when you look at the time spent, it's actually very good value for money. It's certainly not all frills with fancy finger-print entry systems, but that is unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. Our nursery is exactly what we needed and to me, you can't put a price on the care your child receives from the team.
Some of the above may sound a little ludicrous to you, but I know I'm not the only OTT Mama out there, so take what you wish from this piece. I hope it helps in some way to finding your ideal nursery.