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Choosing a day nursery

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Choosing a day nursery

The majority of mums have to return to work at some time after our gorgeous little bundles arrive. For most parents, this will mean looking at different forms of childcare. This is a guide for those of you considering day nurseries. I have worked in day nurseries for almost 8 years with various age groups.

Choosing a day nursery for your child is a very difficult decision. There are so many out there; all at varying prices and all offering something different! There are many things you will need to know before choosing a nursery for your child, and so it's a good idea to make a list of the questions you want to ask. Remember to ask anything you want - after all, you are placing the most precious thing in your life into someone else's hands! 

The main things to look for would be the pricing of the nursery, and what they offer for this price. Most nurseries are similarly priced. For Outer London, you can expect to pay around £50-£58 a day!

Nursery days generally start at 8am and finish at 6pm, with some offering extra hours at either end of the day. However you could be charged extra for these.

Some nurseries include 2 meals a day in their prices, with breakfast occasionally offered. You may also want to look into whether items such as nappies and wipes are supplied, or if you will have to provide your own.

The biggest tip is, if you know you are going to need a nursery place for when you go back to work, try to book your place ASAP! Nursery places, especially for babies, fill up fast and many have a waiting list. With my daughter, I put my name down for a place as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I've also done this with the baby which I am currently pregnant with, because I know I will almost certainly be returning to work once bubs has arrived. It's always easier to cancel a place or reduce days at a nursery, than it is to increase your days or find a place at the last minute. 

Most nurseries won't mind you just turning up for a tour, but I would advise you to phone before-hand and ask, as some prefer you to book.


Always ask staff about ratios of staff to children within the nursery - these should be maintained wherever possible. The current required ratios are: 

  • Children aged 0-2yrs old - 1 Adult to 3 children
  • Children aged 2-3yrs old - 1 Adult to 4 children
  • Children aged 3-5yrs old - 1 Adult to 8 children 

Allergies and medication

If your child has a particular allergy or needs to take medication, ask staff how this will be dealt with. Most nurseries have a policy of only giving a child prescribed medication, so there will be a form of some sort, which will require your signature before they are able to give any medication to your child.

If your child suffers from an allergy, then nurseries who supply meals should make sure that your child is given the food they require. This food should be labelled with the child's name, and staff should check to make sure the food is appropriate for the child first. You should also refrain from letting your child take any food into the nursery, which they may have been eating in the car on the way there etc. This is because there may be other children there with severe allergies, and if staff cannot identify what the food is, there could be a danger to other children, or even staff members


If your child has an accident at nursery - no matter how small - it should be recorded, then you will be informed when you pick your child up and there should be a form or accident book for you to sign. This should explain how the accident occurred, how it was dealt with (first aid) and should have a staff signature and a section for you to sign to say you are happy with how it was dealt with. 

If an accident is more serious but the staff feel that it doesn't require a trip to A&E, then you may receive a courtesy call to inform you. It is then up to you whether you want to pick your child up and take them to see someone, or whether you just want the staff to keep an eye on them. 

If any accident happens which requires a trip to A&E, you will always be called. A member of staff will always accompany a child to A&E if a parent is not present

Settling your child in

This is often the hardest part of placing your child in a day nursery. You should ask the staff how they deal with settling children in and what their policy is. 

Most nurseries will start off with a short session, where parents can accompany the child. This will then be extended, and eventually you will leave your child for short periods of time - maybe just to sit in the staff room and have a coffee, or pop out for a few minutes to see how they get on without you. 

You can usually request more 'settling in' sessions, if you feel your child needs longer. The nursery I currently work for, offers an initial first session lasting 30 minutes, during which a parent stays in the room, followed by an hour's session later in the week where the parents are not present.

Often, the older a child is, the longer it can take them to settle in! This is because they are more aware, and realise that their parents aren't in the room with them any more! The easiest way for a child to settle in is for you to leave quickly, and with as little fuss as possible. I know it's hard, I've had to do it before, and it's upsetting to leave your little one for the first time, but the quicker you leave the quicker they settle in and realise that they have been left there to have fun!

Nurseries don't mind if initially you need to call 20 times a day just to see how your child is getting on, so don't be afraid to call!

Children's clothing and personal items

Make sure everything you bring in from home that you want back is labelled clearly! 

If you are supplying milk/food for your child, then make sure this is clearly labelled too.

One tip I can offer is to never get into the habit of letting your child take anything personal into nursery, such as toys or jewellery, as these this are easily lost. Nursery staff cannot keep an eye on every child's belongings, so it's best to leave these at home.


Samantha Vickery

Samantha is the author of "Trust Me, I'm a Toddler" and other books on raising children. She's an expert in Natural Parenting and training parents on bringing more natural, gentle and mindful practices into their parenting.

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