How to Choose the Right Nursery

How to choose the best nursery for your child

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 07.05.2008 10:14 (updated on 07.05.2008) Reading time: 3 minutes

Written by Eva Cyrusova
The Prague British School 

How to choose the right Nursery

You might consider placing your child in a nursery. It is not always easy to find the right place and distinguish between an excellent and average standard of care.

Early childhood is a special stage in life and whatever happens during the first three or four years of life is crucial to a child´s development. It is interesting to see that some parents make their decision based on convenience and not on their child´s needs, in that, the most formative time in life. 

How to make the right choice and an informed decision?

Give yourself as much time as possible to visit several schools or providers, ask for written information and arrange a personal visit.

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You can prepare a checklist and plan your questions. The check points should cover the nursery location, staff, curriculum and activities, space, facilities, outdoor play, food and sleeping arrangements, cleanliness, safety and fees.

Some nurseries are in converted houses whilst others are in attractive buildings. Have a look if it is well-lit, airy with a clean bathroom and nappy change area. The classrooms should have spacious designated areas with a “working mess”.

One of the reasons for coming to school is to give children new opportunities to play with water, sand and other messy stuff that would not always be possible at home.

Check the curriculum and activities that children can do at school and their daily plan. Too many structured activities might keep children from their natural need to explore and initiate their own creative play with peers. However, clear routines are vital for babies and toddlers.

Focus your attention on atmosphere and staff behaviour. For example: Are the staff welcoming? Do they greet your child and discuss your child with you? Do the staff get down to the children´s level to speak to them and treat them with respect and patience? Will staff always be available to answer your questions and tell you what your child has been doing every day? Is there a key worker system set up?

It is good to see busy and happy children, but little children change their emotions very fast, so you may see crying children. Children cry at times, look how the staff deal with such a situation.

Ask about the staff to children ratios. They should follow this recommendation:      
1:3          1-2 years
1:4 (5)     2-3 years
1:8 (10)   3-5 years

On your visit, look at the overall cleanliness of the school. You will also be able to judge general safety issues e.g.: what kind of toys are provided, are they safe, are detergents or medicine within children´s reach, are electrical sockets covered, are windows open only from the top, are children supervised at all times, what is the school policy for picking up children, are staff trained in First Aid and is First Aid equipment available? Do not forget to learn the school policy on handling sick children.

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Extra activities are often mentioned by nurseries as a major selling point. There are a few things for consideration. Little children benefit more from a secure relationship with a well known adult, environment and routines. Children usually get tired faster in a nursery due to the higher level of stimulation, noise and continuous contact with other children.

If you wish your child to have other experiences like swimming or a baby gym, I recommend you to arrange lessons and spend that special time together with your child.

It is important that a nursery offers space for children to sleep. Every child should have his/her bed and beddings. The room should be ventilated and children comforted and supervised during naptime. Babies and toddlers should sleep as long as they need. A sleep deprived child is not able to learn efficiently and enjoy new things and experiences.

A nursery that provides cooked meals sounds a wonderful help. However, check the menu and ask about special arrangements for children with allergies or a possibility to send home-prepared meals to school.

Finally, once you decide on a nursery, finalize everything in writing. Ask about the adaptation procedure and try to maintain a collaborative and supportive relationship with staff.

The decision to leave your child with anyone other than with close relatives is never easy. The truth is, if you are comfortable about the decision, your child will be too.

Eva Cyrusova
Acorns Day Care Centre supervisor
The Prague British School

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