Looking for a nursery for your child is a highly emotional decision. Many mothers feel guilty about leaving their children at nursery to go back to work so they want the best possible childcare for their child when they are away. So does money buy the best childcare? Some parents may mistakenly believe that more expensive nurseries are better. However, research suggests this is not true. The FCCC study (Sylva et al. 2007) found that the cost of childcare was not necessarily associated with better quality care. Other parents may believe that having good nursery facilities is the most important factor. Children do need a stimulating environment and a good outdoor space to play in but there are other more important factors that will affect a child’s happiness in a nursery setting.
So what makes a good nursery?
Good quality childcare involves well-trained staff. Research shows that the more experienced the staff the better the quality of childcare given. When staff had high level qualifications such as NVQs in childcare, they provided better care.
Children also need stability. They need to be able to form strong emotional bonds to their carers and this is only possible if they have access to the same carer regularly and consistently. When choosing a nursery, it is important to find out how often the staff change, as if a member of staff leaves that your child has become attached to, it could be very difficult for them.
High staff-child ratios are important. Ask what happens if staff are off sick. When I was looking around nurseries, I noticed that some rooms only had one member of staff in and I made sure I asked questions about why this was the case. Nurseries have to follow government guidelines about staff-child ratios but they may not be strictly enforced. The government also recommends that children have a key worker and it is important to ask how this works. Staff and key workers should be able to spend enough time with each child so that the child can form a secure emotional bond to them.
Not surprisingly, adults who are sensitive, empathic and attuned to a child’s feelings have been found to be better carers. Good carers enable infants and young children to feel confident in themselves, encourage them to communicate and talk, to think and have ideas, and to learn and discover.
You might also want to look at how much stimulation the children are given. How much importance does the nursery place on educating and talking to a child? Stimulation is very important for children’s intellectual and language development. Nursery workers need to ask children questions and to respond to the children’s vocalisations or talk. You might want to observe how much the nursery workers are talking to the children they are caring for before choosing which nursery you prefer.
At the end of the day, you need to trust your instincts about whether the nursery will look after your child well. Try not to choose a nursery based on convenience alone.