Finding the best possible childcare for your most treasured possession can be a daunting and, often, quite stressful task, particularly when you have to return to work before you feel ready. That gut-wrenching feeling of handing your baby over to someone you barely know for 8-9 hours of the day is one that leaves many of us feeling more than a little tearful. And let’s not even start on the gut-wrenching feeling of seeing a massive chunk of your income disappear from your bank account every month! But that’s for another blog!
Below, Bubble & Pop childcare expert, Hope Swail, gives us some top tips on what to look for when you’re viewing potential settings for your baby.
This is a big consideration for most of us. You will be asked to pay either monthly or weekly so when you visit for the first time make sure you know exactly what you’re getting for your hard-earned cash. Are all meals and snacks included? Do you have to supply your own nappies? How much will you have to factor in for extras like trips, photographs, fund raising events? How does the service operate its deposit scheme and what is the process for refunding you if you decide to leave for any reason? Getting clear from the get go will make things much easier in the long run.
This is a biggie… you can tell SO much about a service by the physical environment.
Is the children’s artwork displayed for all to see? If so, does it look like the kids have ACTUALLY done it themselves? The messier the art, the more input the kids have had in the process and the more fun they will have had doing it – even if it does mean they come home with a few paint splodges here and there.
Is there lots of evidence of family involvement in the rooms? Are there family photos and other images from the children’s home environment on display? This means the service is conscious of creating a home from home setting.
Are the toys varied in type, function and material? Are there playthings that you wouldn’t normally expect such as a treasure basket with real life materials? This is a clear sign that the centre adopts a holistic approach to children’s play and development.
Are the toys at a level that the children can reach and get to when they want to play and explore? This indicates that the staff appreciate how important it is for the children to follow their curiosity and instigate play of their own accord.
What are the children’s sleeping arrangements? Do they each have their own cot, blankets or sleeping bag etc? Never be afraid to ask questions about Health and Safety during sleep times and don’t doubt your knowledge of your baby and their sleep routine. A good setting will follow your baby’s routine rather than trying to force them into one that suits them better.
Don’t hesitate to ask to see the whole of the creche/nursery. Your little bundle will, no doubt, work their way through the ranks of the service and as such you should get a feel for what the other rooms are like and how things progress as your baby gets older. How do routines change? At what point do activities become more adult led and organised?
Are all staff qualified, CBD checked, and do they hold all of the necessary Health and Safety qualifications? And, importantly, are these all up to date? If staff information is not on display don’t hesitate to ask to see documentation. Having said all that, qualifications are not necessarily the be all and end all, and sometimes staff with huge amounts of experience bring as much to the setting as those with oodles of certificates!
Carefully observe how the staff interact with the children. Do they spend plenty of time engaging or are they busy cleaning and bustling about doing other jobs?
Listen carefully to what the person giving you the ‘tour” says and also pay attention to how they say it. Does it sound like a script that they have been told to relay to every family or can you tell that they are proud of their setting and love their job? Are you confident that your questions are being answered honestly and that you’re not just being told what you want to hear?
Be sure to check that all the necessary policies are in place and are being adhered to. You should be offered a parents’ handbook which contains all the relevant procedures and outlines everything from behaviour policy to Health and Safety. It might be quite a lengthy tome but do take the time to read it as it will tell you a lot about the ethos and vibe of the setting.
You know your baby better than anyone else in this world so your gut will tell you when a nursery feels ‘just right’. Be sure to bring baby with you when you visit the centre. Watch how they react to the environment and people in it and observe how the staff engage with your child. Because at the end of the day these people will become a huge part of your family’s life and you need to feel 100% confident in their abilities to give your child all the love and cuddles they need in your absence!
We hope you’ve found these tips helpful and insightful. Leaving your baby for the first time can be so hard, but once you’ve found the right people to care for your precious bundle, they will help you create the most amazing memories that last a lifetime.