Our nanny has quit which was not a surprise as she'd told me she was looking for other work that would fit in with us. So it was when rather than if. She’s been working for us for 3 years now with about a 9 month break when I was on maternity leave (her decision not mine) and the two older boys are really fond of her so its going to be upsetting. I'm now in the process of sorting out our complicated childcare arrangements as son 2 is starting school in September. Prior to our nanny son 1 and son 2 were at a private day nursery for about 3.5 years and I had son 1 booked in when I was only 4 months into my pregnancy (wow, how organised did I used to be).
Although we live in nappy valley, there is a lack of decent nurseries near the tube station. After ringing around, there were 3 nurseries that have spaces for son 3 whose turning two at the end of September. The first nursery we visited was recommended by next door neighbour and I got a good vibe on the telephone from them. However, my first impressions were lukewarm. All the children were playing outside and there seemed tons of them. I know you shouldn’t look at the buildings but it was grey and drab on the outside. But inside it was welcoming, all seemed fine but as son 3 was crying (he’s very astute so had guessed it was a place he would be left by me) but I forgot to ask the questions I needed. At this point, I liked this nursery and thought this was the one as the staff seemed caring, lots of toys and space and kids looked happy. The second nursery was disappointing to say the least, small rooms with staff who were not playing with the children and didn’t seem bothered with them. None of the staff engaged with son 3 (or indeed son 2 who was there as well) which was a bad sign. At one point, a child was crying and instead of finding out why, I heard a staff member just tell them to be quiet. When I got the fees list this explained the quality, it was dirt cheap (you pay for what you get). Also I would have to pay £30 to be put on a waiting list – why would I pay money for you not to guarantee a place??? Also, their policy was that all parents had to be there at the latest 5.55pm and off the premises by 6pm, but their opening hours are 8am until 6pm so my thinking was if I’m paying for that precious 5 mins to run back from the tube station then I should get it.
The third nursery we visited I had all 3 boys with me, I couldn’t find it and was about to give up so was late and flustered. But it was a nursery in a house which was like the tardis (it was massive out the back) it was recommended by a women at work whose daughter goes there and she’s the same age as son 3. When the owner came to show us around, I picked up son 3 and misjudged the space behind me and bumped his head on the wall – whoops (the owner probably wondered why I had 3 children when I couldn't cope with one toddler)! I got a good vibe just my sitting in the reception bit, lots of info on the employee of the month, the policies, detail on how long the staff had worked there and been working in childcare. Very organised and professional and with lots of space. The difference between this visit which lasted 45 mins compared to the 10 mins at the other two was amazing. I was told all about their food, playtimes, arts and crafts etc. Systems such as allocating a key worker when the child had bonded with a worker impressed me, as normally they are allocated a key worker straight away and this way seemed more logical. I was also introduced to all the staff by name, the staff and children seemed happy and there was a calm atmosphere. Having such a long visit allowed me to get a better feel for the nursery. I quickly changed my mind even if the fees were higher than the other 2 (not substantially). I liked that when son 3 wandered off to play in their playground, a member of staff returned him back to me.
My tips for looking at nurseries: (1) go with your gut instinct, does it feel right (2) Did the staff interact with your child, are they playing with the children or standing around chatting? (3) What did the rooms feels like, was there enough space, variety of toys, schedule of activities – this could be indoors or outdoors space (4) are they flexible or was the nursery setting out their own rules before what would fit your needs (5) What’s their turnover of staff, ask how long their staff have been working at their nursery. Now I just have to find a childminder and cover the long summer holidays.
Hope that helps, will keep you updated whether son 3’s new nursery works out and if my top tips works. Any other tips for looking for a nursery?