Questions to ask nursery

We're going to have a look around a nursery, with the idea of having Sam there 2 or 3 mornings a week so i can help with DH's business. I have no idea what to ask them - any ideas? What should I be looking out for? I am a primary school teacher so know a bit about OFSTED, early years etc, but a bit clueless when it comes to babies and what they should be doing at nursery!


  • o bury. youre close to me then! we also showed up unannounced and i asked about how they are with real nappies!
  • I looked at 2 and had a good feeling about one in particular so that's the one we went with (my nephew goes there too until school starts next month so that helps too)

    When they are little the nursery should work round them, so are they happy with your routine/lack of routine?
    Can you see the menu?
    Can you see a timetable of what they babies and children have been doing recently?
    Do they have a key carer scheme in place?
    What is included in the price- food, nappies etc
    What are their security measures- for instance, should someone else need to collect LO one day? My nursery has a safe room too
    Do they work to a curriculum?
    What is their policy on illness and medication?
    Do they have parents evenings?

    Um...... sure there is more! x

  • Ooh just of the top of my head.

    How long have the staff worked there? Is there a high staff turnover?
    How many of the staff are qualified?
    what would they do if they were (for some reason) over their ratios?
    Do they have a key worker system?
    What is their policy on picking up children, and giving cuddles?
    Can LOs sleep/eat whenever they want - or do they have to fit into a schedule?
    What would they do if LO refused to sleep, but was obviously very tired?
    If LO sleeps through lunch time - what would they do?
    What is their policy on calpol/teething powder/nappy cream - etc?
    When will he move to the next room? Does it go of age or stage?

    Try to spend a bit of time in the baby room, and let Sam have a play in there. See how the staff interact with the children. Does it seam natural, or put on for your benefit. Try not to stay too close to him (let him crawl off - if he's crawling - or move away from him if he isn't) and if he cries, don't go to him straight away - see how the staff respond.

    Do the staff seem to enjoy their work, do they even like children? do they smile and seem interested when you tell them about Sam?

    Do a quick head count of all the children in the room, and if you think they are over ratio (it is a very strict 1:3 for under 2's) then mention this to the person showing you round, and see how they respond.

    Does the nursery seem bright and clean and airy - or is it a bit tatty and dingy?

    Above all. go off your instincts. If you get a good feel for the place, that means a lot!
    Good luck in your search.


  • I second (third/fourth?!) the importance of the key person issue. Im lucky enough to have contact with one of the national leading experts on under 5's care, and after YOUR feeling and sense of the carer/nursery, the quality of the key person system would be at the top of the priority list. At the moment, legistation dictates that there MUST be a key person system, this is likely to change, so perhaps ask the manager about this. Also, what they see as a key person system. You should be familiar with your childs key person before they start full time. They should do that majority of the meeting and greeting, also the childs personal care as well as any paperwork. You should be able to approach this person to talk about your childs day or how they are progresing. They should not just be a name for the book!

    Good luck, we have jsut found a childminder for our little one, its such a tough process and im dreading leaving her!!

    Em x
  • I agree about getting a feel for the place. You will have a good idea what its like from just walking in. I agree about just dropping by, much better and it wont be like there putting on a show for you, as they didnt know you were coming. Like you, i really wast sure what to look for. People said to me.....well your a teacher so surely you know!! Ha chance, im just as in the dark as every other mummy out there!! There are lots of good suggestions on here, most of which i would have suggested.

    The only other one i can think of is outside area....whats it like? Are the toys clean/tatty? How often does the baby room get to use it?? Is it always used by the toddlers/pre-school??

    I also asked about mixing with the other children at the nursery. Do they get to see the older toddlers ever?? I know Sam will probably be in with older babies in his room as i think most nurseries look at moving them from 18months-2yrs. But I thought it would be good for Ollie to see toddlers every now and then...although not all the time....i wouldnt want him being trampled on!!

    Ask about there procedure for moving them up to the next it purely on age?? I dont think it should be as obviously all babies are different. Hopefully it isnt just a case of moving them up because they need the space for a new baby!!

    Do they take them out for walks?? Where do they go?? When they plan using EYFS do they use what the babies have achieved to plan for their next activities?? Thats one that i found on quite a few ofsteds for nurseries round here. They could plan for day to day activities, but if one baby showed a good understanding of something they wouldnt then use it for future planning.

    Sorry, its all flooded to me now ive been writing about it!! Ah....good old education, i could talk about it for ever!! Hope the search goes well, im sure Sam will LOVE nursery!! xxx
  • you could also ask what they do if staff are ill, sleeping arrangements, do they shutdown for certain weeks of the year, what are the settling in periods, how are they about parents calling to check on children.

    i agree you know by gut instinct.

    K xxx
  • ooo, ask random staff how long theyve been there. If lots are been there not long...wonder why...also how long will their KW be around
  • Wow - thanks for all this ladies! Hadn't thought about half of these things!

    Well, we visited a nursery today, but within one minute of being there I knew it wasn't for us. It was one big room - whereas I would prefer a proper baby room - and the outside space was literally a fenced off bit of their car park! The staff were nice and the kids seemed happy enough but it was so cramped. Sam enjoyed trying to eat all the toys, but he could do that in a nicer environment!

    Going to look at a few more next week, and will be armed with your questions. Thanks xx
  • Eek, I went to see one that was one big room and they even set the babies travel cots up in there for put me straight off it. I definitely agree that you'll get a gut instinct about the nursery which will be the most telling element!
    Definitely ask if they'll work around Sam's routine rather than try and push him in to a new routine. The staff turnover one's a good one too, make sure you're meeting his key worker as well as just the nursery manager. The staff at the boys nursery all regularly babysit for some of the nursery clients which I love as it shows that the parents have built up a good, trusting relationship.
    Ask them what sort of drinks/snacks etc they offer. The boys nursery only offer water or milk, which is fine for Ethan but Rhys is in a fussy stage and flatly refuses anything but fruit juice, so we'll have to supply that.
    If you provide Sam's meals, will they warm things up or will you need to provide a cold lunch. Some nurseries are more than happy to warm up everyone's food, some only do within a certain age bracket.
    Have fun! I loved looking at nurseries, but am dreading it now they'll actually be starting in a week or so!
  • I agree with all of the above and for us we felt immediately at ease with the carers in the baby room. On our first visit the manager of the baby room asked if she could have a cuddle of Gabriel which really meant a lot as it showed us that she seemed to actually care about Gabriel rather than seeing him as just another baby to look after.

    Gut feeling for me was most important. I wanted to feel that the transition for G would be minimal so the atmosphere had to feel like home. The nursery he goes to is part of a converted barn and one of the things that sold it to me was the sofa in the room as it felt like our lounge. The outside space is wonderful (fields and trees and no noise) and they only look after 9 babies at any one time. I could go on but the other replies have covered all the main points!

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