Checking out local nurseries
If you are going back to work and are looking for a nursery near to where you live, here are a few things to consider.
• Official approval
It goes without saying that you will want to check the safety and training qualifications that the nursery and its staff meet. Where possible, also ask around among friends – a personal recommendation can mean a great deal to you.
• How old is your child?
If you are returning to work and your baby is less than one year old, make sure the nurseries you consider all have specialised care for this age group. Ask what kinds of activities and care they offer, beyond changing and feeding and letting the babies rest by themselves. Care for younger babies might also be more expensive than care for older children.
You don’t need your little one to understand Mandarin by the time they start school, but it’s worth asking about the kinds of early learning offered by a nursery. Many will have learning programmes. Although children do not need to be hot-housed at this age, knowing that your child is stimulated through imaginative play, creative activities and talking and singing, and not just supervised playing on their own, is important.
• Your work
Where is your place of work and what hours do you need childcare? Try to pick a nursery either close to your home or en route to your place of work – preferably before the part of your journey where you squeeze onto a rush hour bus or train. Finding a nursery that is convenient for you and/or your partner to drop off and collect from will make a big different not only to how much later you can afford to leave the office each night, but also to just how frazzled you’ll be for your child every evening.
How flexible are the terms of the nursery? Are there set periods each summer when it is closed or are the weeks you book off negotiable? Many nurseries will charge you whether your child is present or not, but if their staff have families with older children, you might well find they close for periods during school holidays. You are unlikely to want to take your holiday during school breaks for some years – flight, hotel and holiday rates get hiked up during these times – so accept that you might be paying for term time weeks when you are away.
• Take your time
Go with your instincts to narrow down your choices, but when you think you have found the right nursery don’t be afraid to ask to go back and look round it a few times – this is a place your baby will spend a large part of the week, after all. Visit when other children are there see if they look contented and cared for. Also look at what outside space they have to run around in, and what the food preparation and bathroom facilities are like.
• Your child
One child’s perfect nursery might be just too busy or too quiet or too small or too big for another. Even with a baby you can get a sense for what might be right. And time goes on, don’t stick with one nursery if your child has outgrown what it can offer.
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