Almost eight months ago, Emma started nursery – it was a bit of a sudden decision as I was offered a job out of the blue. I had planned to take it really slow but it turns out that wasn’t really possible with only a week from when I was offered the job to the start date. I had already registered Emma into the nursery I felt would work for us for various reasons – it wasn’t as simple as choosing the closest one to us; there was a lot to consider before handing over our deposit for her place.
I had been hesitant about writing this as I believe everyone’s childcare set-up is different so wanted to add that this post is written purely from my experience of finding what works for us. I hope it is helpful to some who are going through a similar decision-making process that we did!
Which childcare provider is right for you?
From a young age, my other half and I had discussed Emma going to nursery. I suppose initially because his son had gone to nursery and we just thought we’d follow precedent. What I hadn’t taken into account is that when you return to work, there are a few more options that may make your life a lot easier to bear in mind. While I was working in London, I would often need to leave before 8am and wouldn’t arrive home until after 6pm. Depending on your working arrangements, it’s worth considering whether an 8am-6pm nursery is the best option as there are some brilliant childminders and nurseries who offer a longer day.
It sounds cliche, but you really know what is the right childcare setting once you see it. For Emma, I knew we needed something a bit cosier and as calm as is possible when you have 18 children in the same room. Looking back, I’m really glad we made these considerations as it really helped with her settling in and feel comfortable going into nursery each day.
What questions should you ask?
It’s likely that when you visit the nursery for a tour, they will tell you the ratio of children to supervisors but this is important. I have to admit that when we looked at the nurseries, I wasn’t prepared at all but I eventually asked about:
-Curriculum they use to teach the children – most use the Early Years Foundation System and also how they communicate pictures or videos to the parents.
-Food menu – an important one for us as Emma is a fussy eater. It was great to see there is a wide variety of foods and textures for her to try and there a separate weaning menu for younger babies.
-Activities for the day – the nursery manager also talked me through the rough schedule for the day. Our nursery has fixed activities each day and eventually this has been a fantastic thing for Emma as she loves to know what to expect each day. But at first, she found the transitions between each activity difficult and would be upset so perhaps a more free-flow setting could have helped in those early months.
-What do you need to bring? It’s also great to ask what is provided as part of your daily fee and what you need to bring. Especially as I was commuting, it was helpful for me to get organise and prepare a little bag for her to bring each day. We usually have to use her change of clothes when they do messy play or spill something.
Easing her in & being consistent
One thing is clear to me when I look back – this would not have been so seamless if it was not for the support of the nursery team leader. In the first few weeks, the drop off was hard; Emma would cry angrily at me and look back at me with a wounded look on her face. The team leader told me to try not to take it to heart and in the first few days, would send me a picture to let me know that those tears pass very quickly. I followed the leader’s instructions and each day, gave Emma a kiss and told her to have a great day and I’ll see her later.
Just this morning, as she walked in without even looking back to say goodbye, it reminded me how far we’ve come. It’s sometimes hard to leave her if she’s having a wobbly morning but being consistent and allowing her to be at nursery for a full day has helped with the settling. I’ve also talked to Emma a lot at home that Mummy always comes back, to reassure her and her confidence seems to be improving all the time.
Without any doubt, introducing Emma to nursery has been one of the best things for her development. I can see how she is growing socially as well as learning so much too. I’ve enjoyed watching her confidence grow; there is such a difference now when we are in the park and there are other children around. She’s not the shy girl she once was! Looking back, it was a big decision to make but I’m glad we found the right setting for us.
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