Top 10 Tips on Finding The Best Childcare 11/5/17
At Young Discoverers we’ve noticed that during the summer months, many people are looking for a Nursery place for their child for when they go back to work. When returning to work after maternity leave, it’s always nice if we can time things so that we go back after the summer, and September places are filling up fast. What you don’t want though, is a rush decision based on your fear that there will be no places if you leave it nearer the time as you don’t feel ready yet to be thinking about returning to work. You also don’t want to think that you’ve had to settle for what’s left rather than what’s best when you do look, so we’ve come up with our top tips on how to find the right childcare setting that’s right for you, your family and your baby. So, what do you need to know………..?
Visit a prospective childcare setting unannounced. This gives you a very real picture of what the setting is like if they are happy to show you round without an appointment. It indicates that they are well staffed and organised, and that they show you what really happens in their setting. If you need to make an appointment, do they want to show you an artificial impression of their setting?
Are the children in the setting happy and settled? If they are, this indicates that they are well looked after, and have good bonds with the other children, and the adults who care for them.
Ask what time meals are served and if the staff eat with the children? Do meal times coincide with how you would do things at home? Do they get substantial enough meals that you don’t have to worry about feeding them when you get home? If the food’s good, the staff will want to eat it too, and any good provider will welcome staff to eat what the children eat in order to model what family meal times look like. Meal times should be lovely sociable affairs, and both parent and child should be welcomed to come and stay for lunch before you make a decision on whether this is the right setting for you.
Ask if a home visit is offered as part of the settling in process? You may think that this would be offered by all settings, but it’s not, and it’s such a valuable way for families and practitioners to build a relationship based on the individualities of each and every child they care for. It enables children to settle much more quickly into their new environment, knowing that their new carer has come to their own home and found out what is so special about them.
Find out what continuity of care is offered. Do staff that start early, leave early, and staff that start late leave late, meaning that you don’t start and end the day with the same staff team? If no staff stay for the full day, there is almost certainly a break in continuity for your child. It is better for continuity that as many staff as possible are there for the whole day, and can reliably inform you when you pick up, what their day has been like. Yes, it’s a long day, but good employers give full time staff a day off during the week.
Find out exactly what’s included in the price. Whilst price alone should never determine the decision on where to place your child, there can be some nasty hidden extras, so it’s worth finding out if a charge is made for bank holidays when the setting isn’t even open, or if there is any reduction at all if you take your child out for a holiday. Do you get charged extra for meals, nappies etc, or is it included in the price? Do you pay extra for a drop off before 8, or pick up after 5.30? What extras are you expected to bring for your child that are not supplied by the setting? You may well be happy to pay for extras, but just make sure that you consider all of this when you look at the overall day rate and opening hours, and when you compare settings.
Trust your gut instinct. Does this feel like the right place? Are they taking a genuine interest in you and your child? Is it a happy place? Are they engaged in what children are doing, and joining in the fun?
Visit more than one setting. You may visit one setting, and think this is it. You may well be right, but do quantify your decision by visiting at least one more, if not a few. Settings often pride themselves in being a little bit different from others, and that means you have a choice. You might see something that you never thought would be important to you by visiting other settings, but has really impressed you. Even if you go back to where you started, you’ll know for sure then that it’s the right decision.
Take a look at the website. Can you see who the staff are, and relate to the philosophy of the organisation? Have they got a Facebook page that shows you what they do, or a newsletter that you can sign up for? These are little bits of information that give you a real feel for things, and access to parent feedback too.
Find out how they record your child’s learning and progress. This forms the basis of what Ofsted judge to be a good setting. Ideally your setting wants to have a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ grading, but there is more to it than that. How will you be shown what sort of day your child has had, what they have learned, and had fun with? Will you be encouraged to join in and contribute to their learning journey, and will they be able to reach their best potential whatever their talents and abilities are? Online learning journeys are great if your setting offers them as you get information almost instantly, and can see videos of your child as well as pictures that illustrate their progress and development.
So now you have our top 10 tips, relax! If you have looked at all of these things, you should now be really sure about where your little one will be going. We’d love it to be Young Discoverers, but even if it isn’t we hope that we’ve helped you and your family find the peace of mind you need when leaving your most precious little person in the care of others.
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