How We Chose Our Nursery, Or Rather How Our Toddler Did…

I’m of the opinion that nursery is fantastic for young children. Often thought of more as a childcare solution for parents, nursery is so much more than that. It is the start of their education journey. An opportunity for them to learn through play in a sociable environment. Developing both their early academic skills but more importantly their social skills. Don’t get me wrong it is convenient for us that Lily will be attending nursery on the days that I work, so childcare is a part of it. But even if I wasn’t working I would still take her.

Lily is currently an only child, she doesn’t yet have any cousins, not many of my close friends have children, so she isn’t around other kids all that often. I’m keen to get her used to concepts such as taking turns and sharing with other children before she starts school (next year- eek!)


But how do you know which nursery to go for? Who can you trust to look after the most precious thing in the world to you? Well it’s something I do struggle with. Until now Lily has been solely looked after by family. I don’t like the thought of someone looking after her who doesn’t consider her as precious as I do. So my first priority when choosing a nursery was..

The Staff

We looked round a few nurseries before settling on what was actually the first one we visited. One of the obvious things to take note of, of course, is the staff. The manner in which they interacted with Lily, the other children, and me. Were they friendly? Did they seem reasonably intelligent and have their heads screwed on? Were they calm and collected, not phased by the hoards of little people running around. Were they reassuring and helpful? And finally possibly a controversial one but how old were they… did they look barely out of nappies themselves? I’m sure the younger staff are just as competent and may even be MORE energetic than the older staff, but I just worry that they may be less experienced.

The nursery we chose had mainly women in their 30-40s who seemed calm, happy, totally focussed on the children, were smiley and reassuring as well as great with Lily. In fact Lily immediately went up to one of the women and started joining in a game she was playing with one of the other children. It’s also worth noting how the staff keep in touch with parents. There are various electronic/online methods used nowadays. I also found out what ratio of staff to children they had.


The Children

I found it really telling to see how the other children were acting when we went to visit the nurseries. For example in one place a little girl was sobbing in a corner, and although there was a member of staff nearby they didn’t seem too interested in the upset child. I know obviously sometimes kids will just need a moment to themselves to calm down but this girl looked genuinely upset and sad, if Lily was like that I’d want someone comforting her which I didn’t see happening. Do the children in general seem happy? Is there a good atmosphere?

With our chosen nursery there was an air of fun but calm at the same time. It wasn’t totally manic like some other places we saw. I also chose a nursery which only takes children from 2 and above, as some do take younger but I like the idea of a smaller facility.

The Space

The nursery we’ve chosen is a big converted house, so the space is separated in to rooms. The younger children are downstairs and the older upstairs. The whole place works really well as you have different rooms for different activities, such as a messy play area and a quiet reading area. Although there are many rooms there is still a feeling of homeliness to it.


The Outdoor Area

This was a bit of a conundrum for me, because the nursery we chose in the end didn’t have a large outdoor area. In fact one of the nurseries we looked at had a massive outdoor area which I know Lily would love. I wanted a nice outdoor space for Lily to play in, one that looked safe and very child friendly. Preferably with numerous toys for them to pick up and play with. However, as important as I thought the outdoor area would be for me, in the end having a nursery which ticked all the other boxes was more important.

Their Settling In Process

When I’ve spoken to people about Lily starting nursery the common response is that she will cry to start with, but that it will get better. I understand that the chances are she may be a bit clingy to start with, but I would like to minimise the distress as much as I can. I also want to know that the nursery will let me know how she’s doing and if necessary call me back if she’s too upset.

What I love about the nursery we have chosen is that as part of their settling in process they actually come to our house. They ask in advance what Lily’s favourite toys and games are, and then they come round with them and start to get to know Lily in her own environment. We will then arrange to come to the nursery where the person she met at home previously will be. I will stay there with her for an hour or so, then if all seems well we will then try an hours session on her own. This will then possibly extend to another hour if she seems happy. It’s a very gentle approach which I like. I want to avoid her being peeled off me screaming if possible. Although I know that may happen!


The Meals

There was an article from our local paper going round Facebook recently with government food hygiene ratings of local restaurants. I was shocked to see that a nearby nursery was on there with a 0/5 rating! I really feel this is despicable as they are responsible for providing healthy, hygienic meals to young growing children. It is a bit of an inside joke among my friends that I am obsessed with this kind of thing (as a germaphobe!). But then it’s hardly surprising I looked in to it when it came to our nursery choice! Health conscious nurseries which take care to provide a nutritious and hygienic lunch or tea to the children is definitely something that is a must on my list.

Hours Offered/Funding/Cost

Last on my list because it is the least important, with Lily’s happiness and well-being by far the most. However money as always does have to play a part. I was baffled by how the cost is worked out, with “sessions” having to be booked that didn’t always fit around what we wanted. This way of charging parents has become popular especially with the new government funding. It is a way for nurseries to get more money from parents who for example want their child in nursery 9-4 but the session runs from 8:30-5.

We have found that we qualify for the 3yr funding so it’s always worth having a look at what you qualify for in terms of financial help (although I’ve been trying to apply for a month now and the website has been constantly experiencing technical difficulties!).


Getting To Know The Nursery

Before I made the final decision of which nursery to go for we made sure to have a look around twice. The first visit was during the summer holidays so it was very quiet. The second was during a very busy term time session. I also had various email correspondence with the nursery to answer general questions I had, which further gave me an idea of what the people running the nursery were like.

Lily’s Choice

By far the best indication of which nursery to choose was Lily’s reaction. It was amazing to see her run off and play as soon as we got to our chosen nursery. In fact she had such a wonderful time she didn’t want to leave and actually cried wanting to stay! She also went to the loo whilst we were there which was good to see the facilities and also showed a certain level of comfort she felt. This was in stark comparison to one of the larger nurseries where she clung to me and didn’t speak. Really she chose the nursery she wanted for us!

Is your child starting nursery soon, or have the recently started going? I would love to hear your experience and tips in the comments!


The photos in this post were kindly taken by local photographer Lee Edwards, find him over at I highly recommend him for family shots, as he was fantastic with Lily. He also does events such as weddings and parties!

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