Advice on the advantages and disadvantages of using a registered nursery to provide childcare for your baby, plus information on choosing nurserys and daycare centres.
There is an enormous difference between the best and the worst day care nurseries and it can be harder to judge what you are looking at than with a sole carer. All day care nurseries are registered with the local council, which inspects them annually. The best nurseries provide structured care for each age of child, and allow for one-to-one interaction and eye contact with even the youngest babies. Most are open 7.30am - 6pm. allowing for most parents' hours. At least half the staff and all supervisors must be qualified.
One advantage concerns the issue of safety, with more adults present to look after your baby there is less risk. There may be more toys and facilities, as well as structured activities run by at least some qualified staff. There is opportunity to develop social skills with other children and to learn to respond to different adults. Importantly, there is no chance of being let down by an ill nanny/childminder. Also, nurseries do not go on holiday, though many will close over some or all of the bank holidays.
In poorer nurseries young babies might not receive sufficient one-to-one interaction. There is less opportunity to bond with one carer, which some people feel is important. A nursery is very different from home and may be noisy and stressful. If not properly run a nursery will not look after your baby when he or she is ill. Finally, you do not choose the staff.
For babies, the average is £100-£200pw for full-time places. Most offer part-time and some flexible hours.
- Visit your possible nursery choices at various times of the day and feel free to observe at length.
- Speak to several staff members.
- Watch how children and staff interact - are staff holding and talking to babies or chatting to each other?
- Look for evidence of quiet as well as more active play.
- Ask about one-to-one contact. Do staff read stories to tiny babies? (Are there books in the baby room?)
- Look for evidence of organisation and structure.