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Is a Nursery Right For Us?

That time has come, to start thinking about your childcare options and maybe you are thinking along the lines of a nursery. In this blog today I will explain about a nursery setting, how they work and what they provide, the pros, cons and of course explore costs.

So, what is a nursery setting and how does it work? Let's find out...

In the UK there are two types of nursery settings to choose from and your child’s age will be the first deciding factor. If you are looking for a nursery for your child who is under the age of 3 years you will be looking for a private nursery. If your child is 3 or above you can apply for a school setting nursery (known as a preschool) that is either run by your local authority or attached to a school which may be private or local authority run.

Private nurseries cater for children from as young as 6 months to 4 years old. In other countries such as Spain they start from as little as 3 months old and this is because maternity leave is not as long as it is for us lucky mums in the UK.

All nursery settings will offer an early education that is instigated and required by the government’s curriculum that they lay out to follow.

Nurseries will tend to separate the children into age groups. Babies, toddler and pre-schoolers.

There will be a lead room staff member and depending on the number of children in the room there will be other staff members also. Your child will have a key worker who will usually be the one to do the reports and tend to your child for specific activities.

Nurseries will often open at 7am and then close at 7pm. Pre-school nurseries attached to a school may end at 3pm and then have an option for your child to attend an after school club. The early birds will have breakfast served.

Requirements by government for a nursery to be registered are passed by the following:

England: OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education)

Scotland: Care Inspectorate

Wales: CSSIW Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales

Northern Ireland: Your local Health and Social Care Trust

What does a nursery provide?

All food will be provided and often they run on a no nut policy but do check this when you visit. They will also ask about your child’s medical history and be able to cater for any intolerances or allergies your child may have.

In my 20 years’ experience I found that when a birthday was approaching parents were asked if they would like to provide a cake for the class but more in recent years now allergies and intolerances have become more common nurseries tend to provide a cake themselves that they know contains no nuts and is suitable for all the children.

Nurseries will provide and extensive array of activities such as-

  • Art and craft

  • Sand pit and water play

  • Messy play

  • Listening activities such as story time and reading

  • Construction/play dough and building materials

  • Fine manipulative games such as drawing, puzzles, beads

  • Music

  • Cooking

  • Group and one to one play

  • Indoor and outdoor activities

  • Trips to local parks/shops or further afield locations like zoos and farms

  • Visitors such as doctors, dentists or even a fire engine!! These days are ALWAYS a great hub of excitement!

The nursery staff will keep you updated by keeping a profile for your child and keep you updated with milestones and progress your child is making. You should be able to access your child’s profile at any time you wish. Some nurseries also provide a written diary of the days events including nappy changes and food eaten!

Every child will have a “bed” to sleep in and access to quiet time. This may be a cot or a bed mat that goes on the floor. Often a nursery provides a sheet or blanket but you may also be asked to provide one.

How to find a nursery

The wonderful advertising of word of mouth is the best place to start. You can also call your local schools and find out what nursery settings they provide.

In England you can jump on the OFSTED website and look for nurseries in your area and read their OFSTED report.

Here are a couple of helpful links that you can search for day nurseries and pre school nurseries in your area.

Cost of a nursery

Most day nurseries offer between 10-16 hours of free childcare so it is worth doing the research when you are looking for your perfect setting. Nurseries can be pricey, and depending on the area you live in this will reflect the cost and age of your child will also reflect the price, they tend to split the price between under 2 and over 2.

Some provide nappies and creams, some don’t. The cost will also reflect this. At release of this blog research I found stated in 2020/21 the costs stand at the following

Children aged under 2 years old

Part time(25 hours a week)

  • Nursery place average £800 per year.

  • That works out to be £131.61 per week.

Full time (50 hours)

  • £13,100

  • £252.07

Children aged 2 years and up

Part time (25 hours)

  • £6590 per year.

  • £126.74 a week.

Full time (50 hours)

  • £12,484 per year

  • £240.08 per week

Pros of a nursery setting

When I was expecting my second daughter, Chloe, my husband and I felt Leo would really benefit from spending some part of the week in a nursery setting. Not only would he benefit but I also had some down time myself, to bond with Chloe and catch up on some of those jobs at home that just seem like a never ending pile!

  • A nursery setting will enable your child to learn more skills they may not have the opportunity to do at home

  • Your child will learn immense social skills and confidence from being around many children and adults

  • They will be exposed to new experiences and enjoy trips the nursery may organise to places such as farms, theirs or have guests come to the nursery setting to speak with the children

  • Nursery prepares your little one for school in all areas of the curriculum

  • They follow a curriculum set out by the government

  • Nurseries are required to be approved and registered by the appropriate body depending on the country location. You can view the report

  • Trained staff

  • Structured routine

  • You may be able to choose a Montessori or Steiner nursery that is near you

Cons of a nursery setting

  • Private nurseries can be expensive

  • The days and hours may not work for you

  • Your child is exposed to bugs and can get sick a lot in the first 6-12 months

  • They will have strict open and closing times and if you are late you may incur charges

  • They will take holidays where you still need to pay and may need to find alternative childcare

Choosing childcare for your little one is a hard decision and so do take your time, go visit the settings many times, have a list of questions ready to ask and don’t be afraid to hang outside the gate and ask parents who are dropping their children off for their feedback. It will help you make a decision.

Please share this blog with a friend who may also be trying to decide what the best option of childcare for their family is.

As always, peaceful nights to you all,


Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant




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