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Placing your child in a nursery, playgroup or pre school can be a stressful time for any parent. Most parents may feel pangs of guilt about leaving their child to go to work, or worry that their every need is not being catered for. Fortunately many of the good nurseries in the uk offer a place where your child will not only be looked after superbly, but can offer a safe, caring and educational environment in which your child can flourish emotionally, behaviourally, mentally and physically.

So what sort of things should you research, or avoid, before visiting a nursery and what should you be looking for when you visit the nursery for the first time?


Although you will have undertaken some research to find out whether a nursery will suit your children, either by looking at potential nurseries on the internet or speaking with friends, colleagues or family members who have used nurseries in the past, it is still worthwhile finding out all you can before your initial visit. Often a little extra research spent before the visit will answer many of the simple questions you would like answering.

Websites are an excellent place to start as many UK nurseries now have their own fully featured websites, which not only list the basic facts about the nursery, but will also tell you about the kind of activities they undertake with the children, staffing levels and expertise available, the facilities that they have on offer and many other snippets of information, right down to the menu they serve the children each day. The websites can be hit and miss however, some contain vast swathes of information, others are a simple website that just lists the basic features. However this should still be enough to answer your very basic questions, such as what are the costs per session weekly/monthly? What is the child to staff ratio? What facilities and resources does the nursery / pre school have available for the children to use? What are the transport links to the nursery like and do they have any fines for being late collecting your child?

Armed with this information beforehand, you can now narrow down your questions in readiness for the visit and ask the kinds of questions that will bring about the answers you require in more detail, rather than wasting time finding out information that was already available elsewhere.


Recommendations for a nursery school from friends, colleagues and family can play a huge part in the decision making process, but it is not the wisest move to rely wholly on another person’s view of a particular nursery. Many parents will label a playgroup, pre school or nursery as “good” or “bad” based on their point of view of a certain incident, or due to the fact they agreed or disagreed with an issue that the nursery made. So while it may be useful to garner opinion on a nursery you are keen on, it is far more sensible to rely on your own instincts and the reactions of your child, rather than believing fully what an acquaintance may say about a place. They may be right, but more often than not, their sentiments are not shared by many other parents who are more than happy with the service provided by the nursery or pre school.


On the actual day of your visit you must look out for many things. This starts from the moment you arrive at the nursery. How secure was the building to get into? Was a member of staff there to check who you were? Were you greeted warmly by the person you are to contact? Were they expecting you?  Are you made to feel welcome? If you have brought your child with you, how does he or she react to the nursery? Do they want to join in? Do the staff and other children respond well with them and interact with them?

Then take time to look at how the nursery is organised on your visit. Do the children and staff interact well? Is there plenty of eye contact between staff and children? Is the general atmosphere one of calm happiness? Do the staff smile frequently at the children? Is there a good degree of organisation in the nursery? How old are the staff and do the staff levels represent an accurate portrayal of the ratio’s needed for the required age range of the children?

It’s important here not to have unrealistic expectations. Nurseries with young children can be a hive of activity. They can be quiet at times, noisy at others. This is absolutely fine. Noise is not a sign of a poorly run nursery, provided it is controlled and the children are interacting in the right ways. For example, the older children may be singing a simple song which requires them to jump up, or shout at a certain point. Younger children may be crying to be changed, fed or winded. This is quite normal. What you need to ascertain is if the staff have the situation under control. If they have then this is a good sign of a well run and organised nursery.

It’s worth looking also at the activities on offer. There should be a wide range of activities to engage the children in learning through play. Check the quality and number of resources that are available. Are there enough to keep many children interested for a while? Look also at the environment. Is the children’s work valued? Is it displayed to make the room bright and colourful so they can be proud of their achievements? Can they easily find a book to sit and look at or read?

Finally, take a look at the accident book. Check how many accidents are logged and kept records of. It’s important here to realise that you are not looking for a number of accidents per se. Children will often fall over, graze a knee, bump a head and that is inevitable and an often used accident book is not necessarily an indicator of a careless nursery, it can just as easily be seen as being a nursery that takes care to record any incident carefully. I’d be more wary of a very infrequently used accident book, or being told that accidents are “very rare”.


Normally throughout your visit and perhaps at an allotted time, you will be given the chance to ask any questions you may have. It is now that your earlier research and observations can be put to good use so you can pinpoint questions that are more pertinent to you and your individual child. Maybe you’d like to ask about the menu on offer and whether they cater for vegetarians, vegans, or children on a restricted diet. Or perhaps your child has an allergy to something and you need assurances that this will be taken into account. Maybe you spotted something on your walk around the nursery that piqued your interest, or gave you a moment of concern. If you have done your research into the nuts and bolts of the nursery, you can use this time most effectively by asking the questions that are pertinent to you and your child, rather than going over information that is easily available elsewhere.