Choosing a Nursery
My youngest daughter Alyssia has started at nursery this week, and as you may have seen on my Facebook page, it has started really well. For various reasons, she has not been able to go to the same nursery as her sister did, so I have had to choose a new one for her.
Things have changed a bit for me since Sofia went to nursery – of course, I have an older child now, so the nursery needs to take that into consideration.
The other thing that has changed, is that over the last few years I have helped a lot of families with sleep issues, where the issues were caused by the child starting at nursery. Helping those families sort things out has given me a much better idea of how mums and nurseries can work together, and I now have a list of things that I wanted to check and discuss with the nurseries I looked at.
So today’s video tells you a little bit about how I made the choice that I did for Alyssia, and maybe it will help you to decide if you are thinking about a nursery for your little one too. You can watch on the video on YouTube, or read the transcript below.
If anything in the video resonates with you and you feel that you need some help then please join the Baby2Sleep Village Facebook group. You can ask questions there, and then if you need more help from me, we can discuss what I can do for you.
Today was Alyssia’s first settle at nursery and I wondered, how is this going to go? Is she going to cry, because she’s hit that super clingy bit at the moment, I’m thinking, is she going to cry? Is it going to be really horrible? And we’ve got the thing, obviously, with the way nurseries are at the moment, you can’t even go in. So it’s hand over at the door. So I put her down and let her walk in there by herself. And I’m tentatively thinking, how is this going to go?
And she just walked in. She literally just waltzed in happy as Larry, let them take her up upstairs and that was it. She waved bye to me. And when I picked her up, they said she did nothing but smile the whole hour that she’d been there for this settle. When the nursery worker told her that Mum was here, she turned around and went, “Bye everybody!” and she’s fine.
But I’m fully aware that that’s now how it is for everybody. It isn’t like that for most. I don’t think. I think a lot of it is circumstances, preparation, understanding and things like that. So we’re going to talk a little bit about that.
So when you choose a nursery, what’s on your priority list? What are the important things that you want to get out of nursery? Is location your priority? Is what they eat your priority? Is the sleep your priority?.
What things are really important to you? Do you want it that they just follow the crowd? Do you want the nursery to take them out a lot? Do you want them to be listening to what you want them to say? How much of an active role do you want to play?
Where it comes to going to nursery, it’s just having a list of what’s your ideal. What do you actually really want? Because it can actually be quite disheartening. Sometimes when you think you have found somewhere, you go and see it and it isn’t really quite what it shaped up to be. It’s not really quite what you thought it would be.
Just to give you a bit of an idea, I only looked at two nurseries for Sofia. The first one made me very nervous in the sense that there was nobody to greet me. There were the buggies all there, there were no members of staff I could have literally gone anywhere I wanted to go throughout the nursery. And that for me said “Security??? That’s not for me.”
The next place I went to, which she did end up going to, everything felt absolutely spot on about it. I got the vibe straight away from going in. And Sofia was happy and we were going around and everything seemed great.
This time around, things were a bit different, and I think this is the same for anybody that’s got an older child, especially one that’s in school, because your second child has to fit with your current situation. So we’re in a position where we can’t say, Alyssia, you can go to the same nursery because it’s a 15-minute drive away, which is no good when we’ve got the school run in the morning. So your priorities naturally change.
So your expectations have to change ever so slightly and thinking about what is that you actually want out of it. So for me, my initial thought was the location. We’ve got a nursery at the bottom of the street. Reviews seemed pretty good online. It was on the way to school, the hours seemed great, I could drop off on the way to school, pick up on the way home from school. It seemed absolutely perfect.
Now, obviously, with COVID, which is the same for so many of you at the moment, you don’t get the same opportunities. You don’t really get to go and look in. You can’t just go in and have a look around. You have to be there at certain times, maybe when there’s no children around, so you don’t actually see the children in their environment. But for me, I thought somebody I knew’s child went to this particular nursery and yes, that will do for me. It’s on the way to school. It’s absolutely fine. No problems.
Then when I eventually went to look, it was not for me. Maybe I was a snob, but there were too many factors that didn’t fit with what I wanted. So for example, I could smell the nappy bin – I don’t really want that where they are playing
And then the sleep side of things. It just didn’t work for me. The location for naps was too light, and I felt that the just wouldn’t accommodate. And I basically walked out with a sinking feeling and we had to start again.
Again, you want one that’s got good communication with you. So there was one that was supposedly fully booked, but it took ages to actually get to that point, because you couldn’t get any correspondence from them. They wouldn’t reply to emails quickly. These are things to consider because you need to know if your little one is going to a nursery, that they’re going to get back to you. If you need something, if you’ve got a question, you want them to get back to you quickly, if you’re not sure about something.
So if they’re not looking to get your business as such, if they’re not replying at the beginning stages, again, for me, that doesn’t bode well for the future.
So for us it came down to two choices. There’s lots of different things you want to consider when you’re looking at a nursery. So you want to consider where the location is, both of them were the same distance, but one was easier to walk, due to the way the traffic is. One of them is term time only, which is again, something that you might not realise when you put your little one in nursery. If you’ve got children in school, you might not actually want them to be in 52 weeks a year. You might only want them to be in at school time, in which case you want to find one thatt’s got term time only as an option. It makes a huge difference on the cost. And also, you’re not then tied to thinking I’ve got to send them because I’m paying for it. Some places will have certain places that term time only, and they might choose to say that you pay a retainer, you might have to pay for one day a week of the non term-time days. So these are things to ask if you want term time only, make sure that they’ve got it.
The other thing is what your drop off and pick up times are, because again, you want that to fit, when the meal times are and when the sleep times are.
Now, this is really important because your meal times and your sleep time tie in quite well because most babies between 15 and 18 months, start to transition from two naps a day to one. Now, we’ll talk about this a little bit more in a minute, but I’m going to just use this as a mealtime thing. Most babies, because of the time they generally wake up in the morning, tend to nap from about 11:30 through till about 02:00, a nice two and a half hour nap in the middle of the day.
So you need to find out when nursery do their lunch. What I’ve found from experience, both as a mum with a child in a nursery and as a sleep consultant working with a lot of families have got children in nursery, if you’re finding that lunch is sitting around 11:30 or 12, that can actually cause quite a few issues with sleep. If your little one is ready for a nap and they’ve been forced to stay awake because they can’t have their lunch till later, they might be too tired to eat. They might not be not too well because they are actually overtired by the time they get to sleep, they might actually put up a fight. They might sleep too late if you’re in that situation where if they decide that actually, they’ll let them sleep as long as they want to. A lot of places have 02:00 a cut-off, maybe 02:30 for waking them. But again, that can potentially cause you problems then at bedtime two fold. If your little one doesn’t go down for a nap till 12.30 and they’re needing two and a half hours and they only get two, they’re probably going to need a bit of an early night to catch up, but they’re probably not going to be ready to go really early because they need to still build up sleep pressure, but they’re possibly overtired because they’ve probably been awake for far too long in the morning. So again, it’s finding that nice balance.
The nurseries I find work really well, is where they do lunch around eleven-ish and they start working towards getting them down for naps between 11:30 and twelve. That tends to work really quite nicely. Unless you’re in a situation where your wake up time is generally later and your bedtimes are generally later, then you might be fine with a later meal time, obviously, then later a nap. But make sure you’re asking these questions in advance because you’ll know where your child’s body clock is sitting. If you have a 6.30 waker, they’re going to struggle with a 12.30 nap
The other thing with regards to the meal, the sleep is how they go about the nap transition and how these babies are sleeping. because one of the things that I’ve come across regularly, I tend to find a lot of nurseries pushed the little one on to one nap, earlier then they’re able to actually do it. So I see this a lot of time from 12/13 months. It suits the nursery easier to get all the children down for a nap at the same time rather than this baby needs a nap at this time. This baby needs a nap at this time, they’re all sort of sitting around different times because we’ve got a twelve-month old that still needs a nap at 09:00 and we’ve got some 18 month olds aren’t going down at this till this time, and it suits their situation easier.
So they tend to push the transition to one nap a little bit earlier than what most of us would like, especially what your baby would like. So what you want to make sure is that you are you know what your child needs. You are aware and you can say to them this is a situation with my child’s naps. How do you accommodate? They are needing two naps a day. They tend to go down at this time. How is that going to fit into your routine?
Be understanding because at the end of the day it’s not easy for them. I’m not trying to slate nurseries at all. They do an absolutely incredible job at looking after our children, but at the same time, the last thing we need is a really overtired cranky baby coming home absolutely knackered because they only had an hour’s sleep somewhere in the middle of the day, they’ve cried an awful lot, and nobody ends up in a happy situation at this point.
It’s just about trying to make sure that the nursery can accommodate what it is that you’re needing from them as well and what your baby is needing. And that’s the most important thing. If they have something that they need from home, like a specific comforter, are they okay to take that in with them?
You want to make sure you’ve got your bag ready with all the different spare clothes on ready for when they actually start nursery. You probably need about three or four spare pairs of clothes in there – it sounds daft, but honestly, the food that they put down themselves, the drinks that they spill down themselves, wee accidents, whatever it might be, you can pick them up at the end of the day and suddenly find that they actually have gone through three sets of clothes.
So make sure you’ve got a bag with plenty of spare clothes in there for them as well. Make sure you have got raincoats and wellies for when they go outside and make sure you put the names on everything.
So then you get to the point where they’ve got settles. The thing to be really careful here is to make sure that you’re not anxious and you’re okay with it, because your baby will always pick up on your mood. It’s okay, if you’re feeling anxious, if you’re standing there, if you don’t want to leave your baby, which by the way, you won’t want to, but that’s not a feeling that you want to show to your little ones. You want to be very, quite blase about it, especially as it is at the moment with COVID. If you can’t go in and you are at the drop off, really try and be quite chilled out.
So, just know what you’re looking for. Have your questions, do research, know what your priorities are, what things you can live with, what things you absolutely cannot live with. Make sure you’ve got a few places that you want to look at and just don’t settle for one. Make sure you’ve asked your questions and know that they can accommodate your baby, especially when it comes to sleep.
Your baby or toddler might be absolutely fine. Then they start nursery. Next thing you know, I’ve got people coming to me going “they used to sleep fantastic” and I go, “Right. Let’s just work back what has happened” and nine times out of ten, where it’s gone wrong is when they’ve actually gone to nursery and they’ve been pushed onto one nap, and they think that their baby is handling it absolutely fine because they’re coping at the beginning. And then suddenly that sleep debt builds and it builds and there’s a bit of a deficit there. Then they become more overtired, and eventually you end up with early rising and they are still on one nap at nursery. You then end up with multiple night wakings and it all feeds into each other. And the next thing you know, you’re contacting somebody like myself going, “My baby just won’t sleep anymore. What do I do?”
And a lot of the time it’s because they’ve gone to one nap too early because the nursery has pushed for it. So it’s a really important thing that the nursery follows what you need, make sure that they’ve got places to accommodate sleep at the time that you need it to be there.